Tales From The Preds Mobile: Team USA Women’s Hockey Makes a Golden Journey
By Miranda Martin
It’s been almost 2 years since I stayed up past 1 AM to watch a hockey game.
The last game, of course, was the Preds’ game 3 against the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Conference Semifinals, when Mike Fisher finally scored the game winner in triple OT to give the Predators a much-needed win.
But last night felt even more exhilarating than any hockey event I’ve witnessed, at least past midnight.
Last night around 10:00 PM central time, the USA Women’s Hockey team once again took the ice for a Gold Medal game versus the Great Hockey Empire of Canada (that’s their official government name, right?). If you didn’t stay up or in case NBC sports didn’t remind you enough, the teams had met in the Gold Medal game in Sochi in 2014, where USA lost to Canada in OT after the team took a costly penalty. I’ll try to remind you of this at least a dozen times more in this post so I can keep up with NBC Sports. The game went into overtime and, eventually, a shootout, where Jocelyne Lamoureux scored in the extra attempt, and Maddie Rooney sealing the victory with a save, giving the team the first Olympic Gold for Team USA in Women’s Hockey since 1998.
The game was incredibly fast paced and entertaining for all hockey fans. (And if you even dare to add some patronizing “it was good, you know, for a women’s game,” then just get the fuck out of this post right now.) I was engaged with every second of the game, especially in the third period and overtime/shootout, like it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals (if the finals only happened every 4 years). In fact, I didn’t even notice until it was mentioned on twitter that the entire OT was 4v4 style hockey. With the larger Olympic-sized rink being utilized, it opened the ice up to showcase more technical parts of hockey, with puck control and passing being the highlights rather than hits or scrappy plays. When Monique Lamoureux (USA) scored on the breakaway in the third period to tie the game, I leapt from my seat and woke up every person in my house. When her sister, Jocelyne Lamoreux, scored the most beautiful shootout attempt ever made (seriously, youtube it), I was completely speechless and knew Team USA was coming out victorious.
Beyond my take of the game, it was beautiful to see Twitter lit up with USA/CAN talk, as I learned the nationalities of many of the accounts I follow. NBC reported this morning that it was the highest-ever Late Night Rating (11 PM-2 AM) for NBCSN. People were talking about the Miracle on Ice team, who beat the USSR on the same date 38 years ago in Lake Placid, hoping the women would follow suit. It was a glorious night for USA Hockey.
There were three major talking points to take from last night’s game:
USA Hockey’s Gold Medalists Are Wonder Women, On & Off the Ice: Last night was critical to the growth of hockey in the USA, especially for women. I’ve been watching NHL hockey for 15 years, and last night’s women’s game was the most emotional and proudest I’ve been to watch hockey, and watching the women in the (primarily Nashville) hockey fan base I follow get so engaged about the game was inspiring. But it cannot be forgotten that these women also are heroes beyond their rink, making history off the ice just last year. In March of 2017, this very USA Women’s Hockey team threatened to boycott the IIHF World Championships, where they were defending champions, over unfair wages and lack of support by USA Hockey compared to the men’s program. Before last year, the women’s team was only offered compensation of $6,000 every four years, $1,000 per month 6 months prior to an Olympic run. The women were essentially paying to play for the love of the game and country. They were also not given the same off-ice benefits as the men’s teams, such as business class seating and disability insurance. The men were also offered to accommodate a guest, who was the given paid airfare and hotel accommodations with the individual players.The women were not permitted guests, and they were required to share rooms with teammates and fly coach. With this boycott and negotiations, the women were able to acquire better pay (approximately $70,000 annually, with additional medal bonuses), and the same benefits as the men. Moreso, they fought for benefits like childcare, maternity leave, and the ability to compete beyond certain competitions, but those terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is great to see strong women in the sport working beyond the ice for equal and fair pay become victorious on the ice, too.
NBC Sports Sucks. I know it. We all know it. But it can’t be stressed enough. With Pierre McGuire stumbling over saying “too many men on the ice,” and literally every few moments the broadcast team mentioning the “heartbreak of Sochi,” most of us probably resorted to muting the game. Even with muting, you were still subject to seeing teary-eyed, emotional women from the 2014 games with every stoppage in play. It was insulting to the viewers and to the women who were fighting for redemption. Leslie Jones, an SNL comic and unexpected darling of the broadcasting part of the Olympics, posted a video on Twitter yelling at Pierre McGuire for reminding his USA interviewee about the lost game in Sochi during the intermission interviews. Leslie Jones said all the things we, as NHL fans, have wanted to say to NBC’s coverage of hockey for years. NBC has rights to all Olympics until 2032 (and to the NHL until at least 2021) so we’re all rightfully screwed. But maybe, just maybe, the NBC team will coincidentally forget half their broadcast team (looking at you, Pierre & Milbury) in South Korea.
NO Championship Game Should End in a Shootout. I’m assuming the IOC has the hockey rules go to a shootout for scheduling conflicts, as we’ve seen plenty of NHL playoff games go into triple overtimes and run 3 hours over. In the Olympic world, the only reason anything should be running 3 hours over is if there was a weather delay. But ending such a fantastic game in a shootout felt cheap, and both teams deserved better for how fantastic of a game it was. Thankfully, the women made it entertaining and just as stressful as the previous OT. Canada’s Melodie Daoust’s shootout goal was something off of a Peter Forsberg 1994 Olympic highlight reel, and Jocelyne Lamoureux’s shootout goal to win the game, coined the “Oops I Did It Again” move in practice, puts any NHL All Star Skills Competition goal to shame. I am glad USA was victorious, but I would’ve gladly gone on until sunrise with overtimes for that game. However, I’m totally down for some 4-on-4 OT playoff hockey. NHL, make it so.
I can’t wait for the rematch in 4 more years. If it is anything like last night’s game, it’s well worth the wait.