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Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org

Team USA’s Boycott Speaks Volumes

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” – Yoko Ono

On March 31st the USA National Women’s Hockey Team was set to take on Team Canada in a preliminary game at the Women’s World Championships in Plymouth, Michigan. As history would indicate, Team USA and Team Canada would be set to battle for Gold on April 7th. Instead, Team USA is choosing to battle for something larger than a gold medal. I always have and always will be a fan of the Red and White, but this week, Team USA has made a fan out this Canadian hockey fan.

What’s the Deal?

On Wednesday, March 15th, Team USA released a statement indicating that they would be boycotting the 2017 Women’s World Championships unless USA Hockey was willing to move in their negotiations. The above image is a statement from the USA Women’s Hockey Team explaining the demands they’ve asked of USA Hockey.

While USA Hockey responded to Team USA’s demands, they failed to come anywhere near what was being asked of them. The below image is another statement from Team USA on their response to USA Hockey’s rebuttal. As of right now, Team USA will continue to sit out the World Championships. USA Hockey has responded to this by stating that they will put in another team as a plan B.

The Breakdown

What the heck does this all even mean? Who’s asking for what? Hold up. Let’s break this down:

Something to keep in mind going forward is their use of the word equitable as opposed to equal. They’re not asking for the same, they’re asking for fair.

Team USA is currently only paid $6,000 by USA Hockey in the six months leading up to the Olympics. That’s $1,000 a month, or $1500 per year if you’d like to look at it in terms of the four years between every Olympic tournament. Any more of the money that USA Hockey refers to is said to only partially come from USA Hockey. So, members of Team USA are asked to train like professional athletes, a commitment that sees them quitting their regular jobs to prepare for the Olympics. They must find housing for these six months, supply their own equipment, and cover any travel costs… all for $1,000 a month. I don’t know about you guys, but even my beer league budget would cut into a grand a month. And this $6,000 is only given to individuals on Team USA in Olympic years.

The big kicker here is that asking for fair financial support from USA Hockey is one of the lesser demands on the agenda. Team USA is taking a stand for the coming generations by demanding USA Hockey put more money, effort, and exposure into the women’s hockey program – at both the grassroots and professional level. While monetary compensation is necessary for these women to compete at the level they’re expected to, the level of exposure and treating them like valued professional athletes needs to be stepped up. Sports Illustrated recorded the following statement from two of Team USA’s top players:

“There are a number of times when we travel to different areas and people don’t even know that the U.S. National Team is there, the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team is there, because nothing was made of it,” Knight says. “I think another example would be our 2014 Olympic jersey unveil. None of the women were invited, but the entire men’s team was. In addition to that, the gold medal counts were supposed to be on the inside collar of the jersey, and they left out the 1998 women’s Olympic gold medals in that as well. There are a lot of little injustices that have happened along the way that add up and have compounded to a bigger factor.”

“Another thing is, our Under-18 team has won five World Championships since it started in ‘08,” says Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, an 18-time member of the roster and Monique’s twin. “And not one of those girls have gotten a World Championship ring. That might be something small, but it’s significant when these things are consistent. The boys’ hockey teams, they get rings every time there’s a championship, a couple of months after they win. If the senior women’s team gets a ring—if we do—it’s a couple years late. It just goes to show, oh sorry, we forgot about you, here’s your ring from two years ago.

“That’s just the culture of how it is and it’s not right and it’s 2017 and it needs to change.”

USA Hockey has put out a number of press releases regarding the boycott, including this one, which breaks down the money and exposure they claim to provide to the women. It’s been stated by Team USA that the monetary values included in this are in conjunction with what the USOC also provides them, but what I, like many others, would like to see is a side-by-side comparison with the men’s side. Their numbers and explanation of growing the women’s game may make some say, “See! They do support the women’s game” until you compare that list to what their male counterparts receive. Rather than taking things at face-value and accepting mediocrity in the value of the women’s game, Team USA is asking for equity — something that we’re still fighting for in 2017.

As a small experiment, I took the brother-sister USA hockey duo, Phil and Amanda Kessel. Both came through the ranks of the USA Hockey development program and, according to the statistics on USA Hockey’s website, the numbers don’t seem that alarming in terms of men/women getting the same opportunity on development teams with Phil playing 59 games and Amanda playing 44 games. Seems about right if you take into account Amanda’s missed tournaments due to injuries and the fact that she’s younger than Phil. But then you scroll down on Phil’s stats and see that he’s played 109 more games for Team USA as a part of the National Under-18 Team, an opportunity Amanda never had because there is no such team for women in the USA.

