Olympic gold medalist and eight-time world champion hockey player Kacey Bellamy is returning back to the region where she grew up.
Bellamy, who grew up in Westfield, Mass., signed a one-year deal with the Connecticut Whale of the Premier Hockey League, the league announced Thursday. Earlier this week, the Whale announced a three-year extension to practice and play their home games at the International Skating Center in Simsbury, about 20 miles south of Westfield.
“Playing near family and close to home is a dream come true for me,” said Bellamy, a defender who played on the U.S. national team over a period of 15 years. “The opportunity to play in front of my nieces and nephews will give them a glimpse into the life of a professional athlete, and I hope it sparks a dream for them and others. My goal is to grow women’s hockey further, be a positive role model, and show little girls that they can live out their dreams for a long time.”
Bellamy, 35, signed a one-year deal for $122,000 with a signing bonus of $7,000 to join Connecticut for the upcoming 2023-24 season, according to a release from the PHF. This past winter, Bellamy was the Scout and Player Relations Liaison for the PHF.
“Stepping away from the game brought me a new perspective, and I was able to see life in a different light,” Bellamy said “The thought of playing again has been on my mind for a while, but I wanted to get a feel for the league on a more personal, behind the scenes level. It has exceeded my expectations in all aspects, and I am tremendously proud to restart my hockey career in the PHF.”
Bellamy played in the league when it was called the National Women’s Hockey League in 2016 and 2017. She was a two-time All-Star defender, scoring 23 points in 30 games with the Boston Pride, winning the Isobel Cup in 2016.
“I am beyond excited to join the Connecticut Whale family,” Bellamy said. “The professionalism, diligence, and care they showed throughout the negotiation process made all the difference in my decision. I had the benefit of watching each PHF team in depth this year within my scouting role, and I believe Connecticut has all the pieces in place to win an Isobel Cup. I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to come back to the game I love and have missed.”
The Whale finished third in the PHF this season with a 14-8-2 record. Connecticut was eliminated by eventual champion Toronto in game three of the best-of-3 semifinal.
“We are excited for Kacey to bring her talents, leadership, and passion for the game to The Pod,” said Whale head coach Colton Orr. “She is a massive addition to our defensive core and will be a big part of continuing to build our team culture and our quest for an Isobel Cup.”
Orr had his contract extended one year by the team earlier this week. He is now under contract to lead the Whale for the next two seasons.
Orr completed his fourth season with the Whale in March. In his first year, 2019-20, the team struggled to a 2-20-2 record and there was an abbreviated season in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But in the past two seasons, the Whale have won 31 games under Orr. They went 15-3 in 2021-22 and went to the Isobel Cup finals before losing to Boston.
According to a PHF release, Connecticut now has six players under contract for next season. Bellamy joins forwards Taylor Girard, 2022 league MVP Kennedy Marchment, Melissa Samoskevich, and fellow defenders Tori Howran and Allie Munroe, who are all entering the second season of their two-year deals.
The PHF’s unrestricted free agent signing period began on Tuesday with the salary cap for each PHF team rising to $1.5 million for the upcoming 2023-24 campaign.
Bellamy played her collegiate hockey at New Hampshire, helping the Wildcats win four Hockey East championships.
During her time on the national team, Bellamy won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 2018 along with silver medals in 2010 and 2014. She played on American teams that won eight world championships (2008, 2009, 2011, 2013-19).
Bellamy also has pro experience with five years in the CWHL for the Boston Blades where she won Clarkson Cup titles in 2013 and 2015. She later joined the Calgary Inferno and won a championship in 2019.
Information from a PHF release was included in this report.