Team Canada stalwart eyes a fifth Games
Meghan Agosta, soon to be a mom, initially felt trepidation about her bold career move
VANCOUVER — With a full-time job at the Vancouver Police Department, Meghan Agosta could easily have decided to retire from hockey this year, at age 31. Instead Agosta, a star forward on the Canadian national team, remains determined to return for her fifth Winter Olympics, in Beijing in 2022.
“We were roommates at the Olympics, and I said to her: ‘How does it feel? Is this going to be your last?’ ” said Laura Fortino, a defender from Hamilton who made the most recent Olympic all-star team at the Pyeongchang Games in February. “She looked at me dead straight in the face and said: ‘You know what? I’m not ready. This is not my last.’
“Knowing Gus, she is so determined. I know she will come back and play in Beijing.”
Agosta, who has three Olympic gold medals, took the last shootout shot in the final against the United States in South Korea. When American goalie Maddie Rooney stopped the five-hole attempt, it ended Canada’s reign as the four-time champion and gave the United States its first title since the inaugural Olympic women’s hockey tournament in 1998.
Despite her ultracompetitive nature, Agosta handled the defeat with the kind of composure required in her law enforcement career in Vancouver, where she regularly faces life-or-death situations.
“I’ve only been on the job for three and a half years, but I’ve seen basically everything,” Agosta said. “They say as a police officer, you have a front-row seat to the best show in town. You leave some of the calls and you just shake your head: ‘Did that really happen?’
“I’ve been to homicides, suicides, domestic complaints. My mindset and perspective on life has changed drastically since
I’ve become a police officer. You really have to enjoy the moments you have, especially playing for Team Canada.”
Agosta will complete a hat trick of major life challenges in 2018 when she gives birth to her first child, a girl, in December. She is already raising two stepsons with Jason Robillard, her fiancé. Robillard is a Vancouver police sergeant.
“We’re very happy to say that we’re starting a family of our own and having a little baby girl,” Agosta said. “Hopefully she’ll follow in my footsteps someday.”
It is remarkable that this native of Ruthven, Ont., near Leamington, was able to make the 2018 Olympic team, and that assessment is not a reflection of her talent. A former Mercyhurst University captain, who graduated with a criminal justice degree and a minor in criminalistics psychology, Agosta is the all-time NCAA leader in goals (157) and points (303). She won Canadian Women’s Hockey League scoring titles with the Montreal Stars in 2012 and 2013.
However, since Agosta moved to British Columbia in 2014, she has not trained or played with other top female players, except when the national team convenes. The last local professional women’s team, the Vancouver Griffins, folded in 2003.
Agosta has found alternatives, such as playing for the Vancouver Police Department’s team, practising with a local Midget AAA team of boys ages 15 to 17, and training with a skills coach at the University of British Columbia.
“She’s always been self-motivated and driven, but I think her true colours came out when she decided to take on this full-time job,” Fortino said. “She’s kind of on her own little island there in Vancouver. She has no choice but to find ice and practise her skills and train in the gym by herself.”
Agosta, who missed the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation world championship in Sweden to pursue policing, initially felt trepidation about her bold career move.
“I was starting police academy in September 2014,” Agosta said. “I thought, ‘Oh man, now I’ve got to tell Hockey Canada that I need to take the year off.’ That was my biggest fear. But Hockey Canada supported me: ‘It’s not like you’re going to go tour the world. We know that this is the career choice you wanted.’ I’ve been very fortunate.”
She has had to sandwich her training between policing shifts, four days off and then four days on. Her shifts vary, typically running 11 or 12 hours and often keeping her up all night. That routine rivals the jet lag she might face when travelling with the national hockey team. Currently, because of her pregnancy, she is working a desk job four days a week with the Vancouver Police Department’s major crime section.
“Eating, sleeping and training at different times is part of the challenge for me,” Agosta said. “The quote I would use is ‘improvise, adapt and overcome.’ Just have that belief and the positive mindset that this is tough, but I still have a lot more to give.”
In her limited recovery time, Agosta’s pleasures are simple. She drinks coffee, watches “The Bachelor” and walks her dog, Rocky, with her family in their South Surrey neighbourhood.
Somehow, it works. Finland’s Noora Raty, named the best goalie at the 2018 Olympics, attests to Agosta’s prowess.
“Meghan is one of the most dangerous players I’ve ever played against because of her high hockey IQ,” Raty said in an email. “She is a constant scoring threat because of her speed, poise with the puck and quick snap shot, which is hard to read as a goalie. She is just a complete, all-around player who can play in all three zones.”
Agosta is also a dressing room leader. Recalling her experiences before the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, she preaches a gratitude-based, go-for-it attitude to her teammates.
“I was 18 and our oldest player, Danielle Goyette, was 40,” Agosta said. “I was in awe: ‘Holy crow! I’m in the dressing room with all my childhood heroes.’ Coach Mel Davidson pulled me aside two months in and said: ‘Listen, you’re here for a reason. You need to start performing. If not, we’re going to have to release you.’ I thought, ‘I have nothing to lose.’ That’s when I changed how I was playing.”
Agosta, long focused on the rivalry between Canada and the United States, will be unavailable to play for Canada at the 2019 world championship in Espoo, Finland, in April; she should be quite busy with a new baby girl by then.
Agosta informed her Canadian teammates via the messaging app WhatsApp that she would sit out the world championship, but she plans to get back in shape for the team’s annual fitness testing in May. She continued to hit the gym this summer but stayed off the ice, apart from running her hockey school in Ontario in late August.
For a veteran athlete like Agosta, who chose hockey over figure skating at age six, international tournaments still represent the pinnacle. The United States has won seven of the last eight world championships. Canada last prevailed in 2012.
“It’s not about which line you play on or which power-play unit,” Agosta said. “It’s about being there and being part of the team. My perspective on hockey has changed, just living in the moment, taking each opportunity and going with it. So many young girls would love to be in this position.”
Meghan Agosta has a full-time job at the Vancouver Police Department. It’s not easy being a step-mom to two children, pregnant and train. Agosta could easily have decided to retire, but remains determined to return for her fifth Winter Olympics, in Beijing in 2022 with Team Canada.