If in the last two weeks you…
tweeted to #BeBoldForChange,
— Jeff Glover (@followdotch) March 20, 2017
told the U.S. Women’s National Team you supported them,
— Justin Bradford (@justinbbradford) March 27, 2017
wrote an article covering the negotiations between the players and USA Hockey,
drafted and sent a letter to Dave Ogrean along with your fellow United States Senators,
— Jen Neale (@MsJenNeale_PD) March 27, 2017
turned down a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for your country, because you knew standing up for your peers ultimately meant more than personal glory,
or you simply refused to back down…
— Emily Pfalzer (@EmilyPfalzer) March 24, 2017
then I’m talking to you. And I salute you.
When the USWNT announced on March 15 that they planned to boycott the IIHF Women’s World Championship unless significant progress was made in their negotiations with USA Hockey over equitable support of both the women’s and girls’ hockey programs, they did not do so lightly. While women’s hockey players have the opportunity to compete for the Clarkson and Isobel cups in the CWHL and NWHL, respectively, the chance to win an IIHF gold medal remains the pinnacle of a female hockey player’s year of training. So it goes without saying that they took a risk when they threatened to sit out and give up on their chance to defend their title.
But it wasn’t just a half-hearted protest destined to peter out with little to no improvement for their cause. No, these ladies were so methodically organized that you wonder what else they could accomplish if they set their hearts to it (seriously, could you guys give us your input on how to take down daylight saving time?). The WWC proved to be a necessary backdrop for progress in negotiations that had staggered since last year. As the opening USA vs. Canada matchup loomed, the time to ensure USA Hockey had the best players in the world out on home ice in Plymouth, Michigan was slipping away. USA Hockey made desperate (and frankly pathetic) attempts to avoid sending out nobody in case the two sides failed to come to an agreement, but that backfired in the most spectacular fashion.
Why? Because the U.S. Women knew what they were doing.
From the very start, the motion to sit out the tournament was expressed as a unified message. All the members of the USWNT tweeted the same statement, accompanied by the #BeBoldForChange hashtag. The message spread like wildfire and was only the first to come in a series of powerful displays of unity.
In her piece commending the USWNT, Cammi Granato called the women “unbreakable,” which perfectly describes the U.S. women both as strong, bold individuals and as a tight-knit group unwilling to break ranks in pursuit of their goals, extending beyond the USWNT all the way down the line through current and former NCAA players, high schoolers, and beer leaguers who (nearly) unanimously told USA Hockey “yeah, no.”
And that unflappable unity undoubtedly put serious pressure on Dave Ogrean and co., but the pressure wasn’t just coming from the players and their united front…
It is important that the best American women players be on the ice for the World Championship and the notion of seeking replacement players will only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse – NHLPA
The hockey community is known to be close-knit and supportive of its own, so the encouragement the USWNT got from several current and former players, along with the statement released by the NHLPA and the suggestion of a men’s boycott, actually came as no surprise to me. But the solidarity did not end there, as the players’ associations of all three other major sports added their voices to the rally (NFL, NBA, MLB). Several members of the WNBA and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team also expressed their pride in supporting the USWNT.
The biggest shockwave for me, though (and I believe most other fans and reporters hungrily following for updates), was the letter to Dave Ogrean and USA Hockey written and signed by twenty United States Senators invoking, among other things, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and calling into question the legality of USA Hockey’s actions thus far.
Last night the boycott finally came to an end as both sides reached an agreement that suited them. Dave Ogrean seems to think USA Hockey deserves a pat on the back for “resolving this,” when the real star of the show was the organizational skills of whoever came up with the united messages and meme-worthy inspirational photo/quote releases. I don’t know if anyone in the USWNT camp knew how much their stance would snowball into a movement, but they deserve mad respect for their vigilance.
With this agreement, the world of women’s hockey has taken a giant leap forward, but there is still work to be done by all of us. Right now the team is on its way to Michigan to prepare for the start of the Women’s World Championship, and you don’t want to miss it.
I saluted you for supporting the women’s fight for fairness, now I’m asking you to join me in watching these incredible, brave, limitless, strong, devoted, bold women take on their next challenge: another world championship.