What Does it all Mean?

MALMO, SWEDEN – APRIL 4: USA players celebrate after a 7-5 gold medal game win over Canada at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)

First thing’s first. In no way does what Team USA is doing translate into them not wanting to play hockey. The World Championships at the end of the month are on home soil for them, they’re looking to defend their title, and this is one of the very limited chances the team will have to play on the world stage — and they’re willing to give it all up to fight a battle that I’d hoped would be non-existent in 2017.

In the interview Hilary Knight did with The Trifecta on ESPNW, she stated that it’s been almost a miracle that Team USA has found the success it has at the World’s and Olympics considering the lack of funding and support they see. That’s a pretty bold statement from one of Team USA’s most well-recognized members. I like to imagine the level of women’s hockey we would see if the women’s program was treated differently.

The argument of money and the fact that the women’s game doesn’t make USA Hockey nearly as much cash as the men’s game is leading the race in this battle, but as we are all aware, this is a chicken and egg scenario. Without more funding going into the women’s game, it will never even have the chance to progress, widen its reach and, ultimately, make more money. This argument cannot be challenged because it’s being used as a safety net for why women’s hockey doesn’t deserve the support.

I believe you’d be hard-pressed to find multiple female hockey players, and even women, who are not cheering for the success of these women. I am but a very tiny blip on the radar of female hockey players, but I’m here to say that what Team USA is doing is a step forward for not only themselves as professional athletes, but for the generations of female hockey players that are rising through the ranks around the world. This boycott is speaking volumes to all of the women who had to grow up with terrible ice slots, who had to listen to people tell them their sport was nothing but “participaction,” and who didn’t have the NHL to dream about. This action by Team USA is speaking volumes to what women in all walks of life deserve.

As a woman, I stand with Team USA and support everything they’re trying to accomplish. Thank you, for challenging a world that is still in need of some change.

  • RyanCoke

    I support trying to fight for more money but at the same time there is very little demand for women’s hockey. Men get paid millions because people want to watch them play and are willing to pay for that. Why should everyone deserve to get paid to play a game they love. Do you think volleyball players get paid a ton? What about professional badminton players? What about downhill skiers? Do they not train just as hard to play the games they love? Unfortunately it is all about supply and demand. If there is no demand then why should they get paid? How do you think golf became the sport it is now? Do you think it started with everyone making millions? No, and neither did hockey or baseball or basketball or football or soccer. Even mixed martial arts is the newest one to pay millions and that happened in the last 10 years. They need to grow the sport. People play the game for fun. Don’t do it for the money. When the demand grows the money will follow.

    • That’s exactly right. And that’s why they’re not just boycotting for money, they’re boycotting for more money to be put into grassroots hockey on the female side and for more exposure for the women’s game so that the game can grow, and hopefully in turn make more money.

  • OilCan2

    Ms Lane has a GOOD point. The ladies are underpaid by a LARGE margin. I for one appreciate their game with less contact. As a senior player guys in our group still gets concussions with no contact rules. It would also grow the game faster with more kids playing non contact.

    As far as the dollars go the men get lavish treatment while the ladies get the short end of the stick. I wholeheartedly agree that they should boycott such lying and cheating from Hockey USA. Canada could clean up their act too.

    • OILBUCKET

      I appreciate Kyla’s post and or article? Kyla does have a good point and I agree. I would think a lot more research and facts would help out the piece because it is just copy and paste and does not tell the whole story of US Olympic Women team sports. I am sorry if I upset anyone , I was trying to get a reaction. I still do not support Amateur athletes with million dollar sponsorships.

  • hockey1099

    The only real losers here are the American girls. Canada gets a gold and a new country has a chance at silver. This is a two country sport and is a mess because of it. It’s boring when only two teams have a chance.

    I know there is a chicken and and egg argument here but how much money should be put into a sport that should be dropped from the olympics due to a lack of competitiveness.

    Money doesn’t grow on trees and needs to be apportioned properly. In the men’s games there are multiply countries that are competitive and the USA probably spends more on the men because of it. They can fund the women’s game less knowing they will get a gold or silver no matter what they do. In the men’s game they need more resources because it’s so much harder to medal. This is not a justification for not providing championship rings to the women as often or as quickly but may be the reason why.

    I bet the popularity of a sport has a lot to do with funding. I love hockey but don’t watch lower leagues. It’s the NHL or the olympics for me. I don’t watch or know anything about the women’s game and I don’t think I’m alone in this. I wish these women luck but hope they are being realistic. Losing a chance at defending a championship is a huge gamble. Turning this championship into a one country team certainly won’t help the sport and may just kill the sport atan international level

    • Seriously Bored

      I dont understand why the mens hockey team needs more resources to compete. The mens team is made up of NHL players who have their training paid for by their respective teams and enjoy lavish salaries.

