It was slow. Agonizingly slow.
Canadian forward Meghan Agosta skated left, and then right, faked sharp right then left and tried to slip the final shot of the gold medal match back around U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney’s right leg. Rooney was ready and stuffed the shot, sealing the long-awaited gold medal for the United States women’s hockey team.
Which begs the question: After the medals are awarded and the Closing Ceremony is had, after the women return to the United States as celebrated Olympic champions, what comes next?
What do these women’s hockey players do in the four years between Olympic competition?
The answer is ongoing, a work in progress. It wasn’t long ago that U.S. players were threatening to boycott the world championships, riding two consecutive victories in the event, in pursuit of equal pay. Only three years ago was the National Women’s Hockey League revived, becoming the first domestic league in which players received a salary. It is comprised of only four teams — the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, Connecticut Whale and Metropolitan Riveters — with jersey designs that were voted upon by fans.
Barely a year into its formation, the NWHL’s $10,000 minimum was cut in half. It’s grim, though still a step up from what had been a completely dormant professional women’s hockey scene. Prior to the NWHL’s formation, the only other option was to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which doesn’t pay players in salary, but bonuses.
Two players on the U.S. women’s hockey team — Emily Pfalzer and Megan Bozek — compete for the Beauts, while seven — Meghan Duggan, Brianna Decker, Gigi Marvin, Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy, Alex Carpenter and Amanda Pelkey — play for the Pride. Five — Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Hannah Brandt, Kendall Coyne and Alex Rigsby — also play for the Minnesota Whitecaps, an independent team that once competed in the defunct Western Women’s Hockey League. They do not compete in the NWHL, nor do they even have their own rink, resorting to reaching out to local youth hockey teams for ice time in exchange for clinics.
It is, in short, not great, though March 2017 marked a watershed moment for women’s hockey. After threatening to boycott the world championships in fighting for a $68,000 annual salary as well as for benefits like child care, maternity leave and the ability to compete in more games throughout the year, the Women’s National Team reached a four-year deal with USA Hockey.
Less than a year later, the Americans have their first gold medal in 20 years.
More Olympic coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• USA women’s hockey wins gold medal with shootout win over Canada
• Rooney’s overtime save against Canada was downright legendary
• Canadian player removes silver medal from neck right after receiving it
• IOC strips Russian curler of bronze medal for doping violation
• Vonn’s likely last Olympic race ends with a DNF