Boycotting Hockey World Championships Draws Attention to Pay Equality

by Marie O.

The United States (US) Women’s hockey team announced recently that they would be boycotting the Hockey World Championships set to start in April hosted in Michigan. This comes after negotiation around pay have failed to meet the demands of the Women’s Hockey team. The boycott delivers direct action on an issue that is often overlooked in sports, the gender pay and opportunity gap in sport. In an article by Sportsnet, it was cited that the women’s hockey team only plays nine games a year in non-Olympic years and receives a small amount of funding, around $1000 a month for the six months before an Olympic games. The rest of the time USA hockey does not provide any funding for the women and many of the women on the team  work other jobs in addition to being elite athletes. The boycott is now one of many demonstrations, that have occurred following the election of Donald Trump, who’s presidency does not have a direct link to this issue, but does show how demonstrations that echo the era of second wave feminism have gained popularity again and sports is no exception.

The Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act is the cornerstone on which the US Women’s hockey team is forming their argument from. The Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act,  as cited by the Pat Iverson in her news article on the issues, ensures that sport organizations are required “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis” (Iverson, 2017). The simple of comparison of the funding of male hockey players by USA Hockey is bleak with the men’s national team receiving $3.5 million a year (Waldron, 2017). This figure alone demonstrates the lack of equality in funding.

The lack of funding and opportunity for women’s hockey to gain momentum exemplifies what has been discussed in class. The opportunities that girls have to participate in sports, in particular high level sports is limited at best and while young boys are able to see role models and have the understanding that there is a possibility to excel and make a living playing sport, girls do not nor is this a reality for women who have become professional hockey players as many of them have careers in addition to being athletes.

When looking at this issue of equal opportunity and funding in a Canadian context, it isn’t as bleak through programs such as Own the Podium the funding available for the Women’s Hockey team is significantly more (Spencer, 2017).  While the situation in Canada is not perfect, it is better in financial term although it terms of opportunity we do not have to look far to see that opportunity is lacking. As many people, have shared in class there aren’t many opportunities for women in recreation league or in competitive leagues to participate. Does this gap exist because women’s sports aren’t as exciting? Or is it because women athletes don’t fit the traditional view of how women should act? Both probably have some truth but moving forward boycotts such as the one by the US Women’s Hockey team will hopefully change the answers to these questions.

References:

Iverson, P. (2017, March 15). USA women’s national hockey team to boycott 2017 World Championship over fair wages. SBnation. Retrieved from http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2017/3/15/14934002/united-states-womens-national-hockey-team-boycott-2017-world-championship-equal-pay-usa-hockey

Rutherford, K. (2017, March 14). Why the U.S. women’s hockey team is boycotting the world championships. Sportsnet, Retrieved from http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/u-s-womens-hockey-team-boycotting-world-championships/

Spencer, D. (2017, March 15). U.S. women’s hockey team threatens boycott over wages. CBC. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/winter/us-women-hockey-threaten-boycott-wages-1.4025895

Waldron, T. (2017, March 15). U.S. women’s hockey team will boycott World Championship tournament over fair pay. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-hockey-team-fair-pay_us_58c94af7e4b09e52f55503a2