  • Corbs

    I think an important thing to take into account is that NOBODY CARES! If people cared about women’s hockey they would watch it and support it. People don’t support it because it’s not a good product. I’m all for equality but that shouldn’t mean people should make money for something just because they’re a woman.

    Also, if they don’t like it there is nothing stopping them from going out and getting a real job like the rest of us. I’d love to make my living playing hockey but nobody pays me to do it because I’m not as good as an NHL player. Doesn’t matter if they’re women or men…they aren’t good enough.

      • Seriously Bored

        For someone who does not care about female hockey you sure have posted a lot in an article about females playing hockey.
        Do you truly not care or did ya just feel like whining a whole bunch?
        You make arguments about the olympics being for athletes who are not professionals then go on to suggest that sports programs should not help fund those athletes. They are not looking to get rich, they are looking to have some of their expenses covered for the right to play in the olympics the same as many other programs enjoy.
        Stop pretending like you are on a crusade about people getting paid to play sports and just admit you are only concerned about female athletes wanting the same as their male counterparts.
        Feel free to go down the “yeah but what about poverty and hunger” route again. I am sure you are headed straight to the soup kitchen after this to save the world.
        Either they all get paid or nobody gets paid.

  • Stickhandler

    it is all money all the time, even with the Olympics and national teams. Without a doubt the US women are underfunded, considering their contributions. maybe bring bodychecking into the women’s game to get more exposure.

  • Neumann

    This is how important this issue is to this group of woman. They are giving up an opportunity to compete for a world championship. On home soil. In a sport they’ve committed their lives to. Not many are willing to do such a thing.

  • O.C.

    The easy answer is to let all athletes in every sport personally trademark their rights to be broadcast. It would change the landscape in all sports. Why should leagues or owners profit? NCAA, the Olympics, F1, FIFA, NASCAR, and owners in the big 4… why should your members collude to profit on the shoulders of others?

    It works in individual sports like tennis and golf.

    • OILBUCKET

      Kyla,
      I would encourage you to watch Hope Solo’s interview on 60 minutes . I would guess your opinion of funding would change or maybe not. Spoiled, rotten and criminals are what is being produced in the (USA)Sporting world of amateur sports. I would say and again this my opinion. Amateur or Pro? Why should the tax payers and yes that includes you, pay for income? Train them,house them , feed them, school them should that not be enough?

      • I think you’re missing a very large piece of information in that argument, which is that the US Soccer Team was asking for full-blown equality to the men’s team. These women are not asking for equal, they’re asking for equity. There’s a big difference.

        • OILBUCKET

          Pool the money and watch that Hope Solo interview. Kyla, do you honestly think this has anything to do with Canadian amateur sports? Canada will never be in the league of US sporting . College/University etc. The whole article is moot. The only issue is that amateurs want to be paid like pros, Male or Female. Pro or amateur what will it be?

          • Not a First Tier Fan

            Welcome to totally missing the point-ville… population: You.

            Nothing in the article says the US Womens team wants to be paid like pros. They simply want an equitable funding and development program compared to what US Men’s teams receive from the same organization.

            You would be better served working on your reading comprehension rather than concocting one straw-dog argument after another to justify your chauvinism.

            And yeah – Womens hockey is just as good (and sometimes better) than men’s games. If you don’t watch it you’re missing out. Although this whole discussion omits the fact that Canadian girls kick ass.

  • KUDOS TO EVERYONE FOR NOT JUST ROASTING THE ARTICLE BEFORE READING IT BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT WOMEN’S HOCKEY! (But seriously, I’m loving seeing this turn into a legit discussion – thank you all for reading and putting thought into it!)
    Furthermore, while it’s unfortunate that a direct comparison can’t be made between the men’s and women’s funding considering USA Hockey hasn’t released those numbers (and gave values that were incorrect in their press release as much of said money is from USOC, not them), it can still be seen that Hockey USA puts far more effort, exposure, and most likely money into the men’s side. And for good reason – men’s hockey is what makes them the money and they receive money from the NHL in order to develop potential NHL players. I think it’s important to remember here that this is why Team USA isn’t asking for equal pay, they’re asking for fair pay. They’re also asking for more of the money that USA Hockey spends on development programs to be put into the women’s side (it’s clear by looking at how many programs there are for men vs. women that this is severely lopsided). While Hockey USA is not an employer, they are responsible for developing hockey players in America, and right now the women’s side of that is lacking. It’s easy to get carried away with assuming that the women are solely looking for money for themselves. That’s not the case. Yes, money is a part of the equity they’re demanding, but they’re essentially fighting for a better experience for future generations of female athletes that will be a part of Hockey USA.

