Three hockey superstars thanked Unifor and its members for their support of the newly-formed Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA), a players’ union fighting for pay equity for women’s hockey.
Kendall Coyne and Marie-Philip Poulin spoke in person at Convention and CWHL great and Team Canada Olympian Natalie Spooner joined the 3rd Unifor Constitutional Convention on Thursday morning by pre-recorded video. The three hockey players said Unifor’s support has been invaluable in allowing players to continue to train after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League disbanded suddenly earlier this year.
“After the league disbanded, the leadership at Unifor stepped in and immediately made an impact assisting us in securing ice facilities across the country,” said Spooner in the video. “I want to say to all the delegates and you, Jerry, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support and solidarity. Women's hockey is in a better place because of Unifor.”
When the women’s league disbanded, players took action, with many opting to sit out the upcoming season to protest the shocking state of professional women’s hockey. The players launched the #forthegame movement and formed the PWHPA with the goal of creating a viable professional North American women’s league.
Part of ensuring equal pay for women hockey players is raising the profile of women players. Coyne made huge waves when she became the first woman to compete in the NHL Skills Competition, finishing with the second-best time in the Fastest Skater match.
“It was after that moment that I realized the power that we have,” Coyne said to delegates. “When I was getting messages from thousands of young girls, and young boys telling me they wanted to skate as fast as me, I knew that moment had an impact on the sport.”
Members spoke at the microphones to share personal stories of their daughters and other young girls who are fighting for recognition, ice time and funding in sport. Jerry Dias presented Coyne and Poulin with Unifor hockey jerseys and, sporting one himself, cheered them on and promised Unifor would stand alongside them in their campaign for equity.
“Now, when you ask kids their favourite players, it isn’t always Sidney Crosby, but now it can be Kendall Coyne and other women players,” said Poulin.
The PWHPA members look forward to the creation of a WNHL one day, where women’s hockey can be equally valued, supported and watched.