The USA women’s hockey team just got Olympic gold after a wage gap battle

The past year has been epic for the USA women’s hockey team.

Not only did they beat Canada’s Olympic team in a major upset last night (thanks to a play they call “Oops, I Did It Again” ), but they also went to battle for equal pay and won.

The American women’s hockey team hadn’t won a gold medal in 20 years before last night. Canada, of course, is all about hockey and their team is usually one of the toughest to beat. The American women weren’t favored to win last night, but according to most reports, they were seriously on their A-game.

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From USA Today:

[The game] was better than anyone dreamed. Women’s hockey hasn’t caught on as a spectator sport in most parts of the United States, and perhaps it never will, but this was as riveting a game as will be played in any sport anywhere this year. That’s a guarantee.

The U.S. went ahead, 1-0, late in the first period. Canada stormed back to take a 2-1 lead in the second. The Americans tied it with little more than six minutes remaining in the game. Then came a free-wheeling overtime. Still tied. And then the shootout.

After a couple rounds of shootouts, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson shot the game-winning goal with a play the team calls “Oops, I Did it Again.” USA won 3-2.

Last May, this team stood up for their right to make as much money as male players.

At the time, the US women’s hockey team was averaging only $14,000 to $18,000 per year in pay, according to CNN. Players are paid by USA Hockey, which sends a men’s team and a women’s team to the hockey world championships every year, excluding years when the Olympics are on.

Male players for USA Hockey are usually also in the NHL, where they’re offered a minimum contract of $650,000. This means the best women hockey players in the country aren’t even making a living wage from their sport, while most of the men are close to being millionaires.

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So last year, the women’s team asked for their pay to be bumped up to $68,000 with benefits matching the men’s team. What were those benefits? Well, until last year, male USA Hockey players got to bring a guest to games and women did not. They also got to fly business class while the women had to fly coach, according to CNN. And the women had to share hotel rooms with teammates, while the men reportedly got their own.

Critics might say this makes sense because men’s hockey is more popular than women’s hockey. But USA Hockey is separate from the NHL. The NHL’s profits don’t affect the men’s national team, aside from ensuring that its players happen to be incredibly well-paid and don’t have to have day jobs or rely on spouses or family members for financial support.

At the same time, USA Hockey invests $3.5 million per year in boys’ hockey, without the same support for girls, CNN says. This pretty much ensures that women’s hockey will continue being treated second-best, because the girls who would become its biggest fans aren’t getting the support boys receive.

Oh, and the USA women’s hockey team was pretty much the best in the world before the Olympics even started. They’d won six out of the previous eight world championships before they asked for higher pay.

So last spring, the women’s hockey team pushed for more pay. USA Hockey wouldn’t relent. The women’s team eventually threatened to sit out the 2017 world championships. But at the last minute, USA Hockey struck a deal with the women. Now, they can earn around $70,000 per year depending on bonuses for winning championships, according to the Washington Post.

And as this Olympics proved, the women’s team is well worth it. The pay disparity between male and female players had nothing to do with their respective skills. While the American women took home the gold last night, the men’s team failed to medal.

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