      • 15 million people thought the Gold medal game was good enough to watch at the last Olympics. I understand where you’re coming from, but that’s also the very attitude that doesn’t allow for change. You’re absolutely right that lots of people don’t watch women’s hockey but a big part of that is because there isn’t a lot of access to women’s hockey – there’s very few games shown on TV throughout the season and it’s not marketed like it should be because they don’t have the money to do so. Most people don’t even know there are two professional women’s hockey leagues in North America. And that’s why having organizations like USA Hockey put some of their resources into the marketing side of it will create more exposure so more people can watch it.
        Do I think that women’s hockey would be more exciting to watch if it allowed body checking? Absolutely. But initiating that into the game opens up a whole different can of worms. Everyone compares women’s hockey to the men’s game and says “it’s not as good”. Well, yeah, physically women will never be as good as men, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the right to flourish their own game. You can’t expect the product to get any better if you don’t put any work into making the product better. Do you think that men’s hockey would be nearly where it is now without the resources that go into it? Hell no. But we don’t ever have to find that out because the resources will always be there for the men’s game. Women’s hockey is an afterthought, and that’s what these women are trying to bring to light. They’re asking for the chance to make their game better so that more people will be aware of it and watch it. If that doesn’t change then nothing else will change. If you make the product better, more people are going to want that product. And if you expose that product, people are going to be aware of it. Obviously this isn’t going to change over night, but if more and more girls start signing up for hockey and have better programs to be a part of while growing up then you’re going to have a better product at the professional level.

  • Pouzar99

    Thanks for this story. These women are absolutely right and they have my complete support. I am a huge fan of the women of Team Canada but we should all stand behind the US women in this case.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    You look at the current state of negotiations between the NHL and the IOC and the opening salvo was the IOC backing out on paying for things they have been expected to pay for. You look at the history here between USA hockey and the women’s team and wonder if they’d just given them the tiniest bit of respect where this situation would be today.

    • There are monetary incentives that increase depending on the medaling for Team USA, but from what I gather in the research I’ve done, this isn’t paid by USA Hockey, the majority of it comes from the USA Olympic Committee. In their press releases USA Hockey has tried to use these numbers to state how much money the athletes get, but Team USA is stating that that money doesn’t come from them.
      Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find actual dollar amounts, but apparently Hockey Canada pays the women in a similar fashion (for the 6 months leading up to the Olympics). The athletes are also paid by the government (Sport Canada) in non-Olympic years, though, according to this article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/us-womens-hockey-team-may-boycott-worlds-over-wage-dispute/article34309174/

  • The older I get, the better I was...

    Well written Kyra. Keep pushing the standards on this site! The inequities of funding within and across sports is real and ongoing and more visibility to the issues hopefully prompts dialogue and discussion. It is always a challenge to resolution when confrontational tactics such as boycotts are used but sometimes they are necessary.

  • Gravis82

    All Olympic athletes should get paid more when they compete in various events in run up to the Olympic games. All should get equal pay for their commitment to competing for their country, men or women, and all currently are underpaid…some perhaps more underpaid than others. If USA hockey grants them more pay, then they will have to also do so for everyone else. And don’t get me wrong, I think they ABSOLUTELY should be paying these athletes more. But I think that is why they are fighting this, as its something that can have a much bigger impact. So from that point of view, I applaud the USA women team even more, as they are actually fighting against unfair wages for all Olympic athletes.

    • Not a First Tier Fan

      Training for the Olympics can be a fill time job. It isn’t like you do it in your spare time when you’re at that level. Also, unlike professional sports the athletes don’t get paid unless they’re one of the few lucky ones to land a major sponsorship. Yet Olympic athletes need some simple things – like food for dinner or a roof over their heads…
      But maybe you’re right – maybe they’re just being greedy and should live fully on their love for the sport. I’m sure that meets all the necessities in their lives.

      Not…

      • OILBUCKET

        And once again . Train them ,clothe them, house them ,feed them, school them what else would you like? The few you are talking about are the many that will not compete at all , but should get the chance.. I will say a chance is what we are given. In Canada we are not given the package ( money and don’t kid yourself) as the US schools and Iam not even talking College never mind University. I am 100% behind amateur athletics. I am sorry You don’t see my reasoning although believe it or not I am open to opinion.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    What a crime. Sometimes this world makes me puke.

