Gold Medal celebration held for Maddie Rooney, Sidney Morin

 Duluth Mayor Emily Larson announced that Apr. 12 will now be recognized as Gold Medal Hockey Day in Duluth. Photo by Tyler Schendel.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson announced that Apr. 12 will now be recognized as Gold Medal Hockey Day in Duluth. Photo by Tyler Schendel.

UMD women’s hockey red-shirt junior goalie Maddie Rooney and former defenseman Sidney Morin were honored for their Olympic Gold Medal win in front of a packed house at Grandma’s Sports Garden on Thursday, April 12, as part of a welcome home ceremony. Morin, who finished playing a professional season in Sweden, scored in the Gold Medal Game against Canada while Rooney had 26 saves and clinched the shootout win.

Morin admitted that there were nerves during the Gold Medal Game, but the goal to win Team USA’s first Olympic Gold Medal in women’s hockey in 20 years drove the team to extraordinary feats.

“I think going into it, a lot of us had to have the mindset that it’s just another game and it’s the game you’ve been playing your whole entire life,” Morin said. “You know it’s the biggest game of your life but you have to approach it just like any other game. I think there was a little bit of nerves but a lot of excitement.”

 Fans of all ages packed Sports Garden to welcome the local Gold Medalists. Photo by Tyler Schendel.

Fans of all ages packed Sports Garden to welcome the local Gold Medalists. Photo by Tyler Schendel.

KBJR Sports Director Zach Schneider asked the hockey stars about their Olympic experience before they signed autographs and took photos with fans. When Schneider told Rooney that she had become a superstar, Rooney was still humble as she recalled the support that Team USA got during the Olympics.

“I’m not a superstar,” Rooney said. “It’s just been really humbling to see everyone’s support from going to different cities around the country, it’s been a really humbling experience to go through this with the team.”

Since winning the Gold Medal, Rooney, Morin and the women’s national hockey team had been on a nationwide tour that included being honored at the 2018 NHL Stadium Series Game and appearances on The Ellen Show and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Morin said that she has since had time to reflect on everything that happened during the last eight months.

“The moment that it really hit me that we won a Gold Medal was that first night after we were on Ellen and we went to the LA Kings game,” Morin said. “We stepped down on the ice and the building just erupted, we had a standing ovation for what felt like ten minutes and it was just so humbling. We knew that people were supporting us back in America but to finally be on home soil and know that people around the country watched this game and know who we are now was just incredible.”

UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo, who was in attendance at the welcome home event, said that this has been a great era for Bulldog athletics, referring to the Gold Medalists and the men’s hockey team’s second national championship. Berlo attributed the success to the student athletes, the coaches and staff and the supportive Duluth community, saying that these achievements would not be possible without the support.

 UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo credited Rooney and Morin for setting an example for the young hockey players in the crowd. Photo by Tyler Schendel.

UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo credited Rooney and Morin for setting an example for the young hockey players in the crowd. Photo by Tyler Schendel.

Berlo expressed how proud he was of Rooney and Morin, not only for their athletic achievements, but also for the example they have set for the young children that were in attendance at the event.

“They’re just two incredible young people, they’re great role models,” Berlo said. “It’s so nice to see them encouraging the young boys and girls that are here to seek their dreams and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented, they’ve really embraced that role model responsibility and personally and professionally, I'm so proud of them for that.”

While Morin said that her future plans for her hockey career are still up in the air, Rooney confirmed that she has turned her focus to winning a national championship with UMD.

“I’m really looking forward to that and being a part of Bulldog hockey,” Rooney said. “Some are saying that I’ve hit the pinnacle of my hockey career but I’m focused now on winning a national championship with this team and I’m really looking forward to our season.”

SportsTyler Schendel