If you’re a woman and you can handle a hockey stick, don’t wander far from your phone. You just might be getting a call to play for your country.
The women’s world championships, the international competition just below the Olympics in terms of prestige, takes place starting Thursday in Plymouth, Michigan.
The United States team, which has won the world championship seven times and won five Olympic medals over the last 17 years, should be a heavy favorite to do well in this year’s championships.
That is, if USA Hockey, the governing body for international hockey in this country, can find enough talented players to play.
Don’t worry; the supply of female hockey players hasn’t frozen over. It’s more that the group at the talented end of that pool is threatening to boycott the games in a dispute with USA Hockey.
As you might expect, one of the principal issues is money. The team members receive $1,000 a month for six months during each Olympic cycle and just about nothing during the other 42 months.
If you’re doing the math, that’s an average of $1,500 a year. The team does receive some funding from the United States Olympic Committee, but, one could argue, that hockey players should be paid by a hockey organization.
The women’s players are also upset with perceived inequities in how USA Hockey treats men and women in terms of ancillary areas like hotel accommodations, equipment, public relations and meals, to name a few.
The women also take exception to the way USA Hockey funds national team development for boys and girls, meaning it spends far more lavishly for boys than for girls.
Their charges come just months after members of the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a complaint with the federal EEOC, alleging the national soccer federation pays far less to them than to their male counterparts.
The hockey women’s team has drawn support from both the NHL and the Major League Baseball players unions and Dunkin’ Donuts, a major team sponsor.
In response, USA Hockey says that it does support girls and women’s hockey and is preparing to offer players up to $85,000 each during the Olympic training period. The players counter that the offer is only good during Olympic years, not the other three.
With Thursday’s deadline looming, USA Hockey is reportedly reaching out to college and possibly high school hockey players to staff a team if they can’t reach an agreement with regular players.
Reportedly more than 20 players have received invitations to play in the world championships in place of those on the regular roster. The chance to play on a world stage will no doubt be alluring to those younger players.
In the world of alternative facts, those high school and college players who accepted would be called replacement players.
In the real world, they would be called what they really are, scabs.
So far, none of the invitees has taken USA Hockey up on its offer. Good for them.
Hockey players are considered to be among the most noble in sports. It’s good to know that designation travels between gender lines.
And that’s how I see it for this week.
Audio for this segment will be posted by the end of the day.