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Puck Daddy had the opportunity to interview US Women’s National Team (USWNT) captain Meghan Duggan on the team’s boycott of the upcoming World Championship.
The Q&A with Duggan goes through a majority of the topics to come to light in the past week and a half.
We’re going to do something a bit different.
There has been an amazing amount of reporting on the negotiations. At the end of most of Duggan’s answers, we’ve added links to further reading on the subject covered. It doesn’t encompass everything written but it hits on a lot.
PUCK DADDY: How are you? What’s the last week and a half been like for you?
MEGHAN DUGGAN: I’m good, I’m good. It’s certainly been busy as everyone has been seeing and following in the media. Definitely a lot going on on our end, but I’m confident. Proud of my team and everyone that’s been involved.
It’s been a united group and a really strong group from the start, and that’s the only reason why we’ve been able to, I think, take this stand. It’s because we’re all in this together and been leaning on each other throughout the entire thing and communicating very well and so, yeah, it’s good.
The team did a social media blast on Friday morning (see above). Why did you choose ‘limitless’ as your word?
DUGGAN: I love the word. I think it means a lot internally to us as players, our team and our program. I think that, in this day and age, everyone, regardless of gender, or anything else, it shouldn’t put limits on themselves, and that’s what we’re doing right now.
There shouldn’t be limits on women in terms of their equitable support in relation to men in any organization or any employment opportunity. We talk a lot about being ‘limitless’ in our program in terms of types of things we’re trying to achieve as players, and I think this falls right into that category.
Can you give readers what life like for a post-college women’s hockey player who is in the National Team system?
DUGGAN: It’s different for everyone, obviously, and how they choose to balance their life and their financial needs and outside career path with their training and preparation for the National Team.
First of all, to stay with the National Team, to keep making that roster, to keep getting invited to those training camps and major [International Ice Hockey Federation] tournaments and to be a part of a team is a 365 day a year job without question. The National Team in all of our eyes, how passionate we are about it and what it takes to remain on that team. It dictates where we live, what we do every day, what we eat, how much sleep we get, who we interact with, and exactly what our days are like every day. And that’s just what it takes to stay on that team.
Everyone on our team does something else at this point, as a post-grad player, to help support themselves financially.
A lot of girls balance a full-time job. I, myself, the last two seasons had a coaching job in the NCAA. That was full-time in addition to my training. This year I stepped away from that job just solely to focus one hundred more on my training because it was certainly a lot to juggle in those other two years.
But even with myself stepping away from that job, and any of the other girls that don’t have full-time jobs, there’s tons of part-time things we have to pick up; whether it’s private lessons or speaking events, pretty much doing everything we can to supplement and to help us out from a financial basis.
There’s a lot of girls that rely on their parents for certain things; rely on their spouses or significant others for certain things, but there’s not one overall path that everyone once they graduate college, but you’ve got to start thinking about other things and how to make ends meet once you leave that glorious NCAA blanket.
• Women’s U.S. hockey players want to sit in business class, not coach (terrible headline, but informative read). [CNN Money]
The initial comparison is what the US team has versus Hockey Canada. They get a lot of government funding, though. How did the National Team formulate their demands?
DUGGAN: We did a lot of research in a lot of different areas before we went into this. It isn’t something we came to overnight. There was a lot conversations and fact checking and things like that, and we understand and know some of the elements and things that go along with Hockey Canada and how they run their program, but to be honest, I think we’re just focused on us.
This and our communication with each other and how we understand it, and what we think is important as American women. This fight and this battle doesn’t have anything to do with the Hockey Canada girls. For us I think we feel like what we have asked for is certainly appropriate for American players, female American players in this program.
• For more on how Hockey Canada pays it’s players, read ‘Elite athlete funding in the U.S. and Canada: How national team players get paid.’ [The Ice Garden]
The negotiations have been going on for the past year and half. Why announce your stance and the boycott two and a half weeks before Worlds?
DUGGAN: I wish a year and a half or a year ago we were able to come to an agreement on these terms. But in all the meetings that we had and the back and forth with USA Hockey we weren’t making any progress. Negotiations were at a standstill, and we got to the point last week where we felt that we had to take the next step, and it was a crucial next step.
The last thing that we would ever want to do is sacrifice a world championship, a defense of a gold medal on home soil, and I don’t think that people realize, maybe, how difficult it is for us to put that on the line. We’ve trained for it all year, but, at the same time, I think it shows how important this is to our program. How important this is to the future of USA Hockey on the women’s side and how passionate we are about it.
