By Catherine Silverman (@)
US Women’s Hockey is one of the most dominant organizations in American pro sports.
This isn’t an opinion. This is fact. There is actual, objective evidence to prove this.
The only teams that decimate the competition with a comparable level of regularity at the international level are men’s and women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and various individual events (we’re looking at you, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky).
Want a comparison?
Since 1990, the US Women’s Hockey program has won a gold, three silvers, and a bronze at the Olympic Games. In that same time frame, they’ve won seven gold medals and ten silver medals at the World Championships.
The Men’s Hockey program in that same time frame?
Two silvers at the Olympics and four bronze World Championship finishes.
Look. It’s quite simple.
Americans love watching Americans win gold medals. Period.
Americans turn out in DROVES to watch the US Women’s National Team for soccer.
They drew in more viewers at their last World Cup than the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup.
Sure, it’s one game versus as many as seven. You’re spacing out the viewers, man! You’re diluting the viewer pool, it’s not the same!
Give me a break. The US Women’s Soccer Team draws tremendous crowds. Not to borrow from Donald Trump, but their support is huge! Very big! They’re a very successful program that very, very many people like to watch.
To divert from the Trump praise, though, look at the concrete numbers.
Back in 2015, the US Women’s National Team drew a massive 15.2 TV rating for their World Cup final game.
The total number varied in estimation, but anywhere from 20.3 million to 25.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the women defeat Japan. That was double the number that had tuned in four years earlier.
That number topped – in a significant way! – the US-Portugal World Cup game from 2014 (which featured Christiano Ronaldo, an international household name in soccer) and the 2014 World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina.
The difference between the 2015 NBA Final and the Women’s World Cup? A full 1.3 rating points. The difference between the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final and the Women’s World Cup? An insane 17.8 million viewers. The difference in the viewership for the World Cup and the Stanley Cup was bigger than the entire crowd that watched the Germany-Argentina World Cup Final.
Americans want to watch America reign triumphant. They want America to be great. They want to watch their nation
Appealing to the patriotism is the most base way to encourage money to be poured into women’s sports.
Of course, that’s just the beginning of the concerns that the US Women’s Team has brought up.
— Hilary Knight (@Hilary_Knight) March 15, 2017
Hilary Knight and the US Women’s Team aren’t petitioning for equal pay. They’re simply petitioning for fair pay – which almost certainly amounts to more than $6,000 every four years for the Olympic games – and basic support for the women’s game.
That means they want a development program. At the moment, $3.5 million every season is poured into the US Men’s development team – yet there’s no such program for women.
It’s not even a discrepancy in funding or supplies – there just isn’t even an option.
That means they want basic accommodations when they go to represent their country.
Travel stipends? Hotel accommodations? Gear for international exhibitions and competition? Marketing for their international play – which, as mentioned above, yields consistently superior results to the men’s team?
These shouldn’t have to be demands. These should be expected.
From the aspect of growing the game, the latter expectations – the marketing money, the financial support in international play, the money for a women’s development program – are huge.
There’s a bigger obstacle when it comes to getting the fan support, though.
Men who support women’s sports find it hard to believe, but there’s still this ugliness that permeates society and prevents women from being given proper consideration in traditionally ‘male-dominated’ areas.
Want an example?
I used to coach children. One of my co-workers was a middle-aged man, who used to work in public service in New York City. He was stern and told it like it was, something thought of as positive – but despite coaching both young boys and young girls, he genuinely found women inferior.
We were sitting at lunch one day during a clinic and he was discussing attendance for a game while I was distracted elsewhere.
I tuned into the conversation in time to hear him complain about how options for food and beer were limited at a game because the team only opened up the lower bowl for fan seating.
I hadn’t been paying attention. Are you talking about the WNBA? I asked. It seemed like a logical explanation. We live in a city with a very successful WNBA program – yet I assume they use limited seating at their games.
I’d never seen him look more disgusted.
‘Do I look like a faggot?’ he asked, being completely serious. ‘You wouldn’t catch me dead watching women’s pro sports.’
That attitude – that watching women play professional sports is for women and ‘faggots’ – is still far too prevalent among many in sports culture. We live in a bubble, those of us that see resounding support for women’s sports from men, because we don’t interact with the population that feels this way, but they still exist – and they’re big.
That attitude is one of the biggest obstacles to properly gaining momentum for women’s sports. Men don’t want to consider women in sports to be worthy, equal, or interesting; they think watching women play sports is something only women want to do.
It’s ridiculous, of course.
Men are willing to watch arena football. They’re willing to watch D-league basketball, single A baseball teams, and the ECHL and SPHL. They’re willing to pay actual money for the tickets to see these teams.
Yet they won’t attend sporting events played by women, even though the WNBA is one of the best female products offered, the NWSL has some of America’s most competitive soccer players, and the NWHL has a far superior on-ice product than the lowest levels of men’s pro hockey.
Want proof? Shannon Szabados, Canada’s star Olympic goaltender, put up a shutout and a .910 save percentage in all situations through 22 regular season SPHL games last year.
If she can hack it – and people are willing to watch that league – why aren’t people willing to, at the very least, watch a women’s pro team, especially in the name of patriotism?
There are so many factors at play in growing the women’s game and gaining fair compensation.
While 40% of family breadwinners in today’s society are women, that leaves a whopping 60% of families in which men are likely the primary financial decision-maker.
That means that 60% of families may run the risk of having a father pick sports for their sons to finance over their daughters. That’s 60% of families that may see the main breadwinner unwilling to spend money to support women’s sports, even if it means giving their daughters something to look forward to.
There’s less exposure, and men everywhere yelling about the risk run by pouring money into marketing before the revenue limit the opportunities to see that marketing exist.
Good marketing leads to profits, though.
Look at the US Women’s Soccer program. Money invested – particularly in a proven superior product – has yielded tremendous interest.
Patriotism is so, so very easy to market. Little girls are so, so very easy to encourage. Make fans at a young age with improved development and grassroots campaigns. Appeal to the American dream of gold medals pouring out of our ears.
The US Women’s Soccer program is pushing for equal pay. The US Women’s Hockey program, in my opinion, isn’t there quite yet.
They are at a stage where they can demand fair compensation and support, though.
They’re the nation’s most winning hockey product in the last 30 years – it’s about damn time we reward them for it.