This week, the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team scored a major victory for all women. The defending champions will take on Canada this week during the first match of the world championships in Plymouth, Michigan — but that match almost didn’t happen.
Until yesterday, the hockey team was boycotting the world championships, holding out for equal pay and treatment.
Here’s why they boycotted: In the six months leading up to the Olympics, team members received only $6,000 for their efforts, and “virtually nothing” in off-years, according to team captain Meghan Duggan. While the men’s team traveled business class and slept in individual hotel rooms, the women’s team traveled coach and shared hotel rooms. And that was just part of the problem. All of that mattered, but most of all, the team didn’t want to continue seeing younger players get the same treatment.
The U.S. women’s team has medaled in every Olympics that included women’s hockey, and they won gold in 1998 — a feat not acknowledged on the Olympic jersey, which only lists the two times the U.S. men’s team won gold in hockey (1960 and 1980). That jersey was unveiled during a televised ceremony to which the men’s, but not the women’s, team was invited.
USA Hockey (the national governing body of the sport) tried to enlist other female hockey players, from college teams to intramural leagues, to replace the national team — and here’s where it gets even better. All across the country, female hockey players refused, and they took to Twitter under the hashtag #BeBoldForChange to say so.
The National Football League and Major League Baseball player’s unions expressed support, along with male and female professionals and amateur athletes across the country. Even the U.S. men’s national hockey team threatened to boycott their championship tournament. Sixteen senators wrote to USA Hockey in support of the women’s team’s boycott.
Finally, USA Hockey agreed on a contract that will provide the U.S. women’s team with a living wage, among other improvements. Under the new contract, the U.S. team agreed to play in the world championship, and now we can focus on cheering them on.
Yet, the same day the agreement was announced, the University of North Dakota announced it will be shutting down their men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams — along with their women’s hockey team, which has produced several Olympians and two members of the current U.S. national team. The announcement came on Twitter while the hockey team was on the ice preparing for a match, so they didn’t find out until later.
Bolstered by the success of the U.S. women’s national team’s successful boycott, the UND team is already getting messages of support, like this one from professional hockey player Sam Hanson:
Right now, there is no call for boycott, but there is no doubt that the Fighting Hawks — and women’s hockey fans and players — will be bold in their response.