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Olympics

The Lamoureux Twins Are Leaving Their Sport Better Than They Found It

Jocelyne Lamoureux #17 of the United States scores a goal against Shannon Szabados #1 of Canada in a shootout to win the Women's Gold Medal Game on day thirteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 22, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hockey’s Lamoureux twins—Jocelyne and Monique—made me a dumb, hopeless jingoist, which is the highest compliment I can pay to anyone. If I had reservations about the Olympic project or its indulgence of humanity’s worst instincts, for at least a few hours at a time, I ignored them. Nothing—no sporting event ever—has thrilled me the way the 2018 Olympic gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada did. With six minutes left in the third period, Monique scored on a breakaway to tie up the game and send it to overtime. And then, in the sixth frame of the shootout came what Jocelyne called her “Oops, I Did It Again goal,” a gorgeous series of fakes that knocked Canada’s goalie Shannon Szabados right over. (Emily Kaplan over at ESPN just wrote a nice oral history of that goal.) This morning, the Team USA veterans announced they’re retiring at 31.

In retirement, they say they hope to focus on creating more competitive opportunities for girls and women in hockey. The Lams always seemed to understand what it means to do the work of growing a sport, that individual talent isn’t worth anything without quality institutions to nurture it. And when the institutions failed them—which they do women athletes, all the time—they fought back. The twins were vocal in the 2017 players’ strike of USA Hockey, threatening to sit out the world championships until the sport’s governing body made improvements to the women’s team’s pay and travel conditions, one of the more heartening labor actions in women’s sports.

And they won. USA Hockey could not scrounge together anyone willing to scab, and the national team walked away with a four-year contract that provided livable wages, training stipends, bonuses, and maternity leave, which the Lamoureuxs both used in late 2018. “It’s the same sweat equity, and in the Olympics, gender shouldn’t matter,” Jocelyne told the Washington Post after the deal in 2017. “We believe, man or woman, our governing body should support athletes the same.”

What happened next is so dismally on the nose: Two days after the Team USA players came to their agreement with USA Hockey, the University of North Dakota, where the twins had played, announced it would cut the school’s beloved Olympic-feeder women’s hockey program. “One of the most legendary hockey schools in the country, in one of the most hockey-passionate states in the country, no longer provides the opportunity for girls to play,” Monique said in their Players’ Tribune retirement announcement, hinting at where the work might happen next. “There are now young girls in North Dakota, the region, and worldwide that won’t get to play on the ice at Ralph Engelstad Arena.”

It takes a special kind of resolve to be the best at what you do and to know while you’re doing it that the ice you skate on and the time you get to skate on it are things that can be taken from you at any moment—in fact, will be taken from you, if you’re not insistent on your right to them. This is burdensome and time-consuming and nothing any devoted athlete really should have to deal with. The Lamoureuxs, always looking beyond themselves, insisted.