USA Hockey VS. USA Women’s National Team

Today I came across an interesting news release that I’d like to share with you. The United States Men’s Hockey team may be boycotting the world championships to stand in solidarity with the U.S Women’s Hockey team who have been fighting, among other things, for equal pay to play.

Now, if you’re one of those people that already has their finger on the keys to say, “it’s equal pay for equal work and the men’s team works harder,” you can probably just do the world a favour and step away from your computer now. But really, this message is mostly for you, so I actually encourage you to stay.

First let’s look at what exactly the women’s hockey team is concerned about. In a statement issued by the team, they say:

“We have asked USA Hockey for equitable support as required by the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act. Specifically, we have asked for equitable support in the areas of financial compensation, youth team development, equipment, travel expenses, hotel accommodations, meals, staffing, transportation, marketing and publicity.”

Remembering that this is a national team for one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it’s hard to think that request is anything but reasonable. For those who aren’t aware, the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act mandates that national sports teams “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis.”

USA Hockey came back quickly to say they, “have proactively increased our level of direct support.” How? “A six-month training camp, additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period.” I’m going to take a moment here to emphasize the word choice here, where it “COULD” result in each player receiving a cash incentive. Let’s be serious, a statement like this completely downplays the commitment to national sports that these women have shown and continue to show through intense training regimes and overall time commitment. Saying “you could get a bonus” really just says, “I don’t want to pay you for your efforts now, but maybe I’ll change my mind a little later.” without ever having to actually follow through on that incentive. It’s bunk.

Having been involved in over 15 months of negotiations, the USA Women’s Hockey Team has decided they will withdraw from the game scheduled for March 31st if their needs are not met. USA Hockey responded to that as well, stating, “USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team for the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan.”

I think it is really important to emphasis this point as well. See, if USA Hockey doesn’t come to an agreement with the Women’s National Team and have a no-show at the world championships that they’re hosting this year, they’ll actually be fined $15,000, and naturally they don’t want to pay that so what they’ve been looking into as an alternative is putting together an entirely new roster of players who are willing to play. They’ve actually been met with so much opposition from the varying degrees of hockey organizations that they’ve resorted to asking players in the UNDER-16 organizations to play in place of their national team – can you believe that? Not only does it show the desperation faced by USA Hockey, it’s just sad and shows a remarkable level of disrespect to the women currently on the team. (A team, I’ll mention, that has taken home Gold 7 times since 2005.) But that shouldn’t be too surprising when you consider that USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million dollars annually to support boys participating in its national development program, of which, there is no comparable development team for girls – at all.

You can argue all day and night that the reason the women’s team is not as dominantly funded is because people are “not interested in women’s hockey” or there “isn’t enough interest in girls playing,” but to do that you would have to completely negate the fact that only recently does women’s hockey actually get media coverage; and frankly it’s sloppy at best, often focusing on players “more famous” hockey-playing brothers or fathers than the actual skills showcased when these women hit the ice. Pair that with the fact that there isn’t enough funding for development training, and where exactly do you think these young girls eager to be hockey stars are supposed to play and train?

The reason I wanted to highlight this particular issue is that women’s hockey may have come a long way, but it still clearly has so far to go, and USA Hockey’s statements that are allegedly in support of their national women’s team are proof of that.

While nothing is confirmed, reports are now circulating that the USA Men’s Hockey Team is considering withdrawing from the World Championships slated to begin on May 5th. Personally, I hope they really do give this considerable thought and do stand in solidarity with the women’s team should it come to that. Making the kind of changes that the women’s team are pushing for will only help make hockey more accessible sport for young girls and encourage women to strive for greatness in athletic avenues – and as a young girl who once played myself, I’d really like to see more girls on the ice.

Since USA Hockey’s statement, the Women’s Team has issued another response, stating, “the statement issued by USA Hockey today in response to our decision to sit out the World Championships is misleading. It suggests that USA Hockey is prepared to pay the players $85,000 during the Olympic year. That is simply not true and no such offer was ever extended. In its public statement, USA Hockey has coupled their contributions with payments made by the U.S Olympic Committee, which pays Gold medal winning athletes more than $60,000. Further, it covers only the Olympic period and does not offer anything for each of the other three years during which a World Championship is played. Lastly, it does nothing to address the marketing and training support that is not on par with what it provides to the mens’ and boys’ teams.”

Your move, USA Hockey.

#BeBoldForChange

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