USA Hockey takes negotiations public, USWNT issues charged response

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of the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nhl/teams/buf/" data-ylk="slk:Buffalo Sabres">Buffalo Sabres</a> of the Arizona Coyotes during an NHL game on December 4, 2015 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York.
of the Buffalo Sabres of the Arizona Coyotes during an NHL game on December 4, 2015 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York.

Late Friday afternoon, USA Hockey took their negotiations with the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) public releasing a detailed statement regarding demands of the players and what the organization is willing to meet.

“We remain committed to having the players that were selected to represent the U.S. in the upcoming women’s world championship to be the players that are on the ice when the tournament begins,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey via press release.

USA Hockey stated the it would reach out to the attorneys for the USWNT to further the negotiation.

The organization’s statement comes after USA Hockey initially set a 5:00 p.m. EST deadline on Thursday for the USWNT to state their intentions to play in World Championships starting March 31 – an event they are currently boycotting – or allow for USA Hockey to ice another team. The deadline passed without incident. USA Hockey later clarified the deadline was not considered a ‘line in the sand.’

As for the statement itself, it’s lengthy. You can read the entire message here.

We’re working to breakdown and fact check the document. For now, here are the most salient points.

USA Hockey is proposing the following:

USA Hockey has offered terms to the Women’s National Team players for the Olympic training and performance period that include the opportunity to be provided with more than $90,000 in training stipends and other performance incentives for gold-medal performances in both the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship and the Olympic Winter Games. In the case of silver-medal performances in both events, players could receive $74,000 each. USA Hockey’s offer to the players is more than 50% greater than what they received in 2014. These figures do not include other substantial expenditures by USA Hockey for housing stipends, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite level support staff to train and prepare the players.

In non-Olympic years, players are typically together at various times throughout the year for approximately 60-70 days, for two competitions and three to four camps. Most players receive $24,000 each in cash training stipends, allocated by USA Hockey through funding provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Players are also eligible for a performance bonus up to $7,500 for winning gold in the world championship. Those funds are in addition to other expenditures for housing, travel, meals, insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite level support staff to train and prepare the players, a total that exceeds $1 million annually.

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From USA Hockey’s point of view, here is what the organization says the players are demanding:

According to our calculations, the players’ demands would result in total player compensation in an Olympic year of approximately $210,000 per player if the team attains a silver medal and $237,00 for a gold medal. The total includes requested player compensation, per game payments, travel for a guest to every event and exhibition game, roster bonus, performance bonuses, training stipends, and benefits and payroll taxes that would be required under the proposal. This does not include the operational expenses of the team, including housing stipend, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players, which in preparation for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games totaled more than $2 million. Further, the demands from the players also include a wide variety of other financial obligations to USA Hockey, such as business class airfare on flights of more than three hours, day care, nanny support and increased staffing that total more than $1.3 million.

Additionally, in a non-Olympic year, according to our calculations, the players’ demands would result in approximately $146,000 per player for a silver-medal performance and approximately $149,000 each for gold. The additional operational expenses of the team noted above are not included in those figures. Further, the demands from the players (business class airfare on flights of more than three hours, day care, nanny support and increased staffing, etc.) total more than $830,000.

In total, the player’s demands, including compensation, benefits and other expenses of operating the program, exceed $8 million in an Olympic year and $5.7 in a non-Olympic year.

REMEMBER: This is USA HOCKEY’S INTERPRETATION of what the players are asking for.

The Women’s National Team has not taken their negotiation this public. Their demands were more broad when initially released as is standard for a negotiation; unless one side is trying to shift public pressure.

What USA Hockey’s statement does not address at all is the USWNT’s demands for more funding into girl’s programs.

Yet they do get around to telling the women why they won’t pay “a living wage.” (Seriously, they devote an entire section to it.)

Why will USA Hockey not provide players a living wage?

Providing players a living wage implies USA Hockey employs players and it does not. Simply, USA Hockey does not pay players a salary – women or men – and instead provides training stipends and support to help put athletes that participate on our national teams in the best possible position to compete for a gold medal. USA Hockey is not a professional sports league, rather a non-profit organization that fields teams for international competition with players who participate on a voluntary basis. In a non-Olympic year, players from the U.S. Women’s National Team are typically involved in official team activities for a period of 60-70 days over the course of a year, while in an Olympic year, players have typically trained together in a residency program for the six months prior to the Games.

Then they go on to laud themselves for all they’ve done as an organization to help women in hockey and take credit for all they’ve done to grow participation in the game.

As of publication, the Women’s National Team has not released a counter statement. However Hilary Knight took to Twitter shortly thereafter to express her feelings.


Stay tuned.

UPDATE:

Attorneys representing the USWNT released the following statement at 8:15 p.m. EST:

USA Hockey has issued a press release with patently false information about the status of its negotiations with the players of the Women’s National Hockey Team.  The players are disheartened by the response, which fails to distinguish between funds from the U.S. Olympic Committee and funds from USA Hockey.

USA Hockey’s financial support for the Women’s National Team has been limited to the six-month period surrounding the Olympics—meaning that in 2014, USA Hockey paid the Women’s Olympic Team $1,000 per month for six months leading up to and including the Olympics, and virtually nothing outside of that time period, despite requirements that the players train on their own time, report to training camps, and compete in the World Championship, Four Nations Cup, and other games during the 42 months between Olympic periods. To say that USA Hockey does not require its elite athletes to train between competitions and that training camps are voluntary is simply untrue.  Players who fail to report to training camp are not eligible for selection to the team and USA Hockey coaches contact players between competitions to check on the status of their training programs.

In USA Hockey’s most recent proposal to the players, which came earlier this week, USA Hockey increased its offer to $3,000 per month for six months for a total of $18,000, but again failed to address the non-Olympic period. While USA Hockey focuses on medal incentives to bolster its purported offer to the players, those incentives come from the U.S. Olympic committee, are available to all Olympic athletes across sports, and do not contribute toward USA Hockey’s obligation as a national governing body to grow the sport equitably for boys, girls, men, and women.

Noticeably absent from USA Hockey’s press release is a breakdown of what it has offered the players for its commitment during the 3.5 years out of the Olympic period. The players encourage the public to seek clarity on this issue.

Those are some charged words from the USWNT and rightfully so. This is going to get uglier before it gets better, but it’s a necessary step in the process.

UPDATE #2:
Ms. Knight – FINISH HIM:


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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!

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