I think it’s the right time for a ton of reasons, and certainly proud to be doing it right now.
• How female athletes can help advance the fight for fair pay. [Time]
• Women have already beaten USA Hockey at bargaining table. [USA Today]
• US Women’s National Team demands better from USA Hockey. [Victory Press]
• USA Hockey’s ignorant, misguided response to USWNT boycott. [Puck Daddy]
Can you explain why the boycott is about “more than just the money”?
DUGGAN: We’ve spoken from day one about how compensation is a piece of it. The other areas are in terms of programming and us wanting to play more games.
The comparison [used] is the [US National Development Team] program playing sixty game a season, where our team, in a non-Olympic year, plays nine. We want to play more games.
Then also just the marketing and PR and promotional aspects of our team. You saw the example of the jerseys before the 2014 Olympics. The women, from a marketing and PR and communications standpoint, are an afterthought, for lack of a better term.
One of the biggest parts of this movement is we, as women who have been involved in this program a long time, feel that it is necessary that the culture and mindset change within the USA Hockey higher-ups needs to change in regards to how they respect and treat and value the women in this program. That to me is more important than anything.
I think with all of those areas, the compensation piece, all the other proposed terms that we’ve talked about, in terms of injury and pregnancy and travel, staffing, meals, guest funds, things like that, they’ve really shown the women are an afterthought.
The biggest piece to me, and to the rest of the team, I think is getting across to them is that it’s 2017, and we’re not going to be underestimated anymore. We don’t want to be an afterthought. This is important for the young girls and the future of this program that these things change.
• Women’s boycott highlights opportunity for major change at USA Hockey. [ESPN]
• Women’s Team’s fight sheds light on USA Hockey leadership. [NY Times]
• USA Hockey takes another wrong turn in talks with women’s team. [ESPN]
• Wrong message being sent in USA Hockey’s rigid stance on women’s team pay dispute. [Toronto Sun]
• USA Hockey’s misleading claims on women’s hockey support. [Puck Daddy]
In USA Hockey’s statement prior to in-person negotiations on Monday, they made special mention about childcare. Can you go into the request for maternity leave coverage and how having a child impacts a female professional athlete differently?
DUGGAN: There are some of us that have been around for ten years and are getting close to thirty. Jocelyne Lamoreux said it pretty well: time and time again we shouldn’t have to choose between between continuing and playing hockey, doing what we love and representing USA Hockey, and having a family.
There’s a lot of players on the team that, in their near future, are marriage and kids and things like that, but don’t want to feel like they have to give up hockey and our love for this game and representing our country at the Olympics for that. Men often don’t have to choose, when you look at it on that side.
I think for us, just having something in place, from a pregnancy standpoint within USA Hockey, it just hasn’t been something that’s been talked about. It hasn’t been a major issue in the past few years because we don’t have anyone on the team, aside from Jenny Potter 10 to 12 years ago that had a child while still playing, but it is something that I think we as players feel that, for the future of this program there needs to be a policy in place.
It was nothing like there needs to be a specific maternity leave, but we wanted to start the conversation with USA Hockey about should a player become pregnant, now what? What is USA Hockey’s obligation to that [player] if the player wants to continue playing, how do we deal with that financially? Is there a daycare and a nanny support after the player has the baby and now wants to come back?
It’s a lot of that stuff we wanted to start the conversation and have that talk with them about that.
Does that include holding a spot on the roster?
DUGGAN: That’s certainly a part of it. We talked about upon the players return she has the opportunity to, after medical clearance, have the opportunity to be invited back to the next one or two training camps.
Of course, within any national program, you still have to prove yourself. This is so that there’s no pregnancy discrimination and [players] are given an opportunity to come back once cleared medically. I think we put it at no less than two training camps.
CNN Money reported USA Hockey doesn’t provide disability insurance. Is that correct?
DUGGAN: The insurance portion is a little bit difficult to understand. Those are some of the things we’re still currently discussing with them from an injury protection and worker’s compensation and all that standpoint.
It’s difficult to give an exact answer because USA Hockey doesn’t see us as employees. They’ve made that very clear. They don’t want to “employ” the players. So, in terms of disability and worker’s comp and a lot of that is kind of an interesting line there.
Has the IIHF, United States Olympic Committee (USOC), or International Olympic Committee (IOC) weighed in or spoken to the team at all?
DUGGAN: Not that I’m aware of.
