For a long time in women’s hockey the players were made to feel grateful for having a game at all, for being given the chance to compete. But over those many years, players’ patience was wearing thin as they struggled to train and improve the game while holding down a job and dealing with everyday life that prevented rigorous dedication to playing.
For the U.S. players, their situation boiled over in the weeks leading up to what was supposed to be a great Women’s Worlds on home ice. The players wanted a new contract with USA Hockey, one that improved their pay, improved their life situation, and gave them some financial security this year, the next year leading up to the Olympics, and the years after.
At first, USA Hockey balked, but the women did not blink. There was talk of having the tournament with replacement players, but the second-choice Americans all declined to play. There were thoughts about what the tournament would be without the Americans. There was talk that if this problem wasn’t worked out now, the women would refuse to play in PyeongChang the next year.
“The group of us that’s been around for 10 to 12 years, we find ourselves talking at the meal table all the time saying, ‘This is awful; we shouldn’t feel like this in 2017,’” Hilary Knight explained. “When change doesn’t happen, you have to take it upon yourself and strive for more. We have limitless potential. You never put a ceiling on anything. You can’t treat us like an afterthought. We’re going to get what’s fair and do it how it needs to be done.”
The days passed, the tournament opening of March 31 was approaching, and still nothing. Finally, though, on March 28, a resolution was agreed to between players and USA Hockey. “Our sport is the big winner today,” captain Meghan Duggan enthused. “We stood up for what we thought was right, and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together.”
The women then backed up their words with a gold-medal effort. It was another showdown with Canada for gold, and another classic that went into overtime. And then, in the blink of an eye, a blocked shot, an odd-man rush, a Kendall Coyne drop pass to Knight, who wired home the golden goal.
All’s well that ends well. Barely.
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