- - Monday, March 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

A photo made the rounds on social media last week and left a trail of scorched cyberspace. It showed more than two dozen men around a large conference table on Capitol Hill. With nary a woman in sight, they debated health-care issues that included …

Maternity leave and birth control.

I can’t help thinking that the same preponderance of testosterone existed during another recent debate involving the fairer sex. Only a bunch of cavemen would believe that recruiting scabs was a good response to the U.S. women’s hockey team complaints about unfair treatment.

Yeah, that was a great idea. Right up there with vapor-trail pucks and the XFL.

Let me get this straight: USA Hockey thought it could easily replace members of a program that won Olympic gold in 1998 — the first time women’s hockey was included — and three silvers and a bronze since. A program that won gold in seven of the last nine World Championships? Just because the women had the nerve to ask for equitable support compared to the men’s program?

The team picked a perfect time to squeeze the federation and threaten to boycott. The 2017 World Championships are set to start Friday at the former Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, marking the first international event hosted at the facility since USA Hockey purchased it in 2015. Teams from Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany will be there.

But questions about the defending champions’ presence remained on Monday as USA Hockey’s full board of directors met.

Thoughts of fielding a team thrown together at the last minute were shot down in spectacular fashion over the weekend. The organizing body deserves slap shots in the face for attempting such a move.

According to multiple reports, several high-profile pro and college players rejected overtures, as did several high-school aged players who pledged their support for the national team on Twitter. USA Hockey also reached out to Division III college players and former college players toiling in rec leagues. That’s how the roster would be filled if if the women’s team carries out its boycott.

“It almost seems like we’re the last resort and they’re just willing to throw us in there,” University of Wisconsin-River Falls junior forward Carli Moran told ESPN

They won’t succeed, but trying to pit our girls against the world’s grown women was bad enough. Backing for the national team has poured in like an odd-man rush.

The NHL Players Association issued a statement saying it “fully supports the U.S. women’s national team’s efforts to reach an equitable agreement with USA Hockey. It is important that the best American women players be on the ice for the championship, and the notion of seeking replacement players will only serve to make relationships, now and in the future, much worse.”

Hockey agent Allan Walsh tweeted that American NHL players would sit out of the men’s world championships in solidarity with the women. The National Women’s Hockey League also backed the national team, as well as the NFL and NBA players’ unions.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support we have received from the hockey community, professional players associations across the sports world, fans and beyond,” the U.S. women’s team said in a statement Sunday. “Let’s seize this opportunity for the players and USA Hockey to make history together as we elevate the sport of hockey for everyone — girls, boys, women and men. This agreement has the potential to be a game-changer for everyone.”

The women have a strong case, illustrated by stark and long-running differences in travel, accommodations, meals, staffing, marketing, wages and benefits. The inequalities exist not just between the women and the NHL players who compete on the senior national team. Even the junior men’s team — 18-year-old boys — receive better opportunities, such as a 60-game schedule during non-Olympic years compared to nine games for the women.

SB Nation pointed out the glaring contrast between two hockey players — one male and one female — from Scottsdale, Ariz. Auston Matthews was identified, nurtured and developed by USA Hockey until eventually becoming the No. 1 overall pick (Toronto) in the 2016 NHL Draft. Makanna Newkirk spent two years traveling from Arizona to Pennsylvania for better competition and eventually relocated to Connecticut for prep school before landing at Boston College, where she scored 49 points as a freshman.

From the article: “USA Hockey developed Auston Matthews. Makenna Newkirk developed Makenna Newkirk.”

The women’s hockey team is one of America’s most successful squads in winter sports and deserves better. You would think USA Hockey realizes the potential. Registration for female players rose almost 5 percent from 2014-15 to 2015-16 and 75 percent of those registered were girls 18 or under.

But maybe there’s a blind spot: Of the 14 executive committee members listed on USA Hockey’s website, only three are women. Only two of the 19 board members for the organization’s charity arm are women.

Just like the all-male legislators deciding female health issues, USA Hockey could use more of a women’s touch.

That would create better conditions for the ladies and keep the organization from embarrassing itself with another crazy idea like … “Let’s get a replacement team!”

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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