USA Hockey, women’s national team avoid boycott with new contract
The United States Women’s National Team ended their boycott of the Women’s World Championships on Tuesday night after coming to a four-year agreement with USA Hockey.
According to Craig Custance of ESPN, the National Team will practice in Plymouth, Michigan on Thursday. The tournament starts Friday with a game against rival Team Canada.
No financial terms were released. However, Custance reports there are ‘major increases in compensation, travel and insurance benefits and a committee to give women more of a voice in USA Hockey.’
The committee, or ‘Women’s High Performance Advisory Group,’ will be comprised of ‘former and current players from the U.S. Women’s National Team program, along with volunteer and staff leadership.’ Their responsibilities are focused on advancing girls’ and women’s hockey ‘in all areas, including programming, marketing, promotion and fundraising’ in addition to the current grassroots hockey efforts already in place.
From the joint press release issued by the players and USA Hockey:
“Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey. “We’ll now move forward together knowing we’ll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.”
“Our sport is the big winner today,” said Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”
“We look forward to the future with great anticipation,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “This process has, in the end, made us better.”
“I’m glad we could come together and reach an arrangement that will have a positive and lasting impact,” said Hilary Knight, veteran forward of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “This is an inspirational time and we’re excited to get back on the ice and represent our country.”
“The action taken today is an important statement of USA Hockey’s commitment and support of our women’s national team program and female hockey overall,” said Donna Guariglia, treasurer of USA Hockey and former chair of USA Hockey’s Girls’ and Women’s Section.
The negotiation on a new deal between the sides had gone on for 18 months. The issues for the players: Seeking “equitable support in the areas of financial compensation, youth team development, equipment, travel expenses, hotel accommodations, meals, staffing, transportation, marketing and publicity.”
That meant settling complicated issues like a “living wage” for players outside of the six-month period before the Olympics, and easier fixes like marketing the women’s national team on par with the men’s players – is there any reason both teams wouldn’t be at an Olympic jersey unveiling, for example?
The U.S. women’s national team players announced a boycott of the IIHF world championships, which were due to start on March 31 in Michigan, with a coordinated media blast on March 15: Dozens of players posted the same statement on social media while ESPNW ran a lengthy piece detailing the core issues of their boycott at the same time.
USA Hockey responded with a statement that offered hard numbers but not forthright detail: For example, citing an $85,000 salary without mentioning hockey much of that money came from the USOC and bonuses for winning gold medals.
On March 20, a tentative deal between the two sides was reached, but the USA Hockey executive committee spiked it, according to USA Today.
On March 22, USA Hockey cancelled the training camps for the IIHF worlds.
Meanwhile, USA Hockey was attempting to find a “Plan B” if the national team players continued their boycott. They contacted under-22 and under-18 national team players, even before negotiating with the national team players. They were rebuffed. They dropped down a level to inquire about the availability of rec league players and some of the nation’s top high-school players as well, and found them in lockstep with the USWNT:
Today I will do what others won't so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC #BeBoldForChange
— Natalie Snodgrass (@nataliesnod9) March 24, 2017
Meanwhile, the players found themselves with significant allies. The NHLPA supported them, as did the MLBPA and the NFLPA. A few NHL players, like Zach Bogosian of the Buffalo Sabres, offered support.
But behind the scenes, according to NHL agent Allan Walsh, players were considering their own “boycott” of the IIHF worlds:
Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men's World Championships in solidarity with the women.
— Allan Walsh (@walsha) March 26, 2017
This story, though unsubstantiated, turned up the heat on USA Hockey considerably. So did the 16 U.S. Senators who spoke out in favor of the players.
On Monday, 70 members of USA Hockey’s executive board were on a conference call that lasted more than three hours.
“I can’t talk too much about the substance of yesterday’s call, but I think everyone shares the view and the desire to put women’s hockey in a place where there’s access, and people want to play the sport. That certainly exists in USA Hockey and was reinforced in yesterday’s call. I think everybody’s working toward the same goal. Hopefully it gets resolved quickly,” said NHL commissioner Bill Daly.
That call helped produce the deal that finally ended this ugly stalemate between the players and USA Hockey.
Additional reporting by Jen Neale.
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
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