Players on the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team announced today that they will not participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship games beginning on March 31, citing more than a year of stalled negotiations with USA Hockey to secure fair wages and support. The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team is the reigning world champion, having won gold in six of the last eight World Championships, and the United States is hosting the games.
The team was set to arrive in Plymouth, Michigan on March 21 for training camp when it became clear that adequate progress was not being made in the negotiations. As a result, the players informed USA Hockey today that unless meaningful progress is made, they will not report to training camp nor will they defend the team’s gold medal at the World Championship games.
“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” said captain Meghan Duggan, who helped Team USA win six World Championships and silver medals in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. “We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”
The team is being represented pro bono in their negotiations by John B. Langel and Dee Spagnuolo of Ballard Spahr. The women seek a contract with USA Hockey that includes appropriate compensation. Nearly all of the players’ compensation outside of the Olympic period comes from the U.S. Olympic Committee, and for that, the players are thankful. In the past, USA Hockey has provided the players with only $1,000 per month during the six-month Olympic residency period. During the remainder of the four-year period, USA Hockey pays virtually nothing, despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full time and compete throughout the year, including in the World Championships. Approximately half of the players on the Women’s National Team hold second or third jobs, and many others rely on financial support from family members.
“These issues are systemic and demonstrate a failure to prioritize—or even consider in a meaningful way—the support and growth of the sport for women and girls,” said Ms. Spagnuolo. “As the national governing body for ice hockey in the United States, USA Hockey has a legal obligation to develop interest and participation in the sport of hockey, and to do so for all ages without regard to gender.”
The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act requires USA Hockey to provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where, as is the case with hockey, separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis.
At the younger levels, USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million dollars annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its National Team Development Program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls, and the Women’s National Team plays only nine games in non-Olympic years. Over the course of its yearlong negotiations, the players have made repeated requests of USA Hockey for increased playing opportunities and financial support consistent with the boys’ teams.
The women also receive inequitable support for equipment, staff, meals, travel expenses, transportation, and publicity. Events leading up to the 2014 Olympics demonstrated that lack of support. During that time, USA Hockey planned the public unveiling of its Olympic jersey—which was worn by both the men’s and women’s teams. USA Hockey invited only the men’s team to that televised event. The women learned of the unveiling by seeing it on TV. In addition, the inside of the jersey was to list all years in which the United States won Olympic gold, but failed to include 1998, the year the women won gold.
The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team has medaled in every Olympics. It has dominated the World Championships since its inception, appearing in all 17 gold medal games and winning seven times.
“It’s hard to believe that, in 2017, we still have to fight so hard for basic equitable support,” said assistant captain Monique Lamoureux-Morando, a five-time World Champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist. “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.”