If you haven’t seen by now, the US women’s team will be boycotting the IIHF World Championships later on in March. Though the above article mentions equal pay, the women are seeking “equitable support” (fair support) via the portion of their statement released here.

From the first piece (emphasis mine):

In the past, USA Hockey has provided the players with $1,000 per month during the six-month Olympic residency period. According to the players, USA Hockey pays virtually nothing during the remainder of the four-year period, despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full-time and compete throughout the year.

The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act requires national governing sports bodies to “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis,” as is the case in hockey. According to the players, USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its national team development program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls.

There’s no way to describe USA Hockey’s treatment of the women’s national team other than gross exploitation.  USA Hockey wants to use the women to advertise and to bring in money but passes the burden on to them to be able to compete at a high level.

To a much broader note, the distinction between equitable pay and equal pay is a moot point. The women deserve equal pay and there is no compelling argument against it.

“But…but…revenue…” someone is sure to whine.  Yes revenue, let’s talk about revenue.

Let’s say there is a chain, Mart-World, with two stores, M-Mart and W-Mart.  Both stores have had the ability to sell goods for the same amount of time, but the franchise owner decided M-Mart should be allowed begin selling much sooner than W-Mart.  The franchise owner also decided that the staff at M-Mart should have significant preparation and infrastructure.  Their managers go through a rigorous training process, as do all their employees. They also get the best trainers and teachers. The owner subsidizes all of this.

W-Mart’s managers and employees also get training…sometimes.  When they do, the instructors are often sub-par and the employees have to pay for it themselves.  If they’re very lucky and there’s space, some of them can take M-Mart’s training classes.

The owner also secured tons of advertising and publicity…for M-Mart. When you search for Martworld, all the links go to M-Mart. M-Mart gets a substantially larger number of reviews and so they’re pushed to the top of any rankings. On the Martworld website you can get current prices at M-Mart and even see what’s in stock. You can’t for W-Mart, though a few third-party sites provide these things since some people really like W-Mart. M-Mart gets an internship program for training prospective employees for an M-Mart career, whether they choose to eventually take that job or not. There is no such thing for W-Mart.

The owner looks at revenue for this quarter. Shockingly, M-Mart makes significantly more money. The owner looks at this information and decides that M-Mart needs a bigger store. W-Mart requests some extra money so they can create a path for growth. The owner says that W-Mart needs to prove itself and bring in more revenue before they can be given anything. In fact, the owner thinks W-Mart is disorganized and not viable.

W-Mart points out that while M-Mart was getting its head start, the basic structure of how the store was run changed 12 times until finding its current successful incarnation. In fact, M-Mart now even has an entire subdivision it can use to experiment with tweaks to the structure. The owner doesn’t remember or acknowledge any of this and says M-Mart has always been very successful and if W-Mart were viable they would be bringing in more revenue.

Can I stop the metaphor yet? Okay. I’m stopping the metaphor. Mart-World is hockey (really any sport), M-Mart and W-Mart are…well this should be obvious. The owner is those that control the hockey landscape, largely straight white men. John Buccigorss, Pierre LeBrun, the other Pierre, Doc Emerick, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dregger, that Olde Tyme Hawkey ESPN guy with the mullet that no one likes (lol I just remembered – Barry Melrose), EJ Hradek, Mike Milbury, Keith Jones (vomit to both), NHL owners, NHL executives…

The too long, didn’t read version is this: USA Hockey (and society at large) is punishing the women’s team for not winning (financially) with a deck stacked against them to so ridiculous a degree that this game might not actually be winnable.

So what happens now?

Well the women are not currently slated to play at the IIHF World Championships which is an embarrassment to USA Hockey, particularly since the tournament is being played in the US. I don’t know what sort of revenue this causes them to miss out on. Whether any of it compels them to act ethically and morally remains to be seen.


“Doesn’t this hurt the women since they can’t build a following by not playing?”

In an extremely narrow lens, perhaps. But look at it this way, here are the women’s two choices:

A: Play hockey and take on the burden of training to maintain world-class athleticism under an organization that doesn’t support them for paltry compensation AND continue to perform their day jobs, you know, what actually makes them money, with additional stress.

B: Strike and perform their day jobs with less of an additional burden.

At the end of the day you need to buy food and pay rent. You want to play hockey.

“Aren’t women always going to bring in less revenue?”

I would ask what you’re basing that hypothesis on. I think I can hypothesize some of your assumptions though in the following “questions.”

“Women are less athletic, tall, strong, fast, etc. than men so the quality of play is worse.”

Well, good hockey isn’t predicated on any one of those things or even any particular combination. Wayne Gretzky was scrawny. Joe Finely once threw a lawnmower into the street.  Who do you remember?

We don’t even know that for certain since (as illustrated above) women have fewer opportunities to develop their hockey skills from youth, fewer opportunities for high-quality coaching and training, and aren’t able to devote their entire lives to playing hockey. There are also several studies that suggest that women have better balance, a higher pain tolerance, and better judgment. Female athletes also have fewer legal issues than their male counterparts.

“Blah blah checking?”

There is this myth that there is no physicality in women’s hockey, but that’s far from the truth. There is plenty of contact and while the checking ban does eliminate open ice hits (which are rare in men’s hockey anyway, and often lead to stoppages) and board hits (which are often dangerous, and often lead to stoppages), its effect is mostly that interference is called properly. The net result is that there is more actual hockey being played and less what I call ‘extra bullsh*t.”

Also, every hockey fan can name 20 iconic goals and no legal iconic hits so…what are you really here to watch?

“But women’s hockey is disorganized, look at the NWHL, right?  And the CWHL?  Two leagues? Five and four teams? No parity?”

Well, let’s see, the NWHL is in year two. In the second year of men’s professional hockey, 1909, (the ECAHA began paying players in 1908) there were eight hockey leagues of varying status.

As for parity, the Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa HC won the first 13 Stanley Cups, although the prize was won more often than annually.

In 1909, the ECAHA also had four teams. Plus the six original NHL teams are revered. Last I checked six was only one more than five and two more than four.

“A men’s team of (random level) could beat a pro women’s team though?”

Having (and having had) substantially more resources devoted to training and coaching and no day jobs, maybe. Often college women’s teams will beat women’s pro teams. Why? They have more consistent access to facilities, coaching, and the ability to practice than their counterparts who have to hold down a 9-5 job and may not practice every day. They may not even live near their home rink or any of their teammates. College teams can also have better rosters since more players are able to juggle academics and hockey than a full-fledged career and hockey.

“Well I just don’t think women playing sports are as compelling as men playing sports for…reasons.”

Well congrats, at least that’s honest.