When you have passion, heart, desire and the love of a simple game, you think nothing can stand in your way of happiness. As a female athlete, most of us may have heard “you’re too small” or “you’re not as good as the boys” or something along those lines. It was always in comparison to the boys and personally, I have always been sick of hearing it. The USA Women’s Ice hockey team was also sick of hearing that as well.
On March 15th 2017, the USA Women’s Ice Hockey team announced they will not be playing in the IIHF World Championships in Plymouth, Michigan unless significant progress has been made. The World Championships were in less than two weeks but the women believed they had a fight on their hands. The women have asked USA Hockey for equitable support for their program, just as much as they support the men. They are asking for higher wages, travel and insurance provisions equal to the men’s team, but overall fair treatment from USA Hockey. For years, the men’s team has always been provided what they needed to succeed. According to the players, they also receive less support than the men’s team for equipment, staff, associated expenses and marketing. They also pointed to inequities in development programs, asserting that while USA Hockey spends $3.5 million annually on its national team program for boys, girls receive no “comparable” support.
In the grand scheme of things, the players are just looking for equal support from the USA Hockey program. It has nothing to do with the fact that they do not want to participate in the World Championships; they want to play. Many of the players mentioned that “It’s bigger than hockey. Its about equitable support for females in this country.” First thing is first, equal rights. It goes to show even though women gained equal rights back in the 1920s, we are still fighting for those same rights today. The women see that this has been an overarching issue over the years and they finally stepped up to the plate to challenge USA Hockey. The best part is, they aren’t only doing it for themselves, but for the continued shared goal of promoting and growing girls and women in sport while representing the red, white and blue.
Not only asking for the support of the women’s hockey community, the men’s hockey community and even the NHL backed the women in their fight for equal rights. In having the support of the men’s program and the NHL was huge for the women. It pushed the USA to acknowledge their talent and accomplishments and that they deserve the recognition and support from their own country. Before we knew it, the #BeBoldForChange was blowing up social media in support of the women’s program. In using the hashtag, the word was spread throughout the world gaining continued love and support for the women.
On March 28th 2017, USA Hockey came to an agreement. They listened and agreed to higher wages, travel and insurance provisions like the men’s team, along with prize money for winning. But it is not about the money or the insurance, it is about the bigger picture; the support of the female sport community. Today they won the battle and the every growing support of the USA Hockey federation.
Placing the cherry on top, the women dominated the IIHF World Championships; They defeated Canada with a 3-2 victory in the championship game with a goal by Hilary Knight. They were champions! To make this victory even sweeter, it was the first ever win on home-soil for the American women.
As a female hockey player, this topic was very near and dear to my heart. It affected me and my hockey career because I have lived through these years of support lacking in the female community. The feeling of being undervalued and the lack of support throughout my career was present, but it never stopped the passion and love I have for the game. Stepping up and fighting for equality in women’s sport is a huge step forward in the world and without the courage, strength, determination of every single women on that roster, things wouldn’t have changed and the future has never looked brighter for women in sport. Thank you!