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Olympics

US Women’s Hockey Team Ends Boycott, Breaks USA Hockey

About damn time

Olympics
Getty Images
Mar 29, 2017 at 11:34 AM ET

With a scant three days to spare before the USA hosts the women’s hockey world championships, the sport’s governing body struck a deal with its own team to actually play in the tournament taking place on home ice.

The hard-fought, long-overdue labor victory came only after the women threatened a boycott of the world championships, were bolstered by a letter of support from 20 U.S. Senators, and received solidarity from all potential replacement players. USA Hockey, desperate to fill a roster, had reportedly scouted college games and even offered roster spots to high school players. Those likely future Olympians all stood firm and said no.

The women’s players previously received only $6,000 every four years directly from USA Hockey, a laughable pittance for a team that has medaled in all five Olympics (one gold, three silver, and one bronze) with women’s hockey on the program. Actually, that’s a slap-to-the-face embarrassment of a wage scale even if the team had never scored an Olympic goal or even qualified for a Games. The players can receive up to $2,000 per month from the U.S. Olympic Committee as well, putting them in the same tax bracket as the artisanal apprentices toiling in baseball’s minor leagues. Meanwhile, USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean reportedly pulled in $440,000 in salary during 2014.

Thankfully, this new agreement, as reported by USA Today, offers a more appropriate income, with players earning about $70,000 per year with Olympic bonuses that could kick compensation into six-figures if they win a gold medal.

“I think what we fought for over the last few weeks was something that transcended sports,” Team USA veteran forward Hilary Knight told USA TODAY Sports. “This empowered women all over the world—and not only those involved in sports. . . . The group that came before us laid the foundation. It’s really a remarkable time to be a woman in sports.”

Indeed, it’s about damn time that something like this happened. While the even more successful and more highly visible U.S. women’s soccer team continues fighting for fair pay through an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, this landmark deal in USA Hockey is a step in the right direction. As legendary former player Cammi Granato—the first women in the Hockey Hall of Fame—wrote on EspnW, the women tried a similar effort in 2000, but their letter seeking better work standards made USA Hockey “furious” and even “enraged” the coaching staff.

“It might also be a catalyst for other countries’ women’s teams to fight for the same issues within their governing bodies,” Granato wrote in her guest column. “This might spark change within the International Ice Hockey Federation to bring its gender equality policies up to date. Their message #BeBoldForChange says it all.”

And, finally, USA Hockey decided to be reasonable for a change.