Bozek gets the call from the Illinois Hockey Hall
A large part of her play today -- as assistant captain for the Buffalo Beauts in the National Women's Hockey League and on the U.S. Women's National Team -- was learned early on while skating in Illinois, when Megan Bozek played on boys teams.
Her physical style on the ice, for sure, is a flashback to her childhood games. Her slap shot also has roots here in the northwest suburbs. Her speed, too.
"I had to keep up (with the boys). I didn't want to be the worst one out there because I already stuck out because was the only girl on the team," said Bozek, who played on her first organized team at age 5 and skated on boys' teams until age 13.
She skated for the Glenview Stars (boys), Team Illinois (boys and girls) and the Chicago Mission (girls). Ultimately, Bozek led the co-op Glenbrook girls high school team to a state championship before graduating from Stevenson in 2009.
"To me, Megan will always be the little girl with the big dimples in her cheeks, (yet) from the time she was 4, she had that incentive to play and that drive to be the best," said longtime Glenview coach Myles Gottainer.
"When she played for me as a mite (at age 7), we were in a tournament in Michigan. She took a wrist shot and (broke the goalie's plastic throat guard). She was aggressive as a mite, always wanting to rush the puck. Then in high school she already had a reputation of being one of the best, and she proved that time and time again."
Bozek's local legacy is being recognized. The Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 12th class of inductees in November, and the Player's Category is honoring Bozek and Steve Konroyd. From the Builder's Category, the honorees include Linda Becker, Dave Loughnane, Mike Mullally, Mike Rohdenburg, and Gottainer. Dick Sharp and Dave Siatta will be honored from the Officials' Category.
The IHHF induction dinner is Jan. 29, 2017, at the Belvedere Banquet Hall in Elk Grove Village.
Bozek said she was "shocked, very surprised" to receive the call from Jim Smith, the president of USA Hockey and a longtime executive within the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, and a suburban resident, informing her that she was being inducted.
"It's an honor to join the list of names who have been honored in the past. I'm extremely proud," said Bozek, who was in Long Island, N.Y., skating with Team USA when she received Smith's call.
"Megan Bozek is a tremendous player and we are so proud of her accomplishments both on the domestic and international stage," Smith said. "Her contributions to the success of our USA Women's program have been inspiring for so many girls, not only here in Illinois but also across our nation. We congratulate her on this great honor. It is well deserved."
Bozek's Buffalo teammate Lisa Chesson, a defenseman and 2010 U.S. Olympian, also has been inducted into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame. Chesson attended Plainfield Central High School, then played four years at Ohio State University.
"Megan's talent on the ice is only surpassed by how good of a person she is off the ice," said Sylvain Turcotte, hockey director for the Glenview Park District and a former Bozek coach for four seasons. "Her hard work, dedication and drive were assets that got her where she is. She was a great teammate and now a great role model for any girl inspiring to play hockey."
Bozek helped the University of Minnesota win back-to-back national championships in 2012 and 2013. She's won two gold and a silver medal for Team USA at the World Championships and was a silver medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Bozek now lives in Burlington, Ont., and helps coach four youth teams for the Oakville Hornets. When Gottainer's Glenview peewee girls team won the state championship several years ago, Bozek came into the locker room to hand out the medals.
"Megan is not only a great hockey player, (but) also has the kindness in her heart for everyone," Gottainer said.
Bozek admitted that she is still curious where her game would be today had she tried out for the Stevenson boys team, and she also wants to skate with the Patriots even nowadays when she's home for vacation or to visit.
"But I was so busying with (AAA hockey) that I couldn't really imagine more ice time (playing for Stevenson)," she said. "I'm happy with how it all worked out."