History has been made. Fifteen months after negotiations first began, and 13 days after the U.S. women’s national team first announced its boycott of the upcoming IIHF World Championships over unfair treatment and inequitable wages, the USWNT and USA Hockey have reached a monumental deal that provides the current players with livable wages and equitable resources and that solidifies a bright future for the sport.
It also ensures that the U.S. team will actually take the ice this weekend at the world championships in Plymouth, Michigan, after training camp and an exhibition game against Finland were canceled because of the boycott.
Whether or not the American women defend their title this weekend, this hard-fought contract makes is clear they are already winners.
Prior to this boycott, the team was only earning $6,000 every four years from USA Hockey — $1,000 a month for the six months before every Olympics — and USA Hockey was spending nothing on elite girls’ programs, compared to the $3.5 million a year spent on elite boys’ programs.
As reported by Johnette Howard of espnW, the new, four-year deal increases the salaries of the USWNT players to about $70,000 a year, and allows the players the chance to win performance bonuses based on their results at the world championships and the Olympics. Additionally, USA Hockey will guarantee that each player on the national team, regardless of experience level, will receive a $2,000 a month training stipend, and establish a compensation pool totaling $950,000 by the end of the four years. USA Hockey will also provide the same travel arrangements — including per diems — and insurance coverage to the women’s team as it does to the men’s team.
But perhaps most crucially for the next generation, USA Hockey and the USWNT will establish a committee focused on improving the promotion and organization of the women’s game, and add a foundation position to improve fundraising efforts for the elite girls’ programs.
“Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport,” Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “We’ll now move forward together knowing we’ll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.”
What a difference a boycott makes.
Securing this contract represents a monumental feat that took solidarity, bravery, and sacrifice from women’s hockey players throughout the United States, and a significant amount of support from outside forces.
The USWNT’s message of mistreatment and discrimination clearly struck a chord with people throughout the world. Throughout the past two weeks, as USA Hockey released misleading information about its compensation models, reneged on terms after negotiations, and searched high and low for replacement players, unions across sports — including the NHL Player’s Association, MLBPA, NFLPA, and NBAPA — all issued statements of solidarity with the USWNT.
Over the weekend, the U.S. men’s team reportedly considered boycotting its world championships in May if USA Hockey and the USWNT did not reach a deal. And on Monday, as the two sides went back to the negotiating table in a last-ditch effort, star female athletes from multiple sports showed their support in a coordinated social media campaign, and 20 U.S. senators wrote a letter urging USA Hockey to resolve the issue quickly and provide the women’s team with “equitable resources.”
— Brittney Griner (@brittneygriner) March 27, 2017
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) March 28, 2017
The extent of the outside support was impressive. But perhaps the single most impressive thing about this boycott was the solidarity shown by women’s hockey players throughout the ranks.
For the past week, USA Hockey has been reaching out to countless women’s hockey players throughout the country to see if they would cross the picket line and take the ice in Plymouth this weekend. But one after one refused be a scab.
As team veteran Monique Lamoureux-Morando told Julie DiCaro of CBS Chicago, that display of unity is no accident — it is the direct result of a lot of work by players on the USWNT.
“We have been in contact with every single NCAA Division-I coach,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “We have emailed and or talked to