Friday night was filled with a lot of firsts during the NHL All-Star Skills Competition. US Olympian Kendall Coyne Schofield was front and center at the start as the first woman to ever compete in the NHL Skills Competition. Then, her PyeongChang teammate Brianna Decker outpaced every man in the Premier Passing event.
As Decker was a demonstrator and not a participant, her time wasn’t televised. That didn’t stop word getting out late last night, and so when Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers was crowned the winner with his completion time of 1:09, fans began to take notice that Brianna Decker’s demonstration was finished in 1:06.
This means that the title of Best Premier Passer doesn’t belong to Draisaitl. And while a fun, meaningless title from an NHL game may not mean much, the $25,000 check that comes along with it does. It means even more when Draisaitl’s NHL salary of $9 million a year is compared to Decker’s CWHL salary, somewhere in the $10,000 range, and her USA Hockey salary of no more than $70,000.
When asked about if he knew she had beaten his time, Draisaitl said honestly that he didn’t. But he was impressed, as were many fans of both Decker and the game of hockey as a whole, all too aware that she still ran the course faster than everyone else and would only go home with the fond memory.
Thus sparking #PayDecker.
Overnight, both the Twitter hashtag and Brianna Decker herself trended in 21 North American cities and counting. Fans sought to grab either the NHL’s or Draisaitl’s attention to offer Decker the money.
In the end it came not from the league or from Draisaitl, but from Canadian hockey equipment brand CCM, who sponsors Decker and a roster of other internationally-renowned talent. The company announced via Twitter on January 26 that they were, in fact, going to #PayDecker the $25,000.
While it’s less than ideal to see a third party correcting the NHL’s error, it’s certainly a step in the right direction and Decker was recognized for decimating the competition as she “casually [went] through the demo.”
Considering Decker and Coyne Schofield made more headlines today than anyone else from the Skills Competition, last night is at least in part a win for the progression of women’s hockey. It’s also yet another failed test for the NHL’s attitude towards female athletes.
Update: The NHL honored all four women during an intermission of the All-Star Game, and announced they will donate $25,000 per player to a charity or hockey organization of their choice.
This comes just a short time after announcing the league checked Decker’s time during her demonstration and observed it to be “around 1:12-13” instead of 1:06, however have not released evidence of the run time.
NHL did check Brianna Decker’s time. Was around 1:12-13 — still outstanding in a very hard event. Wanted to “do the right thing” if she did win. Decker, Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Rebecca Johnston and Renata Fast will be recognized tonight.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) January 27, 2019