The American women’s hockey team has announced it will boycott the 2017 world championships because its negotiations with U.S.A Hockey about pay and equitable support had failed to make any meaningful progress in over a year.
Women’s players contend that U.S.A. Hockey doesn’t provide a living wage or equitable support. U.S.A. Hockey insists it won’t pay.
But women’s players point out that while the federation provided a 60-game schedule and $3.5 million a year for development of the boy’s program, there was no equivalent program for women. The women say they want the same treatment as men including equipment, staff, per diems, publicity, and travel.
A boycott by the American women’s team – the 3-time defending champions – could be a serious embarrassment for U.S.A. Hockey. The tournament is to be held at their namesake rink: U.S.A Hockey Arena in Michigan.
Recent comments from the Colorado Springs-based federation indicate it plans to compound the shame by using replacement players. Given the current political climate that saw millions of women join protest marches across the country and around the world, U.S.A. Hockey could in for a public relations nightmare.
While the women’s national team is forced to fight for equal rights, it isn’t that way everywhere.
In February, Michaela Bahl (pictured above) skated with the Orange County Checkers when they faced-off against the MWHL Cup Champion San Diego Skates in a Mountain West Hockey League (MWHL) game. She was the first woman to play in the previously all-male minor league. Bahl arrived with an impressive resume of international hockey experience that included stints with Sarpsborg Sparta (Norway), CH Majadahonda (Spain), Griffins (South Africa), Zeytinburnu HC (Turkey).
The Checkers' Michaela Bahl became the first woman to play a MWHL game on Saturday night when she skated for Orange County vs San Diego.
— Mountain West Hockey (@mountainwesthl) February 5, 2017
“Frankly, I don’t think it is such a big deal,” said Thomas Brown, the MWHL’s founder and commissioner, speaking about Bahl. “If a player has the skill and ability to play at the MWHL level, he – or she – should get a chance to play.”
The MWHL includes nine teams spanning five western states. It features un-drafted players with college or Junior hockey experience. MWHL players have played in Europe and advanced to higher-level leagues including ECHL, AHL, and NHL.
The MWHL is not sanctioned by U.S.A. Hockey. “Five years ago we tried to work with U.S.A. Hockey, but found them completely disinterested in our grass-roots effort to provide an alternative for the thousands of players who go un-drafted each year,” said Brown. “We were left with the impression that they only cared about the youth game which serves as their cash-cow and the men’s Olympic and world championship teams which provide a PR halo to generate sponsor interest.”
MWHL clubs operate largely on sponsor support supplemented by ticket and merchandise sales. Most of MWHL clubs offer players stipends based on a combination of factors including ticket sales, team, and personal performance. “It’s a win-win situation. If the team wins on the ice and at the box office, the players win by getting a bonus.” said Brown. “Every player has an opportunity to earn the same base, whether they are a man or woman.”
So while American women are still being given the short end of the stick by hockey’s governing body, at least they’re getting a fair deal somewhere.
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