By Chris Maza
GREATER BOSTON – For Kacey Bellamy, the sense of honor that comes with donning the Team USA sweater in the Olympic Games will never change.
Bellamy was one of 21 players introduced to the world on New Year’s Day as the United States women’s hockey team that will compete in the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
One of seven defensemen to make the team, the Westfield native graduated from the Berkshire School in 2005 and the University of New Hampshire in 2009 and has since been playing professionally with the Boston Blades of the Canadian Women’s Professional Hockey League.
“It’s such an honor and such a privilege to be a part of this team,” she said. “There is such a sense of pride that comes with it and that pride is the best kind of motivation.”
Other than that, however, there’s going to be a lot of differences between Bellamy’s first Olympic experience in Vancouver in 2010 and this year’s games in Sochi.
While she had a host of international playing experience, the 2010 Olympics were Bellamy’s first. This year, she is one of 11 players with a trip to the games on her resume.
“The biggest different is I’m a veteran now. I’ve been through it,” she said. “This time I’ve had to figure out how to be more of a leader and help some of the younger players who haven’t been there before.”
Bellamy notched an assist and had a plus-seven rating in the 2010 tournament, but the U.S. ultimately settled for silver, losing in the final round to Canada 2-0. That experience, she said, has served as fuel during the years of training since leaving Vancouver.
“Obviously the ultimate goal is the gold medal and we didn’t achieve that four years ago,” she said. “That has been pure motivation in everything I have done and we have done while training the past four years.”
This year’s squad features player with a wide variety of experience, both in terms of where they’ve played and how long.
Julie Chu, a 31-year-old Connecticut native, the oldest player to make the women’s Olympic hockey team, is competing in her fourth Olympics with two silver medals and a bronze to her credit, while Lee Stecklein and North Reading’s Alex Carpenter won’t be old enough to drink for more than a year.
“I think we have 11 or 12 former returning Olympians and a lot of young players who bring some new skill, speed and some fresh personalities,” Bellamy said.
The team’s new personality, Bellamy added, could be the biggest factor that could push this year’s team to the top of the podium for the medal ceremony.
Teammates have gotten to know each other well as members of the Olympic team were chosen from the 25 players who competed for the 2013-14 U.S. Women’s National Team.
Since September, Team USA has been practicing at the Edge Sports Center in Bedford, and training at the Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning facility in Woburn, since early September.
The team will continue practicing in the Boston area until it leaves for Sochi on Feb. 1.
“Four years ago, we had a really talented team with some of the best players in the world, but this year, I think we’re not necessarily going to have the best players, but the right players, and that’s a huge statement,” she said. “Everyone has had a great attitude and we’ve all been working hard, getting to know each other and learning how to play together and it’s really working well. It’s a pretty incredible group.”
All that hard work resulted in the 21 teammates being introduced on the ice at Michigan Stadium in front of a crowd of 105,491 as well as 8.2 million television viewers at the snowy 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. That in and of itself was a moment to remember, Bellamy said.
“That is a moment that will stay in my mind and in my heart forever,” she said. “There were so many people there and so many people watching at home. I think it was a great step for women’s hockey and I think it was great for fans to get to know us a little bit and see us outside of our masks and equipment.”
In that moment, Bellamy took the time to recognize her biggest fans, shouting, “Hi Mom” into the camera.
“My parents are the best people in my life,” she said of Maura and Robert Bellamy, who still reside in Westfield. “They have been by my side since the first time I put a pair of skates on. The person and player I am is directly tied to the lessons in life they taught me that I carry with me everyday.”