US veterans can enjoy hockey gold before deciding futures
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Americans Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando, Hilary Knight, Meghan Duggan, Gigi Marvin and Kacey Bellamy have a luxury their predecessors lacked after finally capturing the nation’s first Olympic gold in women’s hockey in two decades.
Time to enjoy and celebrate the accomplishment. And no pressure for the three-time Olympians to decide quickly whether to try to play in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
At least not because of money. Women at the highest level of hockey in the United States no longer feel forced to choose between playing the game or paying the bills.
“It’s a decision based on whether I have the passion and the desire and skillset to continue to play, and I think that’s what we all strive for when that all came about,” Lamoureux-Davidson said Friday. “So to have that, I think it means the world to us that we can make that decision based on our love for the game, and we don’t have to make a decision now based on financial means.”
Winning the first shootout in an Olympic women’s final 3-2 Thursday to snap Canada’s golden run is only the latest accomplishment in an amazing year for the team.
Less than a year ago, they banded together and threatened to boycott the 2017 world championships in March, demanding more pay and treatment similar to what the men’s team receives. USA Hockey even reached out to other players, trying to cobble together a replacement team before both sides reached an agreement after pressure from 20 U.S. senators .
That deal netted the U.S. team $20,000 apiece for the gold medal captain Meghan Duggan said she slept with Thursday night, even if she only got a couple hours amid all the celebrating. The players also got a bump in pay up to $4,000 a month in the four-year deal with the ability to make around $71,000 annually and up to $129,000 in Olympic years with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
So rather than the need to go find a job to pay rent and buy food, the U.S. women can enjoy this golden victory with their families and friends here and once they return home. They’re reveling in this victory, so much that Duggan said they’ll decide whether to go to the White House if invited when that time comes.
The team is also celebrating how far U.S. women’s hockey has come since 1998, when the Americans won the inaugural Olympic gold at Nagano with stars like Cammi Granato, who was among those who lost a fight for better pay two years later. Julie Chu, a four-time Olympian who carried the U.S. flag at the closing ceremonies in 2014 at Sochi, also missed this chance.
Duggan said she and Brianna Decker spent about 45 minutes on the phone Friday with Chu.
“She was just incredible to talk to,” Duggan said. “She was crying on the phone. We were crying on the phone, and just what a moment. To share that with her it was fantastic.”
A.J. Mleczko won gold in 1998 and silver in 2002 for the U.S., and she told The Associated Press the money wasn’t on the minds of the players trying to erase the taste of silver after the painful loss in 2014 at Sochi. She said it’s amazing women can make a living doing what they love, just like the men.
“Now I look at what they can do from not just the money they’re getting just straight up from their contracts but now the endorsements,” Mleczko said. “They’re such a great group of ambassadors and I am so excited for the little girls out there and the little boys that can look up to them and say, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ and that is phenomenal.”
The U.S. appears to be in good shape with 20-year-old goalie Maddie Rooney coming through with spectacular saves for gold in her first Olympics. The U.S. under-18 team won the world championship in January against Sweden after knocking off Canada in the semifinals.
Lamoureux-Morando, who scored the tying goal to force overtime against Canada, said some players want to start families and will take a year to re-evaluate what comes next. Like her sister, she is married.
“If you still have a love and passion for the game, which I think we still will, we’ll continue to try and play and be on the team,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “But I think right now we’re just going to enjoy this win with our teammates. It’s a moment that it’s once in a lifetime. I think we’re going to cherish these next couple weeks, then kind of reevaluate down the road.”
Korea, which debuted at the Olympics with a historic combined team including 12 North Koreans, moved up from No. 22 to 17 in the new world rankings released after the U.S. victory. The IIHF announced Monday that the women’s Olympic tournament will be expanded to 10 times for 2022.
Knight said even with the recent growth, more resources are needed for other countries to get younger girls interested in hockey, even if that means offering support to bring girls over to the United States.
“I think that growth will be contagious around the world, and hopefully we can have more countries competing at the Olympics,” Knight said.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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