The U.S. women's national hockey team played Canada, its archrival, on March 31st for the world championships after threatening to boycott the game over fair wages. The two teams have come head-to-head at every single world championship final so far, but this time, the U.S. women said they would sit out unless their demands were met.
Thankfully, USA Hockey avoided what would've been a historic boycott by settling on terms that could lead players to earn as much as much as $129,000 in an Olympic year—an unbelievable victory for the defending gold medalists.
At the time, team captain Meghan Duggan told ESPN that, "We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought. We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect."
Along with fair pay, the team was also looking for a contract that calls for support towards "youth team development, equipment, travel expenses, hotel accommodations, meals, staffing, transportation, marketing, and publicity."
— Hilary Knight (@Hilary_Knight) March 15, 2017
While team players are expected to play and compete full-time, ESPN reports that USA Hockey has paid them a meager $1,000 a month during the six months that they trained to compete for the Olympics. To put that into perspective that's $5.75 an hour, presuming the women traveled, trained and competed 8 hours a day, five times a week. And that's just for the Olympics. During the remainder of their four-year period, they were paid "virtually nothing."
Understandably, this forced the athletes to decide between playing the sport they love and earning a wage that they can live on. "Sadly it becomes a decision between chasing your dream or giving in to the reality of the financial burden," player Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said. "That is the conversation my husband and I are having right now."
What makes the whole situation even more problematic is the fact that, on average, USA Hockey spends $3.5 million on the men's national-team developmental program and the 60 or so games they compete in every year. That fact alone has given the women's team lawyers a reason to cite the program as a violation of the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, which states that the league is "[required] to provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where, as is the case with hockey, separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis."
Unfortunately, hockey players are not the only United States women's team fighting for equitable treatment. The soccer team, is more than a year into its negotiations for better pay.
— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) March 15, 2017
"It's hard to believe that, in 2017, we still have to fight so hard for basic equitable support," assistant captain Monique Lamoureux-Morando told ESPN. "[But] it's well overdue for us to speak up about unfair treatment."
Now, just in time for Equal Pay Day, the Denver Post reported that the U.S. women's hockey team will get a pay raise of $2,000 each, bumping their monthly salary up to $3,000. Not only that, but each player is set to make at least $70,000 a year from money they will receive from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Each player will be rewarded $20,000 for gold and $15,000 for silver from USA Hockey and an additional $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze from the USOC.
Player Lamoureux-Davidson told the Denver Post that "it's going to be a turning point for women's hockey in the U.S." and a "turning point for women's hockey in the world." But unfortunately, the fight doesn't end here.
“It’s going to be important to not just sign a deal and be done with it but to continue to grow the sport and to market our sport and market the players and it’s just going to create numbers at the grassroots level that I think players want to see and USA Hockey wants to see," Lamoureux-Davidson continued. "That’s going to be a big part in just growing the game still.”