USA Women’s Hockey has had a big year with some major wins – in more ways than one. In addition to winning the Women’s Hockey World Championship Title and defeating Canada for the fourth time in a row, the team also made strides against gender inequality.
For a while, it was questionable if the US Women’s Hockey first team, led by captain Meghan Duggan, would be present at the World Championship game. The team had announced that they would be boycotting the championship if the players did not get more support, better pay, more benefits and recognition from USA Hockey.
Duggan spoke of what the team was looking for in an interview with NPR, saying, “At this point, the terms that we want as players have been clearly laid out to USA Hockey. There’s a compensation piece but also from a marketing and PR standpoint, we’re looking for more support, more recognition from our national governing body and, quite frankly, equitable treatment to what the men receive.”
The decision for Duggan to boycott the game was not an easy one. The captain explained that at 29 years old, she knows it would be the last time she would have the chance to represent the US in the championship game. Yet even though the stakes were high, Duggan thought that what they were standing for was more important.
The federation and the team went back and forth with negotiations, trying to strike up a compromise. The federation even started trying to put together a team of replacements for the championship in case a deal was not worked out on time.
Players were asked from pro, college, and even high school teams to be part of the replacement team. Standing in solidarity with the first team, many of these players turned down the opportunity in order to support the boycott for better treatment. The hashtag #beboldforchange was being tweeted by players to show their support. A deal did end up being made and a joint statement was released.
Before the deal, USA Hockey paid women for a six-month period out of a four-year Olympic cycle. USA Hockey would pay the women $1,000 a month for a six-month period before the Olympics, and then the other three and a half years they would get paid virtually nothing.
The US Men’s Hockey team has the opportunity to play in the NHL during off years, where the minimum contract is $650,000. The National Women’s Hockey League is a new enterprise, only established two years ago, and struggles to stay in business. Most players only earn $14,000- $18,000. Recently, the league announced it would be cutting those salaries in half.
Duggan spoke of the deal, stating, “Our sport is the big winner today. We stood up for what we thought was right, and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough.”
The deal became even sweeter when the US women won the title on April 7 in Michigan, defeating Canada 3-2 in overtime.
“Coming here knowing we won a battle that we’ve been fighting for over a year, it just made us feel so right coming into the world championship,” said Kacey Bellamy.
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