The difference between Men’s and Women’s Hockey is chilling


Hazel MicKinney

Senior Julia Offerdal on the varsity hockey team for Minneapolis playing against Saint Louis Park. Many things have changed for women in hockey. “The girls that did play at a high level played with the boys,” said Sarma Ozmen, the Minneapolis Women’s Hockey head coach.

Hazel McKinney, Staff Writer

The Minnesota Whitecaps are breaking barriers in women’s sports. This local hockey team is one of the only professional women’s hockey teams in the United States that has joined the NWHL. The NWHL is the National Women’s Hockey League, which was founded just three years ago in 2015. As of this year there are only five teams that are part of the league. The Boston Pride, the Buffalo Beauts, the Connecticut Whales, the Metropolitan Riveters, and now the Minnesota Whitecaps. The Whitecaps have been a Minnesota based team since 2004.

The NWHL is a step forward for all women’s sports. In the US there are limited women’s professional teams, among them are the WBL (Women’s Basketball League) and the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League). They still have many differences from the men’s professional teams.

The coach of the Whitecaps, is Ronda Curtin Engelhardt who played hockey as a gopher for the University of Minnesota when she was in college. Engelhardt played hockey with boys at a young age because at the time there were no competitive women’s teams. This still happens to this day but mostly because girls are looking for a more competitive team to grow their skills. “The girls that did play at a high level played with the boys,” said Sarma Ozmen, the Minneapolis Women’s Hockey head coach. Ozmen played hockey with Engelhardt as a gopher.

Ozmen talks about her frustration while starting out with hockey, “I delayed playing hockey until there were girls teams around so I started kinda late and I think I was in seventh or eighth grade when I started playing hockey,” she said. “It was just so uncommon to see girls playing hockey, I didn’t have role models that were females or anything. Just nobody played [at that time].” Women’s hockey did not get introduced to the olympics until the 1998 winter games, and men’s hockey was added a whole seventy eight years earlier that that.

One difference is that the professional women players still need to have full time jobs because most do not make enough money. The women’s teams get paid much less than the men’s for the same sport. For soccer, the average salary for a professional soccer player who is a woman is $37,000 a year, while for men the average is $300,000 in the U.S. It is an even bigger gap for WNBA players who make $50,000 to $110,000 while the starting salary for NBA players is around $560,000.

Sophomore Lily Anderson talks about the women’s soccer national team. “They won the world cup and then the men’s team [didn’t get in] but then the women still got paid less… It’s just really not fair.” Unequal pay is very relevant within the professional sports leagues.

Some of this may have to do with the popularity. Women’s sports are usually less supported than men’s and therefore get less revenue from games. “There’s more media covering men’s events and there’s more crowds. It is kind of a circle because if you have more media than maybe more people will come to the games,” said Ozmen. “I think we just live in a culture where men have dominated for so long it’s going to take a long time for it to even out.”

This can be seen in sports at South also.The is a large difference between the men and womens soccer team. The women’s program only had two teams this year, while the men’s had a total of four. Attendance at games is also something that impacts the whole program. “For Super Soccer Saturday, everyone only shows up for the guys teams,” said junior Ruby Davenport, who is a player on the South women’s varsity soccer team.

But some see some improvement. “There’s a lot more professional teams, college teams and young girls who are interested in playing sports,” said assistant coach Hailey Field for the Minneapolis Women’s Hockey team. “Girls now have so many opportunities, it’s great,” said coach Ozmen.

There have been some steps taken in order to encourage more girls to join sports. In 1972, a federal civil rights law was passed saying that no one could be denied the right to participate in a club or activity under any education system based on sex. From that year, participation in women’s sports rose over 10 times what it used to be in high schools according to the NCAA document, after 45 years of title IX.

There are still many gaps that exist between both professional and high school sports, between men and women.The wage gap will need to get better in order for many women to be able to play a professional sport for a living. Encouraging girls to participate in sports is also an important aspect that is often overlooked or disregarded. The more girls that join high school sports, the more women’s sports will grow in general.