In January the Premiere Hockey Federation (formerly the National Women’s Hockey League) made an announcement that actually does change the game for women: a $25 million cash infusion, which more than doubled the salary cap for players. For most, the new average salary of $37,500 still won’t be enough to be a sole source of income, but it’s a step. (The deal, the biggest in women’s hockey history, also provides health insurance for players, ownership over their own name and likeness, and equity shares in team revenues.)
This is what keeps Coyne Schofield fighting. “I live for those little moments of success, those little victories,” she says. “Then you fight the next fight, and the next fight, and the next fight.”
I ask when she thinks women’s hockey players won’t have to fight so hard, when the push for equal investment will reach critical mass and the women representing the USA at the Olympics won’t also have day jobs. “I hope tomorrow. Yesterday. Ten years ago,” she says. “I would give everything I have and everything I’ve accomplished, everything I’ve done in this sport to change that for tomorrow.”
When we spoke a few weeks before the start of the Beijing Olympics—Coyne Schofield’s third—she was focused on leading her team through the most high-stakes moment in their careers against the backdrop of global burnout to bring home another gold medal. No biggie. She is characteristically humble about the responsibility. “I’m so honored to be a captain of this team,” she says. “But I think it’s so easy to lead this group when every player in this room is a leader. Every player has had to lead on and off the ice; that’s how they got to this level. We’re a family. The closer we are off the ice, the more successful we are on the ice. We get the most out of each other. We hold each other accountable, and we push each other to be the best that we can be.”
If their shared struggle is what’s made this team so tight-knit, it might also be the secret to an edge in Beijing—the second Olympics held in the uncertainty of the pandemic, and the first time they’ll meet Team Canada after losing the last two pre-Olympics friendly matches to their rivals. “There’s a lot of uncertainty going into Beijing, but I think we’ve done an incredible job controlling what we can control,” she says. “That’s our work ethic; that’s our preparation. This group’s mindset has been so strong, so resilient, especially after these last 18 months when things have been canceled without any clarity and we don’t have as much programming as we need or as we deserve. But we continue to fight. And we do it together.”
The women’s hockey quarterfinals begin February 10. See where to catch all the Olympics action here.