• USA Hockey’s plan for replacements raises questions about anti-doping protocols. [USA Today]
You’re featured in a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial wearing a Team USA jersey. Have you or anyone on the team heard from sponsors?
DUGGAN: Not that I’m aware of, but people I’ve been involved with, that I know from a sponsorship standpoint, I would not be surprised if they are reaching out to USA Hockey and putting the pressure on them a little bit.
I would love to think that they are. There’s a lot of unbelievable people who sponsor women’s hockey, and put money into it because they believe in the product and so do we.
I think ultimately this is about wanting the higher-ups at USA Hockey to believe in this product. I would hope that they are. I haven’t heard any specifics as of late.
• After our interview with Duggan, Dunkin’ Donuts issued a statement: ‘U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team receiving major support in USA Hockey dispute.’ [USA Today]
• David Nectow, the president of Total Hockey (a USA Hockey sponsor) released a statement:
You’re ‘Captain America.’ Do you feel added responsibility to be out front for this movement?
DUGGAN: Our entire group is unified. We’ve had discussions with the whole Worlds team, the [USA Hockey] player pool, the U-18 team. We’ve been working through this together.
As captain, and as one of the veteran players, it’s important to me. I’m passionate about speaking up. I’m proud to be leading the charge alongside all of my teammates.
Our core leadership group has been absolutely fantastic. In the initial press release that went out last Wednesday, there were five names: myself, Hilary [Knight], the Lamoureux twins [Jocelyn and Monique], and Kacey Bellamy who were going to be available for press and media and comments and things like that. Everyone has heard our voices more than the rest of the team, but I can say with one hundred percent confidence that we’re in communication with our team all the time.
Everything we say is on behalf of team, and the communication piece has been the biggest part of why this is going to be successful. We constantly ask the girls ‘is there anyone that feels they need to say anything for themselves? Do we want to continue with a few of us speaking on behalf of the team?’ And [the answers are] ‘we’re good with that, and we’re going to continue that way.’
Anything that comes out of any of our mouths is a clear indication of how the team feels.
Finally, if I were a little girl playing on an all boys team, what would you tell me about why the National Team is doing what they’re doing?
DUGGAN: I would say: this fight is for you. Women are amazing. Be proud to be one. Keep playing, stand up for yourself because this is for you.
We want to be the change and we want to make the change women’s sports in this country.
This is for you.
• Best perspective: Auston Matthews vs. Makenna Newkirk: The case against USA Hockey. [Pension Plan Puppets]
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USA Hockey has made it clear they want to play Worlds with the initial roster named to the tournament. However, they’ve also indicated that they will be reaching out to other players in order to secure a roster to play.
At the time, we wrote this was a major tipping point for women who play hockey and are within the USA Hockey grasp. Any player that crossed the picket line would draw a serious blow to the movement and their future career.
According to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski, it’s not going well.
Yes, USA Hockey is so desperate that they’re reaching out to HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS to go against the likes of Marie-Philip Poulin and Team Canada.
Not only is this desperate, it’s incredibly dangerous. If Duggan is correct and the players aren’t fully insured as is, the risk goes up significantly when putting kids on the ice against the best women’s hockey players in the world.
On Twitter, those approached to play are posting tweets with a modified Jerry Rice quote to show they’ve turned down the offer. The list continues to grow each day.
More on USA Hockey’s decision to search for replacement players:
• Saying no to USAH: Q&A with University of Minnesota’s Cara Piazza. [The Ice Garden]
• USA Hockey is trying to ice a team of scabs for the Women’s World Championship. [Vice Sports]
• ‘Women’s players declining inquiries from USA Hockey to serve as replacements.’ [espnW]
• ‘USA Hockey tries, fails to find World Championship replacement players as Women’s National Team boycotts.’ [Deadspin]
• USA Hockey rebuffed as replacements stand in support of women’s boycott. [The Guardian]
• Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey. [AP]
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One last bombshell…
From NHL Player Agent Allan Walsh:
HUGE IF TRUE.
Player support from the Men’s National Team and other NHL’ers has been welcomed but hardly groundbreaking.
None of the statements issued by players thus far have included any sort threat (for lack of a better term) to USA Hockey. Support, yes. Something that would make USA Hockey get super serious, super fast? No.
Allies in this fight are welcomed in any way. A movement of this magnitude by the Men’s Team means far more than any 140 character post.
Side note: One group you will definitely not see get involved is the NHL. They do give money to USA Hockey for grassroots growth, but don’t stipulate how USA Hockey should use the money. It’s all part of the collective bargaining agreement.
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