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The fight for equal pay

by Nicholas Di Giovanni April 4, 2017
The fight for equal pay

Stingers women’s hockey coach Julie Chu comments on the new salary agreement

The United States women’s national hockey team struck a four-year compensation agreement with USA Hockey last week, according to TSN. After reportedly receiving as little as $6,000 for a six-month Olympic period, and nothing during non-Olympic years, the women’s national team will now earn up to $71,000 per player per non-Olympic year, according to TSN. This figure could reach six digits if they win a gold medal at the Olympics.

The team had been in a contract dispute for over 15 months. They announced two weeks ago that they would boycott the World Championship, held in Plymouth, Mi, if they did not come to a salary agreement.

Three days before USA was set to face off against Canada on March 31, the women’s national hockey team and USA Hockey finally came to an agreement.

The head coach of the Concordia Stingers women’s hockey team, Julie Chu, who played over 150 games for the U.S. national team before stepping away from the international game following the 2014 Olympics, couldn’t be happier.

“When they eventually signed, because it was a long process, I was relieved that it was done,” Chu said. “I’m proud of them, and it’s about time that they put this push on to create change.”

This deal is historic for women’s hockey, and for women’s sports in general. Chu said female athletes will no longer have to settle with what they get. Instead, they will be able to fight for what they deserve.

“[This shows] how powerful their voices can be, how girls could stand up for what they believe in,” Chu said.

International women’s hockey is relatively new, with the first International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Hockey Championship played in 1990. The tournament took place almost every two years for its first decade, but has been a yearly fixture during non-Olympic years since 2004. Women’s hockey only made its debut at the Olympics in 1998.

The U.S. women’s hockey team is extremely successful on the international stage. They have won seven of their World Hockey Championships in the past nine tournaments, and brought home one gold, three silvers and a bronze from the Olympics. The men’s side, on the other hand, has three gold medals—from the 1933 World Hockey Championship, and the 1960 and 1980 Olympics.

One concern was that for the women to be paid more, the men would have to have their salaries cut. This ultimately led to a delay in an agreement. But for Chu, paying the women a reasonable amount doesn’t mean anyone has to lose any money.

“Giving more to the women’s program doesn’t mean you have to steal or take away from the men’s side,” she said.

These negotiations may not have been completed without the help of social media. Once the women’s team announced their plans to boycott the World Championship, they received an outpour of support from all corners of the continent.

In Washington, 16 U.S. Senators sent a letter to USA Hockey, writing, “These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics.”

Even male hockey players stood in solidarity with the women. NHL player agent Allan Walsh tweeted that American NHL players would also boycott the World Hockey Championship in May if a deal had not been made.

Most importantly, players who could have replaced the boycotting national team players also took to social media to say they would not play at the World Championship. Frank Seravalli of TSN reported only six players from outside the national team said they would play.

“If some of those players said they were going to play, I don’t think USA Hockey would have worried as much to fielding a team,” Chu added, saying this put pressure on USA Hockey. “When you have this momentum and this vision, then USA Hockey has to take their negotiations seriously.”

Despite the large support, their was also some heavy criticism. Many took to social media to disagree with the women’s efforts for fair pay, saying the players should be proud to wear their national sweater and not worry about money.

For Chu and every other player, wearing the red, white and blue is an experience of a lifetime. The negotiations show how far these women are willing to go to get what they want, and that there is blatant sexism within USA Hockey.

“You don’t know how proud those girls are,” Chu said. “Standing up for something and feeling that you need a structure to allow you to wear that jersey and be the best representative and the best player in it, that’s what they’re fighting for.”

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