Hockey star Hilary Knight scored three goals in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, helping the U.S. women's team take home the silver medal. But when the Games ended, Knight had few options to continue playing.
Why? Because, until recently, there was no pro hockey league for women in the U.S. "It's troubling when you've got this skill set and you can't get rewarded for it," says Knight, 26. "A lot of women give up their dream of playing hockey because there isn't a place for them."
Fortunately, the state of play is finally changing for the nation's female hockey players. On October 11, the brand-new National Women's Hockey League will take to the ice. The four teams—the Buffalo Beauts, Boston Pride, New York Riveters, and Connecticut Whale—will face off in 18 matches throughout the six-month-long season.
The salary is nothing like what their male NHL counterparts receive, but earning a paycheck (an average of $15,000 for the season) is huge for the league's 72 female players, who typically have to foot the bill for equipment, travel, and other expenses on their own. "Now, future generations can say, 'I want to be a professional hockey player,' and have that mean something," says Knight, who plays for Boston.
And like the men who vie for the Stanley Cup, the women will also compete in championship playoffs when the season ends in March. The prize: The Isobel Cup, which, fittingly, is named after Stanley's daughter.
A version of this article appears in the November issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now.
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