NHL slips up during All-Star weekend

Joseph A. Griswold – Assistant Sports Editor

One step forward, four steps back. That seems to be the mantra most major league sports are working under when it comes to gender equality. This year the National Hockey League invited four female players from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) to participate in the 2019 All-Star weekend located in San Jose, Calif.

Brianna Decker, a player for the Calgary Inferno member of the U.S. women’s national team, competed in the premier passing skills event and posted a blazing unofficial time of 1:06 which bested the eight NHL players in the competition. The closest time was Edmonton Oilers’ forward Leon Draisaitl who posted a time of 1:09. Normally, the player with the fastest time is awarded $25,000; however, since Decker was not officially in the competition, she was not awarded the prize and the money was awarded to Draisaitl.

NHL player, Brianna Decker, Photo courtesy Deadspin

Fans were outraged after the money was not awarded to Decker, and took to Twitter causing #PayDecker to start trending. Rather than make the appropriate move and pay Decker, who makes only $22,000 in an entire year, the NHL decided to carefully review her time to show that she, in fact, finished slightly after Draisaitl who is set to make $9 million this year.

The NHL then attempted to save face by donating $25,000 to the charity of her choice. Luckily for the fans and for Decker, hockey brand CCM tweeted, “We’re going to #PayDecker,” citing her tremendous performance and their support for the women’s hockey.

Following the tweet by CCM, Decker responded thanking the fans and CCM for their support, “Thank you for supporting the men’s and women’s game equally.”

Despite the invite, the way the NHL handled the Decker situation is a black mark, especially considering it comes barely a week after the NHL celebrated “Hockey Is For Everyone,” a week aimed to highlight the uniting and inclusive nature of hockey.

The NHL is the latest league to prove that major league sports are still a long way from gender equality. Hopefully, the NHL sees this as a learning opportunity and will allow female players to actually partake in the competition next year, rather than a publicity stunt.