The financial details of the new deal between USA Hockey and the women’s team are confidential, but it reportedly calls for an annual salary of $70,000 per year and includes a new advisory group made up of current and former players. This group will “assist USA Hockey in efforts to advance girl’s and women’s hockey.”
On March 15, the once-private lawsuit exploded into a public battle when the US Women’s Team announced that they had decided to sit out the 2017 IIHF World Championship. USA Hockey initially began seeking out replacement players instead of confronting the real issues. Even after this threat was made, the women held their ground. They were prepared to risk everything, including their careers.
The team’s success in their pursuit for fair pay came just in time for the championship on April 7, which they conquered as their fourth consecutive win!
The team was represented by the firm Ballard Spahr. A news release from the firm confirmed that USA Hockey had only been providing players with a monthly stipend of $1,000 during their 6-month Olympic residency period, and “virtually nothing” through the remainder of the 4 years between Olympic Games.
“We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect,” said Duggan.
The women’s team has historically been more successful than their male counterparts, winning five gold medals compared to the men’s two since 1998. Regardless of this, USA Hockey has spent around $3.5 m a year to promote men’s hockey without comparable support for women.
Men who play in the Olympics are typically NHL players, where the base salary is $650,000 a year. Even 7-figure salaries are possible for some players, including Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks who made over $13.8 m last year, and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers who earns around $10 m a year. Amanda Kessel is believed to be the NWHL’s highest paid player, and she only gets paid $26,000 a year, equivalent to roughly $13/hr, less than some pizza delivery drivers!
This does not mean that male hockey players did not stand up with the women’s team in their fight for equal pay. Some players even committed to skip the tournament if USA Hockey did not make changes in their compensation for women.
Throughout their lawsuit, the players of the women’s team were seeking more than just decent living wages. They demanded investment in girl’s programs, more competitive games between the Olympic games, and visibility to develop the sport for women. Perhaps the next step will be to invest in the NWHL, which will hopefully give female players the same opportunities as the men in the NHL.
This fight represented more than just women in hockey. The success of the women’s team is a turning point for gender equality in all sports. After witnessing the courageous effort these women invested in their cause, there is no telling how far they will go for more change in the future.
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