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The United States Women’s National Hockey Team won big this year—and not just in major tournaments. This year, they fought for higher wages, equal training opportunities, and the right to be treated like real athletes. In the end, they came out on top. The members of this team started a revolution in girls’ hockey, and the other women in the sport stood with them. Without this unwavering support, the change never would have happened. The success of these efforts proves that the strength of massive numbers can lead to progress.

The International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championships were held this year in Plymouth, Michigan from March 31 to April 7. The United States played in the previous 17 championship games and won the last three; however, this year, the team almost did not attend.

The dispute centered around the team members’ wages. Women and men’s compensations are substantially different in many sports, including ice hockey. While the minimum National Hockey League salary in the 2015-2016 season was $575,000, the highest-paid player in the Women’s National Hockey League had a salary of $25,000, 1/23 of the salary of the lowest-paid player in the equivalent men’s hockey league.

Such a salary is insufficient to support a professional athlete, and so most NWHL players have to obtain second and sometimes even third jobs in order to stay afloat. However, balancing these separate employments becomes difficult since professional athletes must have a flexible schedule that allows them to constantly travel to games and camps. Tired of this inequality, the women’s team requested more compensation for all of the time and effort they put into their sport. After about one year of negotiations between the women’s team and USA hockey and almost no progress towards equality, the team finally threatened to boycott the games.

Throughout this process, the USA Hockey Federation started looking for other players. They reached out to girls from all over the United States in hopes of fielding a team for the Women’s World Championships. Every player, from other NWHL athletes to Division III college players who had previously never been considered for a National Team, was asked to replace the women on strike, but no one accepted. In sports, there is no greater honor than being asked to represent one’s country. However, these disputes resulted in players who had always dreamed of wearing their country’s jersey making the decision to refuse in order to advance the future of women’s hockey. They fought together for something bigger than themselves and, in the end, emerged victorious.

One day before the tournament began, USA Hockey and the women’s team reached a deal. While the specifics of the settlement have been kept private, a new board of advisors, consisting of current and former women’s hockey players, has been assembled in order to advance the sport and make sure that gender equality is achieved.

Not only did the United States Women’s National Hockey Team play in the finals of the World Championships, but they beat Canada with a score of 3-2 in overtime. Their efforts demonstrate just how much of an impact women can have if they band together and fight for a common goal. In the end, the U.S. Women’s National Team emerged not just with a victory on the ice but also with a victory for gender equality by setting a precedent for sports everywhere.