Top women’s hockey players announce series of tournaments

Growing up, Kendall Coyne Schofield recalled how her dreams of playing hockey ended at college, or maybe the Winter Games — something the two-time U.S. Olympian forward eventually would achieve.

Playing professionally was never part of the equation, which is something Coyne Schofield remembers once mentioning to American predecessor Cammi Granato, noting how girls can win only gold medals but boys can win Stanley Cups.

“You always grow up and hear boys say, ‘I want to be a pro hockey player one day.’ You don’t hear little girls saying that. They say, ‘I want to go to the Olympics,’” Coyne said Tuesday. “That’s the pinnacle of our sport. I can’t make a living playing this sport. … So when I graduate college, I either go to the Olympic Games or get a job.”

Coyne Schofield and more than 200 of the world’s top female players who have pledged to not compete in North America this season are determined to change that notion.

They’re launching what’s being called “The Dream Gap Tour,” announced by the newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association on Wednesday.

The tour’s first stop will be in Toronto, Sept. 20-22, followed by an event in Hudson, N.H., Oct. 4-6 and Chicago, Oct. 18-20. The union also announced its members will play exhibition games against Boston College on Sept. 21 and against the Sharks’ alumni in San Jose on Sept. 22.

The event in San Jose will be part of the Sharks’ Fanfest.

“The PWHPA is extremely excited to be heading to San Jose to play the Sharks Alumni team,” Coyne Schofield said in a statement. “We are very thankful for the Sharks support of the PWHPA. … Ever since the fastest skater competition at the Shark Tank in January, I have felt like a member of the Sharks family and I can’t wait to get back to the San Jose community with 15 of my other teammates.”

It’s essentially a barn-storming tour made up of PWHPA members seeking to bring the sports’ stakeholders — including the NHL, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada — to the table to establish a single league with a sustainable economic model, featuring the world’s top players.

The boycott and the union sprung from the demise of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which folded because of financial reasons last spring. That left the U.S.-based, five-team National Women’s Hockey League as North America’s only pro women’s league. It is privately backed and has endured financial struggles since it was established in 2015.

Billie Jean King entered the picture to provide guidance. On Monday, she was joined by five female hockey Olympians, including Coyne Schofield, at the U.S. Open, where they posed for a picture posted on King’s Twitter account hinting at the Dream Gap Tour announcement.

“We envisioned a world where any girl, if she is good enough, would have a place to compete, would be appreciated for her skills and accomplishments, and could make a living playing professional tennis,” King said. “Today, almost 50 years later, the women of professional hockey, soccer and other sports are facing the same situation, and our vision has not changed. Everyone should be able to have the dream and the opportunity to earn a living playing the sport they love.”

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Top-women-s-hockey-players-announce-series-of-14396222.php.

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