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, C7txMc0VAAAMvC4.jpgUSA 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.

Bettman vs the Olympics

What’s greater than representing your country in the Olympics? Skipping it and competing in the same league as per usual, according to NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman. Negotiations between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) are fraught with tension. On the 21st March, the commissioner had this to say, in regards to the 2018 Winter Olympics:

Assume we are not going

We, being the NHL players who would be representing their countries in PyeongChang. The main issue is that because it falls in January/February, the NHL season must shut down for almost three weeks in the final push for the playoffs. The added weeks cause the season to lengthen… the final game of the Stanley Cup in 2014 was played on June 13th and the pre-season then began three months later on the 21st September. But it’s less than three weeks, once every four years… IT’S THE OLYMPICS. If they want to shorten the season then cut down on the number of games, collapse teams, remove the all-star game or the recently introduced bye week.

There is also a thinly veiled concern for “player injuries” – this is coming from a league that sparsely enforces its player safety, shows little consistency, displays favouritism, and has lawsuits against it from former players due to the effects of repeated concussions. I say their concern is not genuine because they do not show much concern for fourth liners, but because their star players are at the Olympics – the ones who draw in viewers and the cash – they worry about the size of their wallet.

This is terribly disruptive to our business

For big bosses like Bettman, hockey is just that, a business.

Candid photo of Bettman guarding his gold

However, to players who have given their entire lives to this sport, the opportunity to represent their country on the biggest stage and win a gold medal means everything. IT IS THE DAMN OLYMPICS. Bettman is complaining about the costs involved in sending the players (around $15-20  million due to accommodation, charter costs, and insurance),but as the majority of these players are on contracts worth millions of dollars per year, I’m sure they’re capable of producing the money as individuals to have the chance to play for their country.

Take the Russian Machine, Alexander Ovechkin, for an example. He’s said that if the NHL refuses to send players then he doesn’t care and is going anyway. Ovi is the face of the Washington Capitals franchise and if he says “nope, I’m out” then others might follow suit. Caps owner, Ted Leonsis, has even given Ovi his blessing to go to the Olympics.

He knows I have his back on this one. If this is what’s so important to him and he wants to go to the Olympics, he should be able to do that. Alex has meant so much to us. He doesn’t ask for much back. I’m not shy about saying it, I would support the player in this instance.

And if Ovi goes, what if his team mate Backström decides he wants to play for Sweden? And if Crosby says he wants to win his third gold and leave the Penguins for three weeks? And if McDavid and Matthews want the opportunity to represent their country for the first time? Who will stand in their way?
Another of Bettman’s issues is that participating in the previous Olympics has had no benefits to the NHL. Olympic games would be broadcast in the morning in North America due to the time difference and in February, only hockey and basketball are the major sports on. It’s absolutely ridiculous. People will still tune into the Olympics no matter what time of day it is hosted.

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Bettman pushed the World Cup of Hockey enough – a poor man’s replica of the Olympics – but hockey exists outside the NHL of course. Canada and the USA would most likely send teams made of AHLers, college athletes, or ex-NHLers. Russia could come with a very strong KHL team (and Ovi leading the way as an abdicator). But here is the real kicker… Bettman is keen to line his pockets with as much money as possible, or so it seems: With the arrival of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL has ANOTHER team in the desert. He also would like to penetrate the Chinese sports market because there is lots of cash to be had there. Guess who is hosting the Olympics in 2022… Cha-ching, China! The NHL planned to hold games every year there in the lead up to generate interest* in ice hockey, but Rene Fasel, head of the IIHF has declared:

If the NHL doesn’t come to Korea, they can’t just go to China.

Yikes! The greedy heads of the NHL could potentially shoot themselves in the foot and lose this lucrative Chinese market if they do not participate in the Korean Olympics.

That being said, the NHL didn’t agree to the Sochi Olympics until June 2013, so it is still up in the air… at least until Bettman stops throwing his dummy out of the pram.

*cash, you know it’s for cash. These new “fans” would have to watch games first thing in the morning… oh wait wasn’t that an argument against going to Korea?


Bravo Cruzeiro! #VamosMudarOsNúmeros

Cruzeiro EC, a football team in Brazil, did something special to mark International Women’s Day (8th March).

In partnership with Umbro, the club printed statistics on the players’ shirts tying in with their regular squad numbers. The stats were collected by NGO AzMina – an organisation that fights for women’s empowerment – to illustrate the difficulties faced in Brazil for women.

