BIG ON-ICE WIN, BIGGER OFF-ICE VICTORY FOR U.S.
The American women have long ruled the world championship, but this year could go down as the most important triumph ever
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.”