Many times in sports, issues arise that become larger than the sport itself and it focuses on the people playing the game and their stories. This is one of those times. The current fight between the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team (USWNT) and USA Hockey is one that has been a top story in the hockey world for over a week and a half now; as it should be. We won’t try to get into explaining the history of this over the course of the situation, because there are plenty of writers that have over at ESPN W here and here.
What’s important about this situation is that you educate yourself on what is going on between USA Hockey and the USWNT. The team is fighting for equality in terms of compensation and further development of junior and youth hockey programs for young women. It’s more than just getting fairly compensated for the years of work they put into training for international competitions without playing under a pro contract anywhere near the six-figure mark. This fight is about the future of women’s hockey. And women’s hockey players from college to recreation leagues are standing together in this fight
While talks have continued between the two sides, it still remains that education is needed about the topic. When multiple professional men’s league show their support for the cause, it further displays the need to talk about the topic at hand. Currently, the NHLPA, MLBPA, NBPA and NFLPA have all shown their support to the USWNT. There has also been heavy talk of U.S. Men’s National Hockey Team skipping out of their World Championship in May in solidarity with the women. Support and awareness continues to grow daily for the USWNT.
That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done to make more NHL players aware of the situation. Following practice on Sunday afternoon, we spoke with a few players and Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette about the situation. Sometimes it’s difficult to put into words one’s thoughts on a difficult situation like this. Their comments are below.
Peter Laviolette (U.S. Men’s National Team – World Championship 2004, 2005 – Head Coach; 2006 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team – Head Coach, 2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team ) :
“I hope it gets resolved. I’ve watched the women’s team and I know some of the girls that play for it. They’re incredible athletes and role models for our country. The way they represent themselves, our country and their team…I just hope that there’s a resolution.”
Austin Watson (2009-10 U.S. National U18 Team, 2011-12 USA U20) :
“It’s a tough question. For the World Championships, you want to see the best team that we can have go out there and play. Obviously there’s an issue. There are a lot of people that feel strongly about it and I think it’s good for them to get hashed out and get sorted out and be able to move forward and come to an agreement on a situation.
“I think Sweden’s been doing a really good job trying to promote women’s hockey as much as possible. They have teams all over the place and have their own league. Then obviously they do a really good job trying to promote the national team as well.
It’s obviously a tough question to answer and I haven’t read too much about. At the same time, if they feel that way, it’s something they should look into. Like I said, it’s a tough question to answer.”
Ryan Ellis on women’s hockey in Canada:
“Hockey is the most popular sport in Canada. There are a lot of girls teams and a lot of guys teams. Hockey camps in general are open to both girls and guys. As far as the national teams, I really can’t speak on that subject.”
Publishing these comments is not attempt to put anyone on blast for their thoughts. It’s a way to show how important it is that the message of awareness is spread. The thoughts of non-American players is important because development of hockey players is different in every country. As this sport grows, so does the importance for equality. Make yourself aware of the situation. Know that the women fighting right now are fighting for the future of women’s hockey.
They’re fighting for the six year old at Ford Ice Center, for the club level college hockey player, for the NCAA hockey player hoping to play in the NWHL someday. They’re fighting for your daughter that hasn’t even put on skates for the first time.