Courage. Resilience. Leadership. These are just a few words that embody the
solidarity exhibited by the 2017 U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team in their
fight for equitable treatment. Twelve members of the 23-member team helped
Team USA bring home Olympic medals in 2010 and 2014. They spent their late
teens and early adulthoods devoted to representing their country, yet somehow
never felt that they were being treated adequately. With a veteran core group
leading the charge, the team decided to take a stand with the goal of impacting
change. Their tenacious fight for equality advocated not only for the sport of
hockey, but also for women everywhere.
The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team has built its reputation on success.
Team USA captured the inaugural gold at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano,
and went on to claim three silvers and a bronze over the following four
Olympiads. Since the sport was introduced, just two countries have medaled in
every Olympic Games and won Olympic gold; Team USA and Team Canada.
In March 2017, after a 15-month-long disagreement over overall support of the
program, the team announced it would boycott the upcoming International
Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Women’s World Championship, which would be
hosted on American soil. The team advocated for fair treatment in addressing
the issues of training stipends as well as promoted the participation of more
girls and women in the sport of hockey.
Long-time player Hilary Knight, who first joined the U.S. senior national team as
a teenager in 2006, said the team was taking inspiration from the trailblazing
female athletes before them. “We are fortunate to have strong pioneers who
have changed the landscape of their sport. Figures such as Billie Jean King or
teams like U.S. Women’s Soccer have built a foundation not only for hope, but
for action. As leaders in the sport of hockey, we are asking for equitable support
and encouragement for participation for women,” Knight said.
After just two weeks, a successful resolution was reached. “Our sport is the big
winner today,” said 10-year veteran and team captain Meghan Duggan after
they settled their negotiations. “We stood up for what we thought was right,
and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together.”
Now ranked No. 1 in the world after winning the IIHF World Championship,
Team USA is training for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. This
will mark the 20-year anniversary of the sport’s induction as an Olympic sport
as well as the gold-medal victory by Team USA. It sets the perfect stage for a
storybook finish to an already victorious year for these women.
The 2017 U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team has ignited a powerful and
inspirational movement encompassing future generations of women and girls
across this nation, empowering them to rise up and speak out against inequality.
The Women’s Sports Foundation is honored to present this year’s Wilma
Rudolph Courage Award to the 2017 U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team.
The Wilma Rudolph Courage Award is presented at our Annual Salute to Women in Sports to a female athlete who exhibits extraordinary courage in her athletic performance, demonstrates the ability to overcome adversity, makes significant contributions to sports and serves as an inspiration and role model to those who face challenges, overcomes them and strives for success at all levels. This award was first given in 1996 to Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Learn more here.