Whilst Bettman keeps the NHL firmly grasped in one hand and his gold in the other, team USA is having the opposite problem with its women team. The women are boycotting the upcoming World Championship. Their decision arises as a result of unfair wages, lack of support from USA Hockey, and lack of funding into girls development.
With the tournament commencing on the 31st of March, USA Hockey only has a few days left to rectify their mistakes and settle a deal with the team’s lawyers. The women have received support from the National Hockey League Players Association as well as the Major League Baseball Players Association in their efforts to secure improved conditions for their team and for the future of their sport. Many members of the US women’s national soccer team, who have also fought for a base salary from their respective federation, offered support too.
The athletes only receive wages from USA Hockey in the six months leading up to the Winter Olympics… These women receive $1000 dollars per month for only six months, yet are expected to train and play competitively for another three and a half years for free to meet an Olympic standard. It is absolutely ridiculous. The women are asking for a livable wage, and for more funding because $3.5million is invested into the boy’s development program, but there are no comparable programs for girls. Is the funding worth it? In terms of recent results, the women’s team has won the gold medal in six of the last eight World Championships; for the two years they did not win gold, the team took the silver medal instead. If you cannot understand what a fantastic achievement that is, the USA men’s team have won two bronze medals in the last ten years at the World Championships and THAT IS IT! Although it might be argued that the women are exceeding all expectations without that financial or developmental support, the point is both teams should be treated equally. (Or in my opinion, evaluate why the men’s team is so awful even WITH all that funding…).
Last year, the National Women’s Hockey League was launched – A PAID WOMEN’S LEAGUE WAS ONLY ESTABLISHED LAST YEAR!! – and in its second season, it is already floundering. The maximum salary for a player is $25,000 a year therefore many of these athletes have to work a second job. Although some receive money from sponsorship deals, these are the most popular/skilled players who are already earning the maximum salary. To add a little more perspective, due to the salary cap in the NHL, no player is allowed to earn more than $14.6million (excluding sponsorship, appearances, etc) and the minimum salary for a player is $550,000 a year. The lowest paid NHL player earns 22 times more than the highest paid NWHL player.
[USWNT hockey] is a full-time job and to not get paid is a financial burden and stress on the players, obviously,” Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said. “That is the conversation my husband and I are having right now. Is playing going to be more stress than we can handle? Sadly it becomes a decision between chasing your dream or giving in to the reality of the financial burden.
The fact is these women have financial burdens placed upon because they must balance being a full time athlete with a very small salary, yet are still able to produce extraordinary results, whereas the men’s team receive far more funding and higher salaries in addition to their NHL salaries – and it is not fair.
Not only do they want a better wage, the women want to be able to fly business class, bring guests to competitions, receive disability insurance, and maternity leave – none of which are particularly outrageous demands, yet USA hockey have said it would cost far too much. The men’s team are allowed to bring a guest for World Championship games, the guest is allowed to stay in the player’s hotel room and their transport is paid for; they may stay for the duration of the championship, receive breakfast, game tickets, and merchandise. In contrast, the women have not been permitted guests in the past and have had to share a room with a teammate. The women fly in coach, and the men in business – but have the option to fly in economy with their guest on the return trip. And disability insurance is paid for by USA hockey for the men.
Why should these athletes dedicate their lives to an association that treats them like crap in comparison to their male counterparts? (Who – let’s be honest – under perform in every competition!)
An exhibition game against Finland has been cancelled and training camp has been postponed because there was no team to participate. Reports have emerged that USA Hockey has attempted to call up ex-collegiate players – who now play only at a recreational level – in the hopes of sending a team. However, many have declined to participate, preferring to side with their fellow women in the fight against inequality.
It’s a bit desperate by USA hockey. They’re going so far as to email every hockey player they can think of, or every player that was in the USA pool that they previously cut and told they were never going to reach out to again. And everyone I know is telling them “I support the national team”.
The tournament is being held on home ice, in Michigan, and if the USA has no team to represent them, it will – quite frankly – be an embarrassment.