Brennan: US women’s hockey team scores a win for women everywhere – USA TODAY
USA TODAY Sports’ A.J. Perez explains the four-year deal that averts a boycott by the U.S. women’s hockey national team for the IIHF World Championships.
USA TODAY Sports
In these political times, it’s safe to say there have been doubts about how women would move forward in American society.
An early answer has now arrived, from a most unlikely location: The sport of ice hockey.
The U.S. women’s national ice hockey team has always known how to win, having never left an Olympic Games or world championship without a medal, often gold. But Tuesday evening, the players achieved their most satisfying victory of all, taking on their toughest foe – the U.S. old boys network – and beating it to a pulp.
A months-old battle over their new contract with USA Hockey bubbled to the surface and into our national consciousness over the past two weeks when the 23 members of the U.S. national team announced they were going to boycott the upcoming world championship to protest their ridiculously low wages.
What happened next was nothing short of breathtaking. While the players stood as one, never wavering in their resolve to not play until negotiations were complete, the male-dominated sports world rallied to their side.
One of the first, significantly, was U.S. 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team captain Mike Eruzione, but he was far from alone. Billie Jean King and members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team were helpful – and vocal – from the get-go. Soon, the players unions of the NHL, NBA, NFL and MLB sent their support. All these men, supporting female athletes? Really?
Finally, when a letter of support came from 16 U.S. senators this week, it seemed as if there was no one left to send along good wishes.
All the while, a battle within the contract battle was being waged, as USA Hockey embarrassingly and futilely was attempting to find players to replace the striking national team. The national governing body contacted dozens of professional, college, high school and beer league players, asking them to come join the national team.
In normal times, this would have been the phone call or email of their dreams. They would have said yes within a second.
This time, they said no. Many took to social media to broadcast their decision. They were standing with their role models and heroes. They would never betray them. This was the national team’s battle, but it was theirs too.
Talk about teamwork.
The result of this unprecedented show of solidarity was an equally unprecedented four-year deal with compensation of about $70,000 per player per year, a stunning jump from the equivalent of the pathetic $1,500 per year the players were getting. Throw in the new performance bonuses USA Hockey agreed to pay the players and their income could rise to six figures annually if they win the Olympic gold medal or world championship.
The women’s team also will receive the same level of travel arrangements and insurance coverage as the men’s team, for the first time ever, and there will be maternity support. There also are provisions to advance women’s and girls’ hockey at the youth levels, a cause that was very important to the national team players.
In other words, victory. Total, satisfying victory.
None of this should surprise us. Every single one of the 23 women on the national team is a daughter of Title IX, having been raised, educated and coached to believe she is equal in every way to her brother.
As these women grew up, they listened and learned. What they did the past two weeks was just the logical extension of the way they have lived every minute of their young lives.
The really good news is, there are millions more girls and women in this country exactly like them.