The U.S. women's hockey team continues its fight for equality

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield talk at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit about how far U.S. hockey has come -- and how much still needs to be done.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- The United States women's hockey team won the gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Games, but members of the team still feel a lot of work needs to be done to achieve equality in the sport in this country.

After threatening to boycott the 2017 world championship due to extreme disparities with their male cohorts, the team made strides in narrowing the gap and felt optimistic about the future, and they returned to the ice for the tournament. They won the title and then continued their momentum in Pyeongchang, where they stood atop the podium for the first time since 1998. But after a brief celebratory media tour upon their homecoming, several of the players felt that their progress came to an abrupt halt.

"We all went home, and we all have our own things going on, and some people have individual opportunities, but as far as growing women's hockey within the organization, it's been pretty dim for the past six months," Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said Monday during a panel at the espnW: Women + Sports Summit. "I think we all expected a little bit more."

Lamoureux-Davidson's teammates Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan and Kendall Coyne Schofield echoed her sentiment while talking to moderator Julie Foudy, and they voiced their desire for a post-Olympic tour involving exhibition games and increased support from USA Hockey in terms of financing and public relations.

"We talk a lot about being relevant and being accessible and being top of mind," Knight said. "It would be a combination of sharing that success in the moment -- maybe a parade -- and a media tour and continuing the topic [of equality] and celebrating our success and what we're fighting for and hopefully sparking interest in other industries as well.

"It's tough. We're trying to change a culture. We're trying to change behaviors that have been around for many years. There's accountability on both sides. For us, it's continuing to push the envelope, and for them, it's being receptive to what we're trying to accomplish together moving forward."

Duggan said adding exhibition games to the extensive media tour, which took the team from Los Angeles to New York, would have been fun for the players and their fans -- and would've helped grow the game.

"We had people calling us, asking us 24/7 about a post-Olympic tour, game-wise. They wanted to see us play against Canada again," Duggan said. "There were some changes made, but it's still a long process. There's still a long way to go.

"We want to increase visibility for women's sports, our team, for women's hockey. We want to get these games on ESPN."

Knight explained that the women on the team have three major areas they would like to see improved, issues they've been working on since their boycott in 2017: visibility, programming and funding. They were optimistic leading into the Games and after their victory but feel slightly discouraged at the present.

Lamoureux-Davidson mentioned the significant financial differences between the men's and women's developmental teams and suggested the organization hire people specifically focused on women's hockey. She would like people in those positions to be forward-thinking about the team in order to fully capitalize on major milestones and moments. "It can't be, 'Oh, they won, what are we going to do now?'" she said.

Still, despite all the work that needs to be done for equality in hockey, the team feels proud of what it has accomplished -- on and off the ice -- and hopes it inspires the next generation.

"To stand up for what they believe is right, for what they know is right and to not back down," Coyne Schofield said. "We all had big dreams as little girls in a sport that wasn't that big when we started playing. We saw one Olympic Games [as elementary school-age kids], and it took us watching TV to know we wanted to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal, and here we are today. I think that same thing occurred when we realized a change needed to be made at USA Hockey. We stuck together, we knew what was right, and we created the change."

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