U.S. women's hockey team: Our fearless year of triumph

The U.S. women's national hockey team changed the culture of the sport (2:59)

By gaining equitable treatment and winning the 2017 world championship, members of U.S. women's national hockey team made history. (2:59)

This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue 2017, on newsstands on July 7. Subscribe today!

The U.S. women's national hockey team is no stranger to making bold statements. Six members posing nude on the ice for the 2017 Body Issue? Not even their bravest move this year. In March, they announced they would boycott the world championship, demanding equitable pay and better training conditions and support by the league. After winning that battle, they swiftly went on to claim gold against Canada -- in overtime, no less. Body Issue reporter Stevland Wilson caught up with them recently to discuss their fearless and groundbreaking year:

Q: What's the biggest misconception you think people have about female hockey players?

LAMOUREUX-MORANDO: You run into people at the airport who ask what sport you play, and they're like, "Oh, I thought you'd be bigger." Or "You look really petite, and you have all your teeth." We're normal women. We like to be feminine. We love to get dressed up and be pretty. But we love to train and be strong and be aggressive. There's this misconception that, if we play ice hockey, we're a certain way off the ice. We're normal.

DUGGAN: From a muscular standpoint, we're strong women. We have big legs and big butts. It's all about acceleration, explosion, power; it's all about the glutes. We're not size 0s, but we're proud of our greatest assets, which are our legs and our butts. We want to be fast. We want to be strong. We want to be dynamic and powerful and conditioned. All of us really represent that in a different way. Everyone brings a different piece to the table.

BELLAMY: We all have different body types. I have a pretty big butt, but then my legs are like bird legs. But I still can lift just as much as these girls can lift.

LAMOUREUX-MORANDO: We're strong women, not just physically but mentally. You don't have to be shy about being strong or being able to lift as much weight as the guy next to you. Yeah, we might not be a size 2, but we're confident in what we do, what we put on the ice, and what we do day in and day out.

LAMOUREUX-DAVIDSON: I work with a lot of college athletes and younger women [as a strength and conditioning coach]. We can use our bodies to do amazing things, and you should be proud of that, not embarrassed. Own it. Young women can develop great confidence in that, and I think they are role models for that. Be proud of yourself and who you are.

Q: I've heard Meghan has quite a reputation for a strict diet. How would you describe her nutrition regimen?

BELLAMY: She had a Cheeto about five years ago [laughing].

DUGGAN: When I was a senior in college [in 2011], I said to my team, "If we win the national championship and a world championship with the U.S. team this year, I'll eat a burger from McDonald's."

DECKER: I remember that. And we won both!

DUGGAN: So we showed up for our team parade and they walk right into the locker room with a McDonald's bag. They didn't forget.

RIGSBY: We videotaped the whole thing. Her unwrapping it and everything.

DUGGAN: I just love to cook, and I'm really passionate about certain foods and certain ingredients and what they do to your body.

BELLAMY: I think the way Meghan eats, being our captain and leader, rubs off on everyone else. When you're training, you eat the right things.

RIGSBY: I really focus on the protein. I don't like eating too many carbs. It's about balance. I definitely like my ice cream. I go out for a scoop here and there. But at the same time, we have to be focused on our nutrition too because it's going to translate to the ice.

DUGGAN: I take so much pride in my body, and I take so much pride in the bodies of my teammates. We train day in and day out to put ourselves in the position to be the best athletes we can be. We're certainly shaping our body in a certain way, but, at the same time, it's propelling us through our sport. And that just makes me really proud.

Q: You're clearly a close group. How else do you push each other when you're training?

RIGSBY: It's the most incredible culture I've ever been a part of. You experience things that you can't explain to other people -- the mental and physical grind that we go through on a daily basis to be a part of this team. We love training for each other. Especially being in a camp situation, or a tryout situation, you know, it gets competitive out there. We're competing for a spot on the [national] team, but at the same time, we're great teammates, really encouraging each other all the time.

LAMOUREUX-DAVIDSON: It's very rare to get a group like we have, all dialed in. It doesn't matter if someone had a crappy day, a great day -- everyone leaves it at the door.

