US women’s ice hockey team refuses to compete over pay dispute

The US Women’s National Hockey Team has refused to participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship games in a bid to further negotiations around fair wages and support for the team’s players.

The women’s hockey team was due to arrive at a Michigan-based training camp on 21 March 2017, to prepare for the IIHF World Championship event, starting on 31 March 2017. However, the team has informed the national governing body for ice hockey, USA Hockey, that they will not report to the training camp or compete in the championships unless further progress is made in negotiations surrounding appropriate compensation for female team members.

According to Ballard Spahr, the law firm representing the team, nearly all of the players’ compensation outside of the Olympic period comes from the US Olympic Committee, with USA Hockey only providing players with $1,000 (£815.53) a month during the six-month Olympic residency period.

The firm claims that during the remainder of the four-year period between the Olympics, USA Hockey pays a minimal amount to support players, despite expecting the team to compete throughout the year and train on a full-time basis. Approximately half of the players on the women’s national team hold second or third jobs, while others rely on financial support from family members.

The team also claims that players do not receive the same level of support as the men’s team in terms of playing opportunities, support for equipment, staff, meals, travel expenses, transportation, and publicity.

USA Hockey states that it is implementing measures to support the women’s national team in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. This is due to include a six-month training camp, as well as additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could see players receive nearly $85,000 (£69,319) in cash over the Olympic training and performance period.

In addition, players will also be provided with a housing allowance, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance, and elite-level support staff to help train and prepare the players.

The US Women’s National Hockey Team has won gold medals in six of the last eight World Championships, and won silver medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.

Meghan Duggan, captain of the US Women’s National Hockey Team, said: “We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programmes for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought. We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”

Monique Lamoureux-Morando, assistant team captain, added: “It’s hard to believe that, in 2017, we still have to fight so hard for basic equitable support. But when I think about the women who paved the way for our team, and when I see girls at rinks around the country who are dedicated to pursuing big dreams and look to us to lead by example, it’s well overdue for us to speak up about unfair treatment, even if it means sacrificing an opportunity to represent our country. We owe the next generation more than that. We owe it to ourselves to stand up for what is right.”

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Dave Ogrean, executive director at USA Hockey, said: “We acknowledge the players’ concerns and have proactively increased our level of direct support to the women’s national team as we prepare for the2018 Winter Olympic Games. We have communicated that increased level of support to the players’ representatives and look forward to continuing our discussions.”

Jim Smith, president at USA Hockey, added: “In our role as the national governing body, USA Hockey trains and selects teams for international competition. USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so. USA Hockey will continue to provide world-leading support for our athletes.”