    Hard not to cheer for these ladies after this. The entire management level of USAHockey should be turfed.

      • OILBUCKET

        The Olympics are supposed to be meant for amateurs not professionals. The Pros should not be involved period (IMO). Hockey is a joke, Basketball,Baseball etc. is a joke with the NHL and NBA involved. I would suggest if you want amateur sports, house them, train them, feed them,school them, and not allow them wild money sponsorship’s ie (Reebok etc.). Sure sponsor cash is great but should go into a pool and not into one individual alone or for that matter one sport. The Olympics are not supposed to be the NBA/NHL or name any other business run companies. The Olympics have abused the sports for way to long, Amateur or Professional make the choice. Fine if the Women are getting the short end of the stick fix the problem, pool all monies evenly and stop individual sponsorship. Question? do I train for the Olympics because I love my sport or is it for money?

      • Not a First Tier Fan

        Obviously the men’s teams aren’t being treated the same or the women’s teams wouldn’t be taking the stand they are. There were several examples in the article – or did you bother to read it?

        But that’s okay. Keep looking for reasons to justify the misogenistic and chauvinistic attitudes out there.

        • OILBUCKET

          I actually watched Hope Solo’s interview on 60 minutes this morning. That is a piece of work and if she represents Team USA I hope they stop all funding!

  • Explicit

    USA hockey paid them $1000/month for six months during Olympic years? I’d be curious to compare that with what other Olympic athletes are paid. they should get fair treatment and I applaud them for standing up if they aren’t receiving it

    • Dan 1919

      I agree we need to know more info about men’s hockey and other athletes’ fundings to know the full story.

      Training for the Olympics and international tournaments typically are not lifestyles that will make you rich, there are plenty of other athletes, men and women, that can attest to that. So at this point we need more information as to what the men get, and what other athletes get, because right now it’s tough to disagree with Hockey USA’s stance that they are not an employer of these women, they basically help facilitate the teams. (http://www.usahockey.com/news_article/show/771106?referrer_id=752796)

      • I completely agree with that as well. I was hoping to be able to find numbers on the men compared to the women in terms of financial support, but there isn’t much for legitimate statistics. It’s been said multiple times that Hockey USA does spend $3.5 million on the men’s US Development Program with nothing similar for women, which is also a big part of what they’re asking for.

    • Randaman

      Homeless problem increases, poverty increases, starvation kills thousands of children every day and yet we whine about trivial issues like women playing a game. Don’t like it? Get a job

      • Issues of homelessness, poverty, and starvation are, especially in the US, issues of State mismanagement. The Olympics are a federal issue.

        “Get a job” isn’t an option for Olympic athletes expected to train, 24/7, leading up to the Olympics.

        If these ladies decided to “get a job”, they wouldn’t be able to participate in the Olympics.

        All of this should be common sense.

        Nations like China, Russia, and the U.S. are ultra competitive when it comes to the Olympics. Spending $0.6 million on a 30 woman roster so they get $3000 a month to train seems pretty trivial for the U.S..

        In Canada, many Olympic athletes go through the private sponsorship route. US Hockey, of short on funding, has many options here.

      • Gravis82

        This response was crass and perhaps delivered in a very un-politically correct way. But you do have a point unfortunately. In the capitalist economy you are paid for the goods you produce that others are willing to pay to consume. Men get paid a lot more to play hockey because people want to pay a lot more to watch them play.

        But the issue is that there is no market to determine what the government should be paying the Olympic athletes we enjoy watching, and where female athletes may be getting an unfair ride compared to their male counterparts within a sport.

        So I am interested, as taxpayers, how much do we think an Olympic athlete should get paid per hour to train to compete for our country? And should we only pay those who qualify for the Olympics, or everyone?

      • Dan 1919

        Well really that is kind of what the women are doing. They’re saying they don’t like it and they’re not going to show up. It’s up to hockey USA to balance the supply and demand now. Are the women actually being treated unfairly compared to men and other athletes and will USA hockey improve, or are they being treated the same as men and other athletes, in which case these women may have to just go get a job as you suggested and other women will do it for the current price if it’s actually not that bad.

  • West

    I think that inequity is how a fair amount of Americans like things. They like to claim they are the bestest ever country in the world but even in this post-fact era, it is still not true. Their womens soccer team is fairly high profile and are winners of multiple world and Olympic medals and are still treated as second class compared to the mens team who have won nothing. It would seem that the inequities are so ingrained that it is too hard for the higher ups to see the problems. Millionaire athletes are coddled and the rest get whatever is left.