Friday, March 17, 2017

Pay the Ladies

We don't usually talk about women's ice hockey here, but a situation has come up that deserves some attention.  The United States Women's team is planning to boycott the upcoming World Championships--where they are the defending champions.  Team USA is one of the two superpowers in women's hockey.  We and Canada have won all of the World Championships and all of the gold medals in the Winter Olympics.  But for the US women, that success has come with surprisingly little support from USA Hockey--which is in charge of the national team program.

And that is why the ladies are planning to sit out the Worlds--which are being held in Michigan later this month.  They want to be treated equally as the men.  Team USA on the men's side is made up of NHL players--who make big money.  USA Hockey gets off cheap with the men's team--as paying them for their time only during Olympic years doesn't put those players in any financial hardship.  But for the women, getting paid a $1000 a month for six months every four years really doesn't make ends meet.

But it's not just about pay for USA Women.  USA Hockey treats the ladies like the proverbial step-child when it comes to behind-the-scenes aspects as well.  The Women's team stays in lesser-quality hotels when they travel.  They aren't provided with the same top-of-the-line equipment as the men's team.  Promotional and support staff is kept at a minimal level.  And perhaps most-egregiously, USA Hockey spends more than $3-million on its boys' developmental program--while it has no girls developmental program at all.  The organization argues that there are no World Junior Championships for women--so they rely exclusively on high school programs in Minnesota and Massachusetts and US colleges to act as a "pipeline" for talent to the national team.

I went to the USA Hockey website to do a Rachel Maddow-like "probe" into the organization's finances and I found that they made $42-million in revenues for 2015.  Their expenditures for the year were just over $34-million--making it appear that more could be provided to the women's program and its players.

But I also noticed that the address for USA Hockey is Bob Johnson Drive--named after the former Wisconsin Badgers, Team USA and Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins coach--and whose son, Mark, was on the Miracle on Ice team and is leading the Badgers Women's team in pursuit of another national championship at the Frozen Four this weekend.  But "Badger Bob" is best known for his favorite saying, "It's a great day for hockey!  Perhaps the folks at USA Hockey should take those words to heart again--and make it great for all of its players.

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