What U.S. women's team accomplished is nothing short of heroic
I will never forget the summer of 2000.
A little over two years after our U.S. national hockey team won the first Olympic women's gold medal in history at the 1998 Nagano Games, we attended an Olympic summit with the U.S. women's soccer and softball teams. They were fresh off of their own gold-medal wins at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and the women's soccer team had also just won the Women's World Cup in '99.
It was an amazing event.
There was a momentum and energy about women's sports in the United States due to all these historic wins. There were so many similarities between the teams, and we all felt a bond with one another. We were inspired by the women's soccer team, as the players told us about their fight for equality with the U.S. Soccer Federation.
It opened our eyes -- the same issues were happening to us.
The meeting sparked many discussions among the hockey team, and we decided to construct a letter with the help of the soccer team's lawyer, John Langel, making similar asks of USA Hockey -- much of the same points the current U.S. women's hockey team had asked for leading into Tuesday's landmark four-year agreement with the federation.
The letter did not go over well with USA Hockey. They were furious. Even our coaching staff was enraged. I will never forget the call from my coach; he scolded me, telling me we betrayed them and broke a trust that could never be repaired.
I felt like a kid that had done something very bad; I felt shame and guilt. I even had an associate coach look me in the eye and tell me that our actions would cost our team the gold medal in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. We felt like our team had garnered enough respect after our gold-medal victory, and USA Hockey would be ready to entertain the issues we raised. Instead, we were made to feel like we should be lucky to have a program at all.
We weren't ready for that kind of reaction; we had no support and no leverage. Everyone seemed to be against us. There was a huge amount of tension, and we feared for our place on the team. Our letter unfortunately and unfairly ruined the staff's trust in us, especially with the leaders of the team. The offer was squashed before it even really started, and all that seemed to come of it was us feeling like we made a mistake. As the years went on, that tension seemed to always be there, with no more attempts at making a positive change. We were too scared that it might cost us our spots on the team.
That is one of the reasons I'm so unbelievably proud of this current team and how the players so strongly and boldly have stood up for what they believed in. I know how hard it is to do that. I know the amount of courage it takes to stick your neck out like they have. This group is unbreakable.
The fact that the team is so unified from top to bottom makes the fight possible. The rally of support through social media and print and television media has showcased how there is a deep need for change. It is highlighted by the imbalances that still haven't changed. The team wasn't asking to get rich -- what they wanted (and what USA Hockey finally agreed to) was financial support for giving their full dedication to the program. They also want to grow the game through exposure on television and media. Providing them more big stages to do just that, outside of the Olympics, world championships and Four Nations Cup, will help that cause.
These things have been long overdue.
These women have changed the landscape of what women's hockey is in the United States. It is monumental, not only for the future of the women's national team, but also for all girls in hockey in the United States. It might also be a catalyst for other countries' women's teams to fight for the same issues within their governing bodies. This might spark change within the International Ice Hockey Federation to bring its gender equality policies up to date. Their message #BeBoldForChange says it all. They are making us all feel empowered.
Many people have told those of us from that 1998 Olympic gold-medal team how we impacted people and inspired young girls to walk into ice rinks feeling proud, feeling like they belonged. It inspired so many girls to start playing hockey and to have that dream of competing in the Olympics. What the current players are doing now is another major turning point in the game. It will turn out to be more impactful, even more historic.
Because what these women accomplished is nothing short of heroic.
Cammi Granato, considered one of the greatest female hockey players of all time, was the first woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Also a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, she led the U.S. women's national team to the first Olympic women's gold medal in history at the 1998 Nagano Games. The U.S. captain also led the Americans to silver at the 2002 Olympics and gold at the 2005 IIHF World Championships.