Why The US Women's Hockey Team Won So Much More Than Gold This Year

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.
Last night, Team USA's women's hockey team won a gold medal against Canada in a nerve-wracking shootout that ended a three-hour game. The teams were tied 2-2 with just six minutes left, forcing the players to go into overtime. During the shootout, Team USA scored the second, fourth, and sixth rounds. Then, Team USA goalie Maddie Rooney blocked Canada's final shot, ending the game and solidifying their medal.
This win was a historic moment, because Team USA hadn't beat Team Canada since the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. But it was especially momentous for the women on Team USA's current roster, because they've had a rough year fighting for equal pay for equal play from USA Hockey.
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"Our entire team battled through a lot," Amanda Kessel, Team USA hockey forward told NBC this morning. “You can't see it on the outside, but the heart that every single girl has on this team, I knew we had it within us to win." In many ways, these women wouldn't be where they are now if they hadn't stood up for their rights a year prior.
In March of last year, members of the US women's hockey team decided they would boycott the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship (IIHFWC) unless USA Hockey addressed their salary negotiations.
The team members demanded the same treatment as their male counterparts on Team USA. That meant they wanted to be able to make a salary of $68,000, bring guests to competitions, fly business class, have access to child care and maternity leave, and get disability insurance. Additionally, the women's team wanted a pool of prize money to split, performance-based bonuses, and a monthly training stipend.
Their protest worked, and they reached a confidential deal just days before the competition. "We’re very strong, powerful women," Hilary Knight, a Team USA hockey player told The New York Times last March. "But it’s tough. Some of the comments were tough. Standing for what you believe in isn’t always the easiest thing." At the IIHFWC, Team USA beat Canada, which meant they were going to the Olympics.
Fast-forward to now, they can look back and know that it was all worth it for the history of their sport and for female athletes everywhere. Many sports fans have been comparing their Olympic victory to the "Miracle On Ice" (when US hockey beat Russia at Lake Placid), which took place 38 years ago to the day. "Let's call it that," Team USA captain Meghan Duggan told Today. But this moment feels much bigger, especially for women.
After the win, Knight told reporters she wants their story to inspire more young women to pursue hockey. "I hope [women's hockey] explodes in the next few years," she said. "That’s obviously one of our goals when we’re off the ice is to grow and promote the game and try and inspire the next generation as best we can, and build a future for them even better than what was before."
Follow our new Instagram account in partnership with NBC Sports,@OnHerTurf, for the best from women in sports, on and off the field.
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