Friday night in San Jose, Kendall Coyne Schofield became the first woman to officially compete in an NHL All-Star Skills Competition, finishing one second behind the eventual winner, Connor McDavid, in the Fastest Skater.
One of the other female Olympians turned in an even better performance. Brianna Decker’s time during the demonstration of the Puck Control skills was a full second faster than the eventual winner Leon Draisaitl.
Draisaitl won $25,000 despite having registered the second-best time. Fans on Twitter took issue with that and started a hashtag insisting that the NHL #PayDecker.
The NHL has not responded but CCM Hockey stepped up by giving Decker the same prize money as Draisaitl received. The hockey equipment brand has done a lot to support and promote women’s hockey, including support for the recent partnership between the Boston Pride and the Boston Bruins.
— CCM Hockey (@CCMHockey) January 26, 2019
Decker has been part of the CCM family for five years and she tweeted her thanks for their support of her and of both men’s hockey and women’s hockey.
Sincerely thankful @CCMHockey You have been nothing but 1st class the last 5 years I have been a part of your family! Thank you for supporting the men’s and women’s game equally! #NHLAllStar #MadeofHockey #Hockeyisforeveryone https://t.co/IAQSLQEdnN
— Brianna Decker (@Bdecker14) January 26, 2019
Coyne Schofield was an official participant in the Fastest Skater skill because Nathan MacKinnon suggested she take his place when he withdrew for medical reasons. Decker was not an official participant and was going through it “casually,” which makes her feat all the more impressive.
“Karlsson went after me, so I was like, ‘OK, I think I might have beaten him,’ but I didn’t know how long it took me. I was just casually going through the demo."
“She beat me? Wow. That’s really impressive. Good for her.”#PayDecker
— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) January 26, 2019
The issue of financial recognition was exacerbated by the disparity in pay between Draisaitl and Decker, and between women’s hockey and men’s hockey as a whole. Draisaitl brings home nine million a year. The highest salary in the CWHL is $25,000 a year.
The NHL’s prize money was negligible to an NHL superstar but would double Decker’s annual salary with the Calgary Inferno. (The amount she receives for her endorsements and international competitions is unknown.)
Rebecca Johnston, also of the Calgary Inferno, demonstrated the Puck Control contest. Her time likely would have placed her well within the ranks of the NHL competitors.
— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) January 26, 2019
There has of course been backlash against the idea of women competing at all in the NHL’s All-Star game and against judging Decker’s performance with the same standards and reward as the male hockey players.
The Lamoureax twins (Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson) responded to one of the dismissive comments.
She did exactly what everyone else did and beat their times…..🤦♀️ https://t.co/OjnB9Itj7p
— Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux (@LamoureuxTwins) January 26, 2019
The NHL’s promotion of the women’s game, in general, has been substandard and it was again for the All-Star game.
Zoë Hayden of The Victory Press pointed out that “the NHL did not generate any original social media publicity about this matter, merely retweeting the players’ announcements on their own accounts,” Hayden wrote. “Tweets (which are an easy, fast, and free way for the NHL to reach its 6.16 million followers) were not leveraged to promote the women’s game.”
The momentum and success of the #PayDecker campaign on Twitter demonstrates the appeal of women’s hockey.
8pm update: The NHL has responded to the viral hashtag by reviewing video of Brianna Decker’s demonstration video. Originally, a fan said Decker’s time was one minute and six seconds. After reviewing the tape, the NHL found that Decker’s time was only the second fastest, placing her behind Leon Draisaitl. The NHL, however, still hasn’t released footage of the women’s demonstrations allowing for a peer review.
9:45pm Update: The NHL has announced that it will donate $25k to the charity or hockey cause of each player’s choice for their participation in the All-Star Skills Competition.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) January 27, 2019
Headline photo: @NHL/@CCMHockey
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