In what can only be described as the smallest of hat tips to diversity and inclusion, U.S. women’s national team hockey player Brianna Decker was brought out to demonstrate the premier passing drill at the NHL All-Star skills event on Friday. While the league never bothered to show her demonstration on television, a Twitter user was able to capture Decker completing the drill with speed that was rather impressive.
As it turns out, Decker not only appeared to complete the drill quickly, she ended up finishing the course with the fastest time out of everyone who participated in it, which included eight NHL players. Her time of 1:06—which was deduced through social media—beat out Oilers center Leon Draisaitl, who completed the course in 1:09. Draisaitl, however, ended up getting the premier passing title and a $25,000 cash prize. Once fans started to see that the league was not going to give any credence to Decker’s performance, #PayDecker began circulating on Twitter in an attempt to get the underpaid player her prize money.
As the league remained silent on the issue and hashtag, hockey manufacturing company CCM took the opportunity to capitalize on the moment and offered to pay Decker the $25,000.
But it shouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place. It’s not as if this concern was raised a whole day after everything went down. As the event was happening live, people started to notice pretty quickly that most of the NHL players were not getting through the drill as quickly as Decker had. In fact, six of the participants—Erik Karlsson, Keith Yandle, Mikko Rantanen, Roman Josi, Ryan O’Reilly, and Thomas Chabot—finished with times higher than 1:25, which Decker indisputably cleared.
It’s also not as if this the league wasn’t prepared for the idea of a co-ed competition that night, as Olympic gold medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield was invited to participate in the fastest skater competition. Schofield was the first woman hockey player to ever take part in the All-Star skills event. Sure, the NHL would have had to make some slight rearrangements to allow her time to officially count, but the sanctity of the sport likely would have survived. Events like these are fun, but they are only a couple steps removed from the games crowd members are brought down to participate in on the ice during the time between periods, meaning the rules can easily be tweaked.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said just hours before Friday’s event that “diversity and inclusion” were still considered pillars of the league. Rather than show that he said what he meant by acknowledging Decker, he allowed another entity to come in and prove that his statement was only for show—just like he thought Decker’s course run would be.
Update 8:41 p.m. ET: Elliotte Friedman reports that the league did check Decker’s time (sure) and would have “done the right thing” had she actually won (again, sure).