The American women have long ruled the world cham­pi­onship, but this year could go down as the most im­por­tant tri­umph ever

The Hockey News - - In The Champion issue -

THIS ONE MAT­TERED more than the oth­ers. Team USA owns the women’s World Cham­pi­onship, hav­ing won four in a row and seven of the past eight, but April’s gold-medal win over Canada car­ried special weight. The game al­most didn’t hap­pen.

Three days be­fore the 2017 worlds be­gan, the American women had no in­ten­tion of play­ing. They were smack in the mid­dle of a boy­cott. The players had spent more than a year ne­go­ti­at­ing with USA Hockey in hopes of se­cur­ing liv­ing wages, better travel ex­penses, ho­tels, health ben­e­fits and gen­eral treat­ment eq­ui­table to what the American men’s players re­ceive. Time had al­most run out, and none of the women would back down. But the two sides struck a four-year pact at the 11th hour, pro­vid­ing the women’s team with the con­di­tions they wanted. The deal in­cludes the for­ma­tion of a high-per­for­mance ad­vi­sory group to ad­vance girls’ and women’s hockey and as­sist with mar­ket­ing and fundrais­ing. “Being a part of that group and re­al­iz­ing what we’ve done for women’s hockey and sports in gen­eral for men and women is just in­cred­i­ble,” said Team USA blue­liner Me­gan Bozek. “It’s hum­bling to see the re­sponse we’ve got­ten, and to go into the World Cham­pi­onship two days be­fore our first game ver­sus Canada and re­ally make our presence known there was phe­nom­e­nal.”

The feed­back was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive. So­cial media ex­ploded with sup­port for the American women. Bozek’s mom, a school­teacher, re­layed mes­sages of thanks to the team from fe­male stu­dents and their par­ents. It was an his­toric mo­ment for the team, and it had a buoy­ing ef­fect at the World Cham­pi­onship. The Amer­i­cans romped through the tour­na­ment, win­ning ev­ery game and outscor­ing their op­po­nents 28-5. Canada pro­vided a stiff test in the fi­nal as usual, with the teams re­quir­ing over­time to crown a cham­pion for the fourth time in the past six years. Alex Carpenter had the golden goal in 2016, and it was Hilary Knight’s turn this time around. She beat Canada’s Shan­non Sz­aba­dos 10 min­utes into ex­tra time with a laser of a slap­shot and an icy-cool cel­e­bra­tion, clinch­ing a 3-2 win.

And with all due re­spect to the 2016 team, the 2017 edi­tion had more than a game to cel­e­brate. It won a fight for equal­ity that will res­onate for years. That made the vic­tory even sweeter. “It’s a gold medal ei­ther way,” Bozek said, “but af­ter the boy­cott, re­ally prov­ing a point and tak­ing a stand when ev­ery­one thought we would cave and just to go to the World Cham­pi­onship…it’s one of those mem­o­ries my­self and all my team­mates and the rest of the world that fol­lows women’s hockey will re­mem­ber.”

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