“It’s for the dream, not the money”.

We don’t move across the world, uproot our careers, families, leave good jobs, to make money. We don’t practice before the sunrises in the morning, workout after our full-time jobs, meal plan and prep during our little amount of down time, so we can get into the best clubs, and have the most Instagram followers.

We do all of these things, simply because we love the game. We love to play. For most women’s hockey players, we have a passion for the game, and we don’t make our entire living on the salary. And, if we do, we certainly aren’t saving anything.

In comparison to the lavish lifestyles and extravagant elitism that our male counterparts experience, it’s alarming.For as long as I can remember, the women’s movement has had a feeling of waiting. Waiting for the NHL to step in, waiting for investors to help, waiting. Through the tumultuous years, from the splitting of leagues, to the walk out, to the folding of the CWHL, and beyond… It's always felt like in North America, the women’s hockey movement has been relying on men. Biding their time, until the bigger, older brother can step in. This mindset is in direct contrast to the way we are brought up. We are taught to be independent, strong, free-thinking, and hard-working. We are taught to never rely on outside forces, to work and accomplish things on our own without challenging the status quo.

Hockey in general, has taught me a lot of lessons. It has let me face adversity, shown me how to have resilience, and to live with success. I’ve learned to fail, I’ve learned to care, and I’ve learned to make the most of the opportunities I’ve been given.

I’ve been involved in women’s hockey for most of my life. I’ve been a coach, a fan, and a player. I’ve been on the ice at the end of a game, and I’ve been a bench player. I’ve waited for my chance eagerly, patiently, and I’ve had the disappointment of seeing that chance never come to fruition. Yet, even in that disappointment, in that failure, and in that loss, I’ve always come back. I’ve always shown up. In the days and practices that followed, even when I didn’t want to show up, I did. Looking back, that’s what I’m the proudest of. That I learned to show up. That I learned to come back. That I was strong. That I was a good teammate. That I waited for my chance and I made the most of it when it came.

Objectively, one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports is the hockey rivalry between the US and Canada. Especially in women’s hockey. There have been more than 20 years of intense games, overtimes, penalty shots, fights, goals. Each year, the game has intensified. The women’s movement has become a focal point of women’s hockey, and sports. At the end of the day, the men’s Olympic hockey is roster after roster filled with players making millions of dollars. To them, they are wearing just another jersey, with just another helmet, on just another day. They come onto the ice, skate around, with teammates from their home countries, and it’s a glorified All-Star game. These NHL players have nothing to gain, nothing to lose from the outcome of the game. In fact, they could even lose money if they are injured, making their effort subpar at times. Gone are the days of amateurs, giving it their all to play for their country.

One of my favorite movies is Miracle on Ice. The passion for the game can be felt in that movie, it practically oozes out from the screen. The way the boys played, against the goliath team, against reason, against any doubt. And, against the odds, they won. Because they wanted to, they willed it to happen. That’s the beauty of sports, when money isn’t the final objective. When it’s simply the glory of representing something greater than yourself, and as Herb Brooks exclaims in the movie, “The name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back”

Oddly enough, through serendipity, fate, or some other stroke of luck, a documentary about my former team came out today. In my first of two seasons playing in Sweden, we had a person follow our team, and a few specific players. It was truly profound, seeing my teammates speak to the exact topic I was focusing on. They had vocalized the epitome of what makes women’s hockey special, and the documentarian brought it to life.

As the 7th season of the Professional Women’s League in North America begins, it’s a new feeling. With the changing of the name, there is a new and refreshed sense of independence. Of freedom, of joy. As this new dawn begins, the era of the game is more about the future than it ever has been. It’s more about the girls watching the games in the stands, about creating a product that is everything the NHL never could be, and that’s beautiful. For everything women’s hockey may lack, it has something that men’s hockey never will. It has a raw sense of passion, of sacrifice, and of giving. Women’s hockey is not men’s hockey, and it doesn’t need to be. It’s for the dream, not the money.

 

November 19, 2021 — Amy Budde

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