“A lot of people think that the fight for women’s rights doesn’t make sense anymore, but the data that the players will wear shows that this is still a current issue” – Leticia Bahia, director of NGO AzMina

Some details from the shirts:

  • Every 11 minutes a woman is raped
  • 33% suffer with street harrassment
  • Only 12% of the mayors in Brazil are women
  • 17% are forced to share a prison with men
  • 25% have post-natal depression
  • 38% of women murdered were killed by their partners
  • 35% of women have experienced harassment on public transport
  • Only 37% of employees in large companies are women
  • In films, only 29% of protagonists are women
  • Women’s wages are 30% lower
  • In 23% of municipalities, there are no females on the council
  • Three out of ten women have been kissed against their will
  • Out of ten unemployed people, seven of them will be women


A Rugby Primer

Rugby is played worldwide but perhaps doesn’t garner the same level of coverage as other sports. It’s from my hometown so I feel responsible to spread the word about the one sport England always dominates…

Rugby School and the pitch the game was invented on 

A quick primer about rugby

Legend has it that William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran during a game of football at Rugby School. Rules were established at Rugby School, Cambridge, and Eton (hence the idea that it is a gentleman’s game). rugbyA few variations of rugby now exist, including union, league, touch, and sevens. When rugby is spoken of, it is usually in reference to rugby union – the most popular form. Rugby union is a contact team sport played between two teams of 15 players, divided into eight forwards and seven backs. The pitch is 144m x 70m and goal posts are 5.6m apart with a crossbar 3m above ground. The game lasts 80 minutes, split into two halves.

A try: grounding the ball in the in-goal area and is worth five points then a conversion kick can give an additional two points.
A drop goal: kicking the ball through the H shaped goal post wins three points.
– A penalty kick gives three points too.

Rugby is unique in that forward passing is not allowed. The ball must only be passed laterally or behind therefore to move the ball forwards, it can be kicked, ran, or moved within a scrum or maul. Tackles are used to gain possession: tacklers cannot tackle above the shoulder and must attempt to wrap their arms around the player to complete the tackle. It’s illegal to push, trip, or shoulder charge.

England during a line out

There are two specific set pieces. A line out occurs when the ball leaves the side of the field and a ‘throw in’ is awarded against the team that last touched the ball. Fowards line up a metre apart slightly away from the touch line and players can be lifted by team mates to catch the ball. A scrum restarts the game after an infringement such as passing forward or offside. If a team is granted a penalty, they can choose to take a scrum. The eight forwards of each team line up into a 3-4-1 formation and the ball is rolled between them; the hooker will try to hook the ball backwards with their feet whilst the pack tries to push the other team backwards to gain possession.

The Scrum

It can be a rough and bloody game, and some players choose to wear headguards to avoid cauliflower ears, and the majority wear mouth guards – but that’s basically it in terms of protective equipment. Most players at a national level are built like tanks.




The competition began in 1883 – and was once known as the home nations. Originally, it featured England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. France joined in 1910 making it the five nations, however, during 1931-1939, France did not compete. Italy wanted in on the fun in 2000 and thus the six nations was born. The competition is held every year for five weeks in February/March. England is the current title holder and are currently top of the table with two games left to play. england-celebrate-six-nations-trophy_3435642.jpg

Not only can one country win the six nations, but they can also complete a grandslam victory where they beat the other five teams. A grandslam is also known as caithréim mhór, y gamp lawn, or le grand chelem in Irish, Welsh, and French, respectively. This has actually happened thirty seven times – thirteen of those by England, eleven by Wales.

They love trophies…

  • The Triple Crown – awarded to one of the home nations if they beat the other three. England achieved this feat in 2016 and have completed it 25 times.
  • The Calcutta Cup – awarded to victor of England vs Scotland
  • The Millennium Trophy – awarded to victor of England vs Ireland
  • The Centenary Quaich – awarded to victor of Ireland vs Scotland
  • The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy – awarded to victor of Italy vs France
  • The Wooden Spoon – also known as my favourite – is awarded to the loser of the six nations (savage) and if a team loses every single match then it’s a white wash. Italy have won it eleven times since 2000. That’s the one ‘trophy’ that England and Ireland have not won.


