The 2018 Winter Olympics are just around the corner, and you can bet your money that each and every team competing is training diligently for it. The U.S. women’s national hockey team in particular is hard at work preparing, but their opponents aren’t only on the ice. They’re also fighting for their rights as athletes.
The U.S. women’s hockey team is speaking out about their hard fought battles against USA Hockey, which is the governing body of ice hockey in the United States. The team has pushed for equal benefits, including equal pay and improved conditions in their contracts.
According to ESPN, they finally reached an agreement with USA Hockey. The team will now receive an annual compensation of approximately $70,000 per player and performance bonuses based on what medal they receive at the Olympics. The bonuses include $20,000 for a gold medal and $15,000 for a silver medal. They will also receive improved marketing and public relations. The agreement with USA Hockey is expected to last for a period of four years.
“It’s a great framework for pushing ahead and the progress of women’s hockey,” said USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean. “I think there’s a lot of consciousness raising that was done for people, and it’s going to continue to allow us to progress at a bigger and faster pace.”
Although this is a large leap towards shortening the gender gap, there are still some areas in need of improvement. For example, CNN Money reports that travel accomodations between the men and women’s hockey teams are vastly different. Whereas the men’s teams traveled in business class, the women were stuck in coach. Even hotel accommodations differed. Male athletes were allowed to bring along a guest while women had to share a room with a teammate. It may sound like a small thing to complain about, but the fact that this needs to be debated in the first place speaks volumes for the gender equality gap in sports.
These negotiations took over a year to reach a conclusion. Ultimately, it took months of negotiation for USA Hockey to finally attempt to reach an agreement on something that should be equal in the first place. When turning to social media didn’t work, the U.S. women’s national hockey team had to take drastic measures to be heard. Players decided that if they couldn’t reach an agreement, then they would boycott the 2017 IIHF World Championships.
In response, USA Hockey was forced to start some serious negotiations. It was a risky move, but it all worked out in the end and might just help future teams in the long-run. According to ESPN, the women’s team will now receive the same quality travel accommodations and insurance coverage as the men’s team. This is the first of its kind throughout U.S. hockey history, and hopefully not the last.
Forward Hilary Knight was a key player in representing the team during negotiations, and she hopes to be an inspiration to future female athletes.
“My advice to young girls who need to take a stand is dare,” Knight told Marie Claire at the Team USA Media Summit. “Dare to be great, dare to be bold, dare to be you. I think it’s one of the most powerful things right now in the world that we’re living in.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics, which will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is scheduled to air on NBC. The event will take place from February 10 through February 25, so be sure to mark your calendars!