You might have heard that the United States women’s hockey team is boycotting the upcoming World Championship and grappling with USA Hockey about fair pay and support.
The saga is ongoing and getting more dramatic (and worse for USA Hockey) by the day. You might be wondering what all of this is about.
Let us explain.
Oh, and as always: keep up with The Ice Garden and their comprehensive timeline as this unfolds.
What started it? Why now?
According to the statement by national team players, USA Hockey and players had negotiated for a year without much progress.
“For us, we’ve gone back and forth with USA Hockey the last 12-16 months,” USA captain Meghan Duggan told Sportsnet after the boycott began. “We decided after a long period that we wanted to get some lawyers and really start fighting for some equitable support and wages for women in our sport.”
As for the timing, the World Championship begins in Michigan on March 30. Not a great look for USA Hockey if they, the hosts, have to field a subpar team due to boycotts.
What, exactly, does the women’s team want?
The players want a four-year contract with USA Hockey as opposed to the typical one-year contracts players usually sign. In essence, women’s players would be paid every year, even in non-Olympic years. This is similar to how Canadian players are paid. Unlike Team Canada, however, the US Olympic Committee is responsible for USA Hockey funding, not the federal government.
Julie Foudy wrote that the USA women’s soccer team signed a similar deal in 2000 that resulted in a decade of tremendous growth for the sport.
USA Hockey is opposed to the idea, stating their “role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so.”
It’s important to note the women aren’t asking for equal pay with the men’s players. They’re asking for living wages every year in between Olympics.
But the boycott’s goals extend beyond pay.
According attorney Dee Spagnuolo, players want 3 main things 1)Compensation 2)Increased programming 3)Support for marketing/PR @TheIceGarden— Erica L. Ayala (@elindsay08) March 15, 2017
Spagnuolo, by the way, represented U.S. women’s soccer in 2000.
USA Hockey invested $3.5 million annually in boy’s programs through their national development team program. A women’s team equivalent does not exist. The USWNT is fighting for more commitment and dollars spent in girls’ development programs, whether that takes the form of a USWNTDP or not.
Marketing plays a big part of that, as well, and the women would like to see more of that. Which makes Monday’s news (that USA Hockey turned down a high-dollar rematch with Team Canada without consulting players) even more worrisome. Imagine if they had done that with the men.
ThinkProgress summed up their support requests quite nicely:
They want to travel the way the men’s team does (which is, well, not in coach). They want USA Hockey to pay for them to bring a guest to big tournaments like they do for the men. They want more equipment — right now, many players have to ration three $250 sticks and one pair of $600 skates throughout the year. When college players are selected as goalies for the USWNT, they often aren’t even given Team USA gear at first — they have to play tournaments with their college gear. Once again, these are the best hockey players in the world who have to do this.
What’s USA Hockey’s stance?
USA Hockey’s initial statement said they’re disappointed with the boycott but “committed to continuing dialogue.” They also claimed they’re implementing additional support for the Olympic years, including “stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period.”
The USWNT’s lawyers disputed that claim mere hours later.
USA Hockey has already begun approaching potential replacements, with poor results. The movement is spreading, and USA Hockey is getting desperate.
Source close to the situation indicates that USAH started looking for "scabs" today. NWHL, Whitecaps, college players contacted. #USWNT— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) March 23, 2017
U18 has vowed to boycott Worlds, as has the NWHL. USWNT reached out to any USA team player from last year's pipeline.— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) March 23, 2017
Look at the NCAA women's hockey players refusing to scab on the US Women's Hockey, choosing solidarity over spotlight. This is how we win. pic.twitter.com/cY3gHMpR5W— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) March 24, 2017
Got word now that USA hockey reached out to a player on a U16 (!!!!!) team to play in World Championships.— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) March 26, 2017
ThinkProgress spoke to a former USWNT agent for his take on the situation, and he offered illuminating perspective on USA Hockey’s current opinion of women’s hockey.
Brant Feldman — an agent for many USWNT hockey players over the years, including current stars Meghan Duggan, Lamoureux-Davidson, and her twin sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morano — told ThinkProgress that he was part of negotiations with USA Hockey prior to the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Olympic cycles. He said USA Hockey never showed any willingness to budge on the contract that paid its players $6,000 over a four-year period.
According to Feldman, the organization told him during negotiations in 2009 that “women’s hockey is a money loser” for USA Hockey. That was the end of the conversation.
Whether that’s still true is unclear, but the fact negotiations fell apart to this current situation helps that anecdote hold water.
So what have recent negotiations looked like?
Reports were that the two sides met a week ago and players were encouraged by the direction of negotiations. Then USA Hockey made their offer on March 23 and players unanimously shot it down.
2/2... they (the USA Hockey Pl's) were incredibly surprised & disappointed by USA Hockey's offer.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) March 24, 2017
What does the USWNT’s support look like?
Over the weekend, support started pouring in from all sides of the sports world.
Of course, they have the NFLPA's support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached. #USWNHT— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) March 25, 2017
These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers. #USWNHT— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) March 25, 2017
Dave Hakstol deserves praise for his public support of the US women’s national team https://t.co/pOPzDSMwkK— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 27, 2017
Our hockey family stands proud and united with the women of the US National Team who are fighting for equitable support. #BeBoldForChange— Aaron Dell (@ADell32) March 26, 2017
Our hockey family stands proud and united with the women of the US National Team who are fighting for a better future. #BeBoldForChange— Zach Bogosian (@BogosianZach) March 25, 2017
The IIHF Women’s World Championship begins on March 31.