LAMOUREUX-MORANDO: We'll call each other out if things aren't good enough. "Hey, that's not going to cut it. It's got to be better." It's not all kumbaya all the time, but we get through it and don't hold grudges. That's why our culture is so great. We don't pretend like everything's always roses and flowers.

DUGGAN: All 23 girls on our team are the best players from where they came from -- their college teams, their high schools, their whatever. The leadership of the team really has to set the groundwork for the culture of the team. Our goal is to win a gold medal in the next Olympics, and there's nothing that can stand in the way of that. That means people's egos have to be pushed aside. No one cares how many minutes you played in the gold medal game if you didn't win. That's the mindset.

Q: You had your focus on another big win this year too: boycotting the world championship in March in demand of equal pay. What was it like to be a part of an iconic moment in women's sports?

DUGGAN: Over the 10 years that I've played on the national team, we started to see things within the governing body that we just didn't think were fair, to put it frankly. About a year and a half ago, we started having more conversations with each other behind closed doors and sought to change the mindset within U.S.A. Hockey regarding how the women in this program are treated. We engaged in meetings with them over a 15-month period, but we were just at a standstill. The next step was to put something on the line -- to say to them, "We're serious. Stop underestimating us." It just so happens there was a world championship on home soil in Michigan, and we had to leverage it. We had to say, "We really feel strongly about this. We will not participate in the world championships unless we can come to terms on some of these things."

LAMOUREUX-MORANDO: I mean, in a non-Olympic year, that's our Stanley Cup. That's what we train for, and we were absolutely willing to put that on the line because we knew we were doing the right thing. We knew full-heartedly that this was the group that was going to change women's hockey in the U.S. It was the right thing to do for the next generation ... the 11-year-old girls that dream of playing on the national team.

LAMOUREUX-DAVIDSON: The biggest thing was equitable treatment. What you provide your men's team should also be provided for the women's program. It wasn't about dollar signs. We were asking for a livable wage. Some of us had full-time jobs, and we're trying to be elite athletes. That's just not conducive.

BELLAMY: It made us stronger on the ice. We were not going to settle. Without every single one of these teammates, everyone that supported us, it wouldn't have happened. Anyone they called to play in place of us said no.

DUGGAN: Kacey, Brianna and myself played on the same pro team back in Boston, and we had just finished a game, and I had a text message from an unknown number. "Hey, Billie Jean King here. I heard what you girls are going through and want to lend any support that I can." I just flipped. You know you've made a splash when Billie Jean King reaches out. It makes me emotional to think about. Basically, what she said was, "I will do whatever [to help]. You girls are powerful and amazing. I stand behind you."

DECKER: What we were doing had a bigger purpose, not only for our team but for young girls around the country. So, I wasn't nervous at all. I knew that our team would get through it, and for some reason, I had a gut feeling that we would be playing at the world championships.

DUGGAN: This is a veteran core group, but we had two or three girls who were [world championship] rookies. I talked with them about the magnitude of this boycott. I did have a private conversation with one of them who said, "I support this, I'm passionate about it, but it makes me really uncomfortable because this is my chance and I want to play." I totally sympathized with that. "I understand. Please, just trust me." She did, and there was never a conversation after that. When we won the world championship in overtime, I went up to her and grabbed her around the neck and said, "Remember three weeks ago when I told you to trust me?"

LAMOUREUX-MORANDO: Every once in a while, we need to take a step back and have perspective on what we just accomplished and the ripple effects it'll hopefully have on other women's sports.

DUGGAN: It's an incredible time to be a female athlete. It's a powerful movement. I'm proud to be a part of it.

For more Body interviews: AJ Andrews | Javier Baez | Julian Edelman | Ezekiel Elliott | Kirstie Ennis | Julie and Zach Ertz | Malakai Fekitoa | Gus Kenworthy | Nneka Ogwumike | Isaiah Thomas | Joe Thornton and Brent Burns | US Women's National Hockey Team | Ashley Wagner | Michelle Waterson | Novlene Williams-Mills | Caroline Wozniacki