By Kallie Gregg
On Tuesday evening, the United States Women’s National Hockey Team (USWNT) reached an agreement with the U.S. Hockey Federation (USA Hockey) which effectively ends their intent to boycott the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship tournament.
The initial statement announcing the boycott came as a shock to USA Hockey, who is hosting the tournament in Michigan beginning March 31. In a statement, the team explained they will not participate unless “significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.”
Team captain Megan Duggan explained that the team is negotiating for a “living wage” and asking for USA Hockey to no longer treat women’s hockey programs as “an afterthought.”
Currently, USA Hockey offers women’s players $1,000 per month during a six-month period leading up to Olympic tournaments and “virtually nothing” throughout the four years between Olympic games.
The new agreement would increase the team’s wages during the Olympic-residency period, provide health insurance, and cover travel expenses.
Even though the Winter Olympics are every four years, USWNT athletes are expected to train full-time and represent the National Team at other tournaments.
Although some professional women’s hockey leagues offer salaries to elite players and some athletes rely on endorsement deals, there is nothing close to the multi-million dollar contracts of the National Hockey League.
Additionally, USA Hockey invests approximately $3.5 million each year in development programs for men’s youth hockey in the United States. There is currently no equivalent program for women’s teams.
“We stood up for what we thought was right, and USA Hockey’s leadership listened,” team captain Meghan Duggan said in a statement through USA Hockey.
“In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough,” she continued.
It is not the first time an American women’s team has sought to change their wages—the situation is reminiscent of the National Women’s Soccer Team’s ongoing campaign for equal pay. In 2016, members of the team filed a wage-discrimination case against U.S. Soccer due to the differences in pay for the men’s and women’s national teams. In their case, the women’s team was paid $2 million for winning the Women’s World Cup, whereas male players were paid a combined $8 million for their performance, where they were eliminated in the first knockout round.
The Women’s National Soccer Team was joined by numerous other athletes who stood in solidarity and vocally supported the team’s decision to boycott.
Alex Morgan, a forward for the National Women’s Soccer Team, responded to the USWNT statement on twitter, writing “From one #USWNT to another, we are behind you. Everyone help our USA Womens Hockey team in fighting for what’s right. #BeBoldForChange.”
Additionally, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) tweeted, “The #MLBPA continues to encourage ALL women hockey players to stand united in support of #USWNHT efforts to secure improved conditions.”
Over the weekend, the National Hockey League Player’s Association (NHLPHA), as well as the player’s association for the National Basketball League (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL) all also issued supporting statements.
Before resolving the dispute, USA Hockey is attempted to put together a team to field at the World Championships, extending invitations to non-national team players, former NCAA athletes who have since retired or only play recreationally, and several under-18 and under-16 teams. All of those invitations were rejected.
“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,” alternate captain Monique Lamoureux-Morando told ESPNW.
Rumors also circulated over the weekend that the U.S. Men’s National Team would boycott their World Championships in May if USA Hockey and the women’s team did not come to an agreement.
On Monday, 14 U.S. Senators issued a statement to USA Hockey urging them to resolve the issue. It read in part, “These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics.”