There is also a rugby world cup held every four years (next one coming in 2019 hosted by Japan) and the current holders are New Zealand. The trophy is named after the founder, Webb Ellis. This competition only actually began in 1987 – and the inaugural world cup was also won by New Zealand. The All Blacks have a third world cup win, giving them the honour of the most titles. Before their games, they also perform a haka, which is fantastic to watch (the one linked is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen!). South Africa and Australia have won twice, and England once with the sweetest drop goal from our hero, Jonny Wilkinson, in extra time to win the game. (One of the English world cup winners is also the grandson in law of Queen Elizabeth, neato).



This haka performed at Jonah Lomu’s funeral is spine tingling too. Jonah was the youngest ever All Black and a true superstar player, but died aged 40 of a heart attack relating to a serious kidney disorder that had ended his career and resulted in a kidney transplant.

You Can Play

The NHL has declared  that February is now the “Hockey is for Everyone” month to highlight their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Teams have been hosting specific events to celebrate and recognise diversity, for example, participating in sled hockey, meeting blind players, and welcoming recent immigrants to the country to drop the puck. Fans have also been encouraged to share their stories of how hockey has impacted their lives using the hash tag #HockeyIsForEveryone. Each team has also assigned a You Can Play ambassador, who is said to be a leader in the locker room and the community on issues such as equality.

You Can Play ambassadors 

In addition, this month is hosted in partnership with You Can Play, a non-profit organisation that supports LGBTQ rights and holds that locker rooms and sports venues  should be safe and free from homophobia, and athletes should not be judged on their gender identity or sexual orientation. One specific night during February is dedicated to You Can Play featuring ceremonial puck drops, hometown heroes, and Pride Tape.

Whilst I agree that these nights are important on a whole, I have a few issues with them too. Firstly, the ambassadors. The biggest “what the heck” name on the list is that of Andrew Shaw. Last April, Shaw was suspended during the playoffs and fined for using an anti-gay slur towards an official. He said he let his emotions get to the best of him – let’s be honest, it’s not the first time he’s thrown a tantrum. The reason why these types of nights are hosted are for people to realise  why a gay player might be uncomfortable in the league, but also for players and fans to change their attitudes. On one hand, that’s great – he made a mistake, showed remorse then learnt from it, and wants to turn it in a positive. On the other hand, was he really the best ambassador they could muster? From the statement he issued, it gave the vibe of his own personal project, and some fans in the LTBQ community have expressed dismay at his appointment because  he’s not a person they feel comfortable with representing and supporting them – considering he was screaming f—-t on national television ten months ago, you can understand why.

In contrast, some ambassadors get the big thumbs up. Braden Holtby and his wife
visited Harvey Milk’s former home which is now the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store, and were later invited to a national dinner.

Fatima Ali with Wilson and Williams

Together they attended the Capital Pride Festival as anonymous supporters, then the Washington Capitals asked Holtby to represent the organisation at the Capital Pride March – which he and his wife planned to attend anyway. The organisation itself has also been great in supporting this special month; Fatima Ali, a hockey player from the UAE was invited over, they’ve hosted a Chinese cultural night, USA Warriors, a hockey clinic for disabled children, and a ‘try blind hockey’ event. The team has also held a screening for middle school students of Soul on Ice, a documentary about black hockey players.


How much do these nights really help in the advancement of acceptance? Holtby stated that You Can Play have pushed the conversation forward so that acceptance is the norm, but is rainbow tape on a stick really going to encourage a player to come out? The NHL store is stocked with pride t-shirts and the tape but make no mention of where that money is going which makes me feel like the NHL is cashing in on what should be a progressive event. Considering they’re  building a hockey team in Las Vegas – ANOTHER PLACE WITH NO ICE – it’s safe to say they love that cash. Secondly, you only have to look at comments on Facebook to see dozens of “keep politics out of sport”. The safety and comfort of minority groups are not a political campaign – they are basic human rights and should be treated as such.

Holtby representing the Caps at pride

A small point, not wholly relevant to this post but still important, is that some Russian players, like Yakupov, have also expressed their support for the You Can Play campaign. Considering the attitudes in Russia towards homosexuals, even speaking up and saying that a gay teammate would be supported is a quietly monumental feat that could put them in a precarious situation in their home country.

Whilst the effectiveness of You Can Play nights can come into question, and could be considered as just another money spinner for Bettman, the point remains that these events are a step in the right direction to making the league safer and more comfortable for minority groups, and importantly begin a conversation about it. For every fan complaining that politics should be kept out of hockey, there are others who fight for night’s like You Can Play. It’s not perfect – it won’t ever be – but it tells LGTBQ people that they are welcome in hockey, and that’s what counts.