Just last week, the USA National Women’s hockey team fought for their right to be paid for their national play. When the USA Women’s Hockey team boycotted the World Championships until they could earn somewhat equal pay, USA Hockey not only completed the deal, but managed to get it signed within the allotted time period, allowing the team to compete in the World Championships. Since this agreement was reached, the Women’s national team has gone undefeated at the tournament and is en route to an 8th championship in 10 years. Like any other hockey fan, I am upset with Gary Bettman’s decision to not send NHL players to the Olympics this coming February. Yes, the NHL is a business, but it only survives on viewership and the participation of its employees. Of course, the relationship between the NHL and its players is nowhere near that of USA Hockey and the national team. However, the NHL cannot ignore the issues they have had in the past, where decisions around contracts and other rules have caused players to terminate their contracts with their teams and find somewhere else to play. The growing professional leagues in Europe could see an increase in North American players, if the desire for international play out-weighs other NHL perks. While the NHL deals with its own issues, the women’s game is growing substantially.
There is something in the game of women’s hockey for everyone. Do you love the game of hockey? The women’s game is traditionally faster and the smaller stature of the players allows for speedy plays and offensive maneuvers. Do you hate the violence in the NHL? The absence of body-checking opens up the ice for skilled play and there are no fights. Do you like the rough men’s game? While body-checking is a penalty in the women’s game, there is no shortage of hard plays and checking. Have you bought into the Gary Bettman NHL where goals are the only thing that matters? Many NWHL games this season had upwards of 8 goals total. Do you like close games? The CWHL final between the Calgary Inferno and the Montreal Canadiennes was decided by two goals. Do you live in a city where there is a women’s hockey team? Perfect. Playoff tickets are $20! Do you watch hockey just for the hot guys? Plenty of gorgeous ladies in the Olympics 🙂
Whether or not Gary Bettman continues to value riches over fan and player approval, now is the time to start learning and loving women’s hockey. The opportunity to develop a fan-base for this up-and-coming sport begins with the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. Women’s hockey has brought with it some of the craziest Olympic final games in Olympic history, despite its shorter tenure as an Olympic sport. 13 million people were watching in 2014 when Marie-Phillip Poulin scored the overtime winning goal to win Canada it’s fourth straight Olympic gold. Since women’s hockey became an Olympic sport, Canada has won gold 4 times out of a possible 5. However, women’s hockey occurs not just at the Olympic level. In international competitions, Canada has won medals in every single championship. During the NHL season, two professional women’s leagues compete to win the Clarkson Cup and the Isobel Cup respectively. These teams are made up of some of the best women’s hockey players in the world. Household names like Hayley Wickenheiser, Meaghan Mikkelson and Hilary Knight are just a few of the stars that compete in the two leagues. The regular season and playoff games are now being streamed online, with some of the games being featured on cable television. Many of the players in the NWHL and CWHL will be participating in the Olympics in 2018.
Women’s hockey is not the same as NHL hockey, and it doesn’t have to be. Still, you can be a fan of both! Start with the Olympics and find a player or two that you really like. Then you can follow those same ladies during their regular season, where ever they might be playing. Support for women’s hockey starts with the Olympics and continues in your own backyard, where many ladies are playing ‘professional’ hockey on little to no salaries and working full-time.
For more ways to support, check out these links:
http://www.nwhl.zone/shop (some profits from the jersey sales are returned to the players. This one of the ways that they make money)