PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Brianna Decker and Gigi Marvin scored and Nicole Hensley made 18 saves for the U.S. women’s hockey team, which beat Canada 2-0 Friday night less than 72 hours after agreeing to a deal that avoided a boycott in the World Championships opener for both teams.
“It’s our Stanley Cup in any given year, in a non-Olympic year,” Meghan Duggan, the team’s captain, said before the game. “To put that on the line initially for us was an unbelievable gut-wrenching sacrifice. It was one of (the most) difficult things we’ve ever had to do. So, to really stick together throughout the entire process and now find ourselves here, ready to play in the World Championships is just . . . it’s the greatest feeling in world.”
The American women made a bold move last month, publicly threatening to not show up at the marquee event at USA Hockey arena, and it paid off when the off-ice battle ended Tuesday night with a four-year deal.
Members of the U.S. women’s hockey team will now make $3,000-$4,000 a month with the ability to earn about $71,000 annually. They can make up to $129,000 in Olympic years with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee. That’s quite a boost for a group of women who were getting $1,000 a month for six months around the Olympics.
And like their male counterparts that compete for USA Hockey, the women are flying in business class and staying at nice hotels.
“That’s what basically we’ve been saying all along: ‘What do they have? OK, equitable to that,”’ said Kacey Bellamy, who plays defense for the Americans. “And I think that that’s the most important thing. We’re not asking for more. And I think that that’s the biggest message that people sometimes get confused about.”
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel, an American, said the women deserved better.
“I think as a USA hockey player, you’re trying to grow the game and that’s the women’s, too,” Eichel said.
The Canadians, clearly, are glad the U.S. women got a deal done and are in suburban Detroit, too.
Not only will it likely improve what Hockey Canada offers in its current negotiations with players, but it keeps a highly charged rivalry on the ice. If USA Hockey failed to offer its top women to play, the organization appeared to be prepared to field a team with lower-level caliber players such as some playing Division III college hockey.
“We’re excited that they’re here,” Canada goaltender Shannon Szabados said. “It wouldn’t be the same without them whether they weren’t here or if it was a different squad that they brought.”
The United States plays its second game Saturday against Russia, a 2-1 winner over Finland on Friday.