Wages, marketing, and program development are all part of the National Team’s demands of USA Hockey. However, their decision to boycott and demand equitable treatment goes far beyond the tangible.
The fight is about a culture change not only in USA Hockey, but in the way women’s sports are viewed as a whole.
It’s difficult to understand a situation when you’re not directly impacted by it. Lucky for us, John Smallwood of Philly.com, has two articles giving his take on the situation with the US Women’s National Team and USA Hockey.
These woefully under-researched, alternative facts-filled columns provides unique insight into what the Women’s Team is facing from an ideological perspective.
It would be too easy to rip Mr. Smallwood a new one by dissecting each post, line by line. (And I don’t feel like having an aneurysm tonight.)
It’s also counterproductive.
When fighting against small mindedness and deep-seeded beliefs, the person who yells the loudest doesn’t always win.
Sometimes you have to look behind the words, and at the message that’s coming through.
In his first post, “Women’s national hockey team pay argument doesn’t hold up,” Smallwood concludes that the USWNT players are essentially asking for a handout from USA Hockey because they don’t have a ‘high-paid professional sports league’ to fall back on.
This speaks to the pervasive belief that women use the demand for equality as a way to get free things, stuff they don’t deserve or haven’t worked for.
Why is it we wax poetically about Sidney Crosby’s devotion to his craft and not the same about Meghan Duggan? He can completely focus on hockey. Meghan is working to keep her head above water anyway possible in addition to being a phenomenal athlete.
It’s not Duggan’s fault she was born a girl.
Smallwood goes on to write, “The National Women’s Hockey League is a four-team league with a salary cap of $270,000 per team. Players get a share of the home gate after 500 tickets are sold.”
This clearly does not fit into what Smallwood considers a professional league because they don’t make the same money as the NHL, NBA, or NFL. (All leagues that didn’t make money when they first started out, and required players to work second jobs.)
Which leads to another point made by Smallwood, “Professional sports are businesses, not charities. An athlete’s income is directly related to how much revenue he/she can generate, individually, or as part of a team and league.”
How can the Women’s Team be expected to generate revenue when the constant drumbeat is ‘women don’t make money’ in sports?
Say it enough and people start to believe it.
It’s also pretty damn hard to generate any revenue without investing in the product. It goes beyond wages. No one can expect to grow an audience when they don’t put it on TV or stream online live.
There was one particular example that came to light Monday. Brianne McLaughlin, former National Team goaltender, spoke to The Garden Faithful podcast about a potential gold medal game rematch between the US and Canadian women’s teams in 2014.
“After the 2014 Olympics, the response we’d gotten, there was TV broadcasting willing to pay huge amounts of money for one more game. Like, fans wanted to see one more USA-Canada game that they were willing to dump so much money [into it]. So we had a meeting about it, and by the time we got out of our meeting, before we had even decided what we wanted to do, we had heard from the Canadian team that USA Hockey told them that we didn’t want to play.” (Transcribed by Hannah Bevis.)
What the actual f—?
The gold medial game between the US and Canada in Sochi was a ratings hit.
Thursday’s Canada/United States Olympic women’s hockey gold medal game drew 4.9 million viewers on NBC, according to Nielsen fast-nationals, up 96% from the same match-up on MSNBC in 2010 (2.5M). Viewership was the highest for women’s hockey final since 2002, when coverage aired in NBC’s primetime window.
The thrilling women’s gold medal hockey game between the United States and Canada at noon ET on Feb. 20, won 3-2 by Team Canada on an overtime goal by Marie-Philip Poulin, averaged 4.9 million viewers on NBC to rank as the most-watched hockey game in the U.S., excluding Stanley Cup Finals, since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics men’s gold medal game.
Not agreeing to a rematch with Canada makes zero sense. If anything, USA Hockey is negligent of not making the most of a business opportunity.
Considering this, how is USA Hockey showing that the women’s team is not an ‘afterthought’ as Duggan told Puck Daddy?
This brings us to the final point.
Smallwood’s second article is titled, “U.S. women’s ice hockey players need a league of their own.”
He wrote about the NWHL in his first article. (It’s quoted above!) A scant five days later he has a brilliant idea – give the women a professional league!
Smallwood must be in some sort of ‘Misery’ situation. He writes his columns on a typewriter – without the use of the interwebs – then Kathy Bates hits him over the head with the typewriter causing amnesia.
That or he’s never watched a women’s hockey game from beginning to end, national team or otherwise. Most likely he hasn’t taken the chance to interview or get to know the players he so flippantly believes he knows better than.
He, like many, still see the National Team players as nothing more than girls who aren’t as good as the boys. Who don’t deserve to earn a living wage for complete devotion to their sport because it’s not what they want to watch and assume others don’t either.
That’s why we’re still having this conversation in 2017. That’s why the National Team is boycotting Worlds.