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United We Stand: NWHL makes a statement to support US national team players boycott

The NWHL began the Isobel Cup Playoffs with a show of solidarity.

The Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale show solidarity before the Isobel Cup Semi-finals
Michelle Jay

“United we stand, and if you don’t stand with us, you stand against us.”

Anya Battaglino, director of the NWHL Players’ Association, didn’t mince words when talking about the Team USA boycott of the upcoming Women’s World Championships.

NWHL opens Isobel Cup Playoffs in solidarity

Last night, instead of announcing the lineups of the Boston Pride and Connecticut Whale, the NWHL took it upon themselves to show their support for the members of the USWNT. The announcer proclaimed, “In light of recent events, it is imperative that we change the script.” One by one, each USWNT player skated to center ice before the rest of their teammates joined in their stand for equality.

When asked about the display, Battaglino explained that Dani Rylan took the initiative and sent an email to the entire League asking for their support of the USWNT and in their movement.

“We're working to better the sport, we're working to unify as a huge group and say, ‘This is what women's hockey deserves.’ This is what we needed — that one unified front is going to be the difference-maker between being strong together and being weak.”

Therefore, when Team USA asked for the League’s support, the rest of their teammates stood behind them. Battaglino emphasized the group mentality and empathy of the movement:

“They asked us what we were thinking and asked the entire group to say ‘We're in’ .... They're not telling us to be behind them. They’re asking us if we support the idea and obviously it’s something that we do....We're all women, and our natural reaction is ‘Let's go. Let's pounce on this.’ As women we're motivated — something sparks our fire.”

Strong from the bottom to the top

This spark and motivation goes beyond the NWHL and resonates within the younger players as well. Hilary Knight expressed her gratitude for their dedication to the cause.

“It's outstanding the outpouring of support we've had around the world and specifically with the younger players in the program. When you have parents calling you and emailing you saying that they’re on board when it’s their kids’ first opportunity to represent the United States, that’s a big deal.”

How far does this belief in fighting for what is right go?

On Thursday, captain Meghan Duggan made approximately 100 phone calls to the entire pool of hockey players to make sure everyone was still on board with the boycott. Like with the NWHL players, the support was already there from the young players. It was about not showing any cracks in the face of pressure from USA Hockey.

“It’s not just me. It’s not just on one person. We're fighting this fight hand-in-hand, united across all fronts,” reaffirmed Duggan. “It’s a complete team effort.”

Strong and empowered pioneers

When the NWHL released their statement, Rylan made sure to include this line:

“We are incredibly proud to have such strong and empowered pioneers in our league.”

“They’re doing the right thing and they’re competing and they’re training as hard as they can. We have to hand it to them,” stated Connecticut Whale coach Heather Linstad. “This isn’t just about them either. We're talking about the little mini mite girls that are coming up, that’s what we're talking about here. They're doing something to make it right for all of those little girls that are coming in, and not just in hockey. This is a standard for women athletes.”

The last line is especially true. As the US Women’s Soccer Team currently fights for equal pay, the support is coming together for women’s sports. These players know that they have been undervalued, and they are saying no more.

Yesterday, USA Hockey issued a 5pm deadline for the Women’s National Team to declare their intentions of playing in the World Championships. When the women stood strong, USA Hockey backtracked to claim that the deadline “was never meant to be a line in the sand.”

USA Hockey fails to realize that the line was already drawn - just not by them. These women are strong, are united, and are here to fight.