Overcoming inequity in women’s hockey, explained by Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux

2018 Olympic gold medalists Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson
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Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, 2018 Olympic gold medalists Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson announced their retirement from hockey. In 2017, the Lamoureux twins were members of the U.S. team that threatened to boycott the World Championship tournament if a dispute with USA Hockey (the team’s national governing body) was not resolved in time. At the time, players were advocating for more equitable pay and resources (including maternity protections). The following year, the twins played a major role in helping the U.S. women’s hockey team claim its first gold medal since 1998. Monique and Jocelyne wrote about their career in hockey – from their early days playing pond hockey with their four brothers in North Dakota to their experience at the negotiating table – in their autobiography, Dare to Make History: Chasing a Dream and Fighting for Equity, which was published today (link here). 

By Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson

We first see the inequities

Jocelyne: When we were in high school at Shattuck St-Mary’s, our coach’s son made the world junior team. I remember hearing about his son’s experience and what the players were getting and thinking that must be pretty amazing.

Not long after, we started getting invited to U.S. national team camps and ultimately made our first national team. That’s when we realized that the women’s team wasn’t being given the same resources as the men.

Some of the discrepancies were more noticeable than others.

Monique: When we went to tournaments, our meals were provided at the hotel. But as athletes, we’re typically eating more than three meals a day – and not on a defined schedule. We received a per diem from USA Hockey to pay for additional food and other expenses, but the women received only $15/day, while male players received $50/day.

Jocelyne: Another inequity was with equipment. Male goalies on the national team received three custom painted red, white, and blue helmets. When women collegiate goalies made the national team, however, they would still go to national team events in their college gear.

Monique: This inequity was overlooked for a long time because it wasn’t so noticeable when the starting goalie, Jessie Vetter, who went to Wisconsin, had red and white pads that blended in with the red, white, and blue colors of the national team.

Jocelyne: It became more noticeable, though, when Maddie Rooney – who went to Minnesota Duluth – was playing in maroon and yellow pads. Or when Nicole Hensley wore her vintage brown pads.

Monique: Then there are the rings. Whenever the U.S. men’s junior team won a championship, they would get their championship rings within months. Not so for the women. We won six world titles for the U.S., but to this day, we only have four rings. And at one point, we only had one.

At the end of the day, our fight wasn’t about the rings. But the rings just symbolized so much of what we were dealing with – a lack of respect and a basic inequity. Today, these are things that USA Hockey is working on making right with past players and teams. Change doesn’t happen overnight; it is a process that the players and USA Hockey remain committed to working on.

Jocelyne: Growing up, I don’t think we really understood the difference between equity and equality. But when we began negotiating with USA Hockey in the lead-up to the 2017 World Championships, our negotiations were based upon wanting more equitable support as compared to the men’s team, not equal pay.

Our ask was thoughtfully developed and justified on multiple grounds. Starting with the unequal playing commitments for the men and the women. The U.S. men’s national team had a much smaller obligation than that of the U.S. women’s national team. The men play in one world championship tournament each year – and then the Olympics.

Monique: Meanwhile, the women’s team goes to camp every 6-8 weeks and plays in more games year-round. At the time, USA Hockey was paying the women only in the six-month lead-up to each Olympics.

During the other three-and-a-half years, the women were eligible for training stipends from the USOPC, which ranged from $500 to $2000 a month. These modest stipends were supposed to be for paying training expenses, but a lot of athletes used them to pay rent, make car payments, or pay whatever outstanding bills they may have had. And most of us ended up having second jobs – even while trying to train as elite Olympic athletes. This story is not unique to women’s hockey players; it is the reality for most Olympic athletes.

Arriving at the negotiating table

Jocelyne: While we were looking for more financial support so that we wouldn’t have to work a second job on top of our training obligations we were not looking for equal pay. We were focused on more equitable treatment. How the men travel is how we should travel.  If the men have a family fund, then we should have a family fund. Girls’ junior teams should be supported at the same level as boys’ junior teams.

Monique: When we started the negotiation process, we discovered that some of the inequities we were experiencing weren’t necessarily malicious. Many of them were the product of decades of history – sort of the product of inertia.

Jocelyne: In some ways, there was just a lack of awareness that we were being treated differently.

Monique: Sometimes, we would point out an inequity, and the response would almost be one of surprise and USA Hockey would want to make it right.

Jocelyne: But we had some very big gaps to close. And we quickly learned that in order to make change, you have to have tough conversations. It’s hard to step up and say critical things, and in some cases, it can also be hard to listen to such critical things. When the stakes are high, the risks that both sides are prepared to take are also high.

When we finally came to an agreement with USA Hockey in 2017, it was historic in many respects, including some of the commitments for support and for some innovative agreements, including the sport’s leading maternity leave policy.

And we’ve personally felt the impact of that agreement over the last three years. We’re the first two ice hockey players to receive the benefits of the maternity policy, which included full pay, a childcare stipend, and a guaranteed invitation to two national team camps. That made a huge difference for us. After we had kids, we wouldn’t have been able to come back had it not been for that policy.

The next frontier

Jocelyne: For too long, I think women were forced to feel grateful to have the opportunity to wear the red, white, and blue, and minimize the struggles that it takes to get there and takes to stay there. I think that’s part of the reason careers have been so short in women’s hockey.

While the situation with USA Hockey has improved since we made our first national team, there is still plenty of progress to be made in women’s hockey. Given the current landscape of the sport, players are putting off having families to compete at the Olympics. One of the key missing pieces is a real, thriving professional league for elite women players.

Monique: So that is one of our priorities. In the near future, we’re hoping that there will be a more sustainable professional women’s league that can support more than just the U.S. national team players. That way, women can continue to play with the appropriate financial support and benefits.

Jocelyne: Over the course of our careers, we’ve learned a lot. The value of focus. The importance of our teammates. The value of hard work. That it’s important to stand up for what’s right. And an unalterable belief that equitable treatment is a worthy goal. We’ve also learned that the goal of equitable treatment is worth putting everything on the line. As we say in the title of our book, you should not hesitate to dare to make history. That’s what we did.

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