(AP/WWLP) – Kacey Bellamy, a three-time Olympian who helped the United States end a 20-year gold medal drought at the 2018 Winter Games, announced her retirement Tuesday.

Bellamy, who turned 34 in April, was a 15-year veteran with the U.S. women’s national team.

“Hockey has given me the most incredible memories, and as tough of a decision that this is, I know in my heart it is right,” Bellamy said. “So I’ve decided to step away from the game and start the next chapter in my life.”

From playing in Westfield as a young kid to becoming an Olympic gold medalist, Kacey Bellamy has had an exceptional hockey career. She’s experienced it all. She won two silver medals in the 2010 and 2014 games and gold in 2018.

“Our team worked so hard for it after losing in Vancoucer and then Sochi again and it was just a phenomal feeling coming out of 18 with gold,” Bellamy told 22News.

The defenseman also played in nine International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships, one of only two players to win eight gold medals.

Despite her achievements, Bellamy never forgot where she came from and has some words of wisdom for all western Massachusetts girls in the hockey world.

“If you love the game that’s all the matters and hopefully in the next 5 to 10 years there will be a women’s league and they’ll have a better future for themselves after college,” Bellamy said.

Kelli Stack, a longtime teammate with Bellamy, was surprised by the decision with the 2022 Beijing Olympics only nine months away. She said the decision was easier for Bellamy with so much unknown because of COVID-19. Playing in tournaments means being secluded in a hotel room off the ice.

“It’s not like she’s going to be missing out on a ton of memory building with her teammates,” Stack said.

Bellamy has been a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association since its founding in 2019, trying to strengthen women’s pro options after playing in both the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the National Women’s Hockey League.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, who played with Bellamy for all of her career with the U.S. national team, said not being able to play because of the pandemic has been devastating for players, especially nearing the end of their careers. Bellamy had been training as always.

“There are such limited opportunities to compete, and then those means, the main reason we train the way we do, those competitions are taken away I think this is a difficult position to put those older players in,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.

Lamoureux-Davidson said Bellamy helped loosen up the locker room while competing hard every day, making her someone others hated to play or even practice against.

“The reason she’s been so impactful, not just on the ice, but her leadership off the ice is immeasurable, and it will be greatly missed on Team USA,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.

Bellamy played 130 games with the U.S. national team and scored 11 goals with 38 assists. She played 166 games as a pro, scoring 22 goals with 83 assists. She scored 27 goals with 80 assists in college at New Hampshire. Bellamy made her first U.S. national team after her freshman year.

Bellamy was an assistant hockey coach at Merrimack College between September 2014 and July 2016. She also was part of the 2017 U.S. team that threatened to boycott the world championships that year for a better contract.

Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. Olympic gold medalists in 2018, said she’s thrilled for the woman who was one of the bridesmaids at her 2018 wedding and knows Bellamy will succeed in whatever she chooses to do next.

“The team in the program will certainly miss her from an honest perspective, from a leadership perspective, like she’s just a top-notch athlete,” Duggan said. “But with that being said, you know, her resume speaks for itself.”

Bellamy said she is keeping her options open for what’s next, whether it’s coaching or business ventures but she does want to continue to help hockey grow.