Next for Buffalo Grove hockey champion: Olympics
Megan Bozek and her mom, Patti, were at a piano bar in Minneapolis last June before the tryouts for the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team. Patti filled out a request card to have them play something for her daughter.
They not only played the chosen song, but they also had Megan sit with the piano player while everyone in the place sang along.
It was "We Are The Champions," the ever-popular 1977 hit from Queen.
Megan Bozek, 22, a Buffalo Grove native and Stevenson High School graduate, has skated to ice hockey heroics and the sounds of "We Are The Champions" since she was 9 and claimed her first Illinois youth hockey state championship.
She has been collecting trophies ever since. Bozek has won eight youth hockey state championships in Illinois, one high school girls state championship as a sophomore for a co-op Glenbrook team, one national championship, two NCAA Championships with the University of Minnesota, and two world championships.
She's now primed for gold as the U.S. is one of the favorites to capture the title at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
"I am so proud of her going for her dream. You give up a lot to reach this point, and she did it with endless determination," said Patti, a teacher for deaf and hearing-impaired for the Special Education District of Lake County. "The last month, all I can think about is going to Sochi to cheer on Megan and the rest of the team. It has been really hard to concentrate at work. It's amazing how excited everybody is for us. The support has been phenomenal."
Patti and Tom Bozek, married for 31 years, will be at the opening ceremony in Sochi tonight and naturally every U.S. women's hockey game. Their sons -- Stephen, 24, and Dan, 27 -- will join them the second week.
After Friday's opening event, Team USA plays its first hockey game Saturday against Finland. The Winter Olympics run through Feb. 23.
"Megan has always been a winner, and this current pinnacle doesn't surprise me," Tom Bozek said. "With her determination and talent, I always felt that someday she could make it to the podium."
After all, as a young girl playing hockey in a boys tournament, Megan scored both goals in a 2-0 win over a team from Canada.
"It's beyond exciting to think about," said Dan, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Regardless of the outcome (in Sochi), there are a lot of people who can take pride in what she has accomplished.
"Not many people can say they have had a family member represent their country on a world stage. Not only being able to cheer on Megan and the women's team, but also being able to support Team USA in other events is a tremendous opportunity.
"It's something very special and I'm humbled by it."
Stephen, who also lives in Buffalo Grove, played eight years of elite-level AAA hockey in the area and was drafted in the USHL before he was forced to retire due to an injury. But it's the childhood games in the family's basement that he remembers most.
The puck marks on the walls and floor tell the tales of thousands of slap shots. Clearly, this is a hockey home as the basement is littered with hockey sticks, used and unused, plus jerseys and game-worn equipment.
"Hockey was our life," Stephen said. "We would get home from school and put on roller blades; we would break windows firing pucks aimlessly from a young age."
Dan added: "As long as two of the three of us were home, (there was) a game. In the basement, Megan was never hesitant to play goalie, and this is where you could mark the birthplace of her massive slap shot.
"To see Megan emerge from that tiny little girl wearing a helmet two sizes too big for her blocking shots from boys twice her size, to representing her country on the world's biggest stage is just a credit to her work ethic and her determination to never give up on her dreams."
Tom and Patti have taken to standing in the stands while watching Megan. They were in the same spot for four years while she played at the University of Minnesota.
"I don't sit well, and at local rinks I usually stand by the glass so I don't have to talk to anyone and can mumble to myself," Tom said.
While in Sochi, Bozek family members will be attending other events in addition to women's hockey. Tom said they are going to women's speed skating, men's ski jump and some men's hockey.
"I'd like to attend every event," Dan said. "Being able to watch the world's best practice their craft is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Especially his baby sister.
"Being the oldest sibling and the first to play hockey in the family, I feel like I opened the path for Stephen and Megan to follow," Dan said. "While my parents were the ones who got me into the sport, if I would've given it up at a young age, I don't know how reluctant they would have been to introduce the sport to the other two.
"When we were kids, being the only girl for Megan couldn't have been easy. With me and Stephen always being involved in athletic activities, anytime Megan wanted to play with us, not only did it involve having to play with boys, but it also meant having to compete in a higher age class. I feel like this helped raise her competition level."
Stephen said it is "truly amazing" to live through Megan's stardom. He said the last month since she officially made the U.S. team has been "surreal."
"I can't say that I directly did much (to help Megan reach this level). I think a lot of my support came indirectly. I think Megan took a lot of my goals and one-upped me. Also, I think she took a lot of the criticism I gave her when she was younger to heart.
"It wasn't exactly easy growing up with a sister who excelled at (boys) sports," he said. "She was better than our neighbors and friends, and a lot of guys didn't like that. It's tough to accept, but now the outcry of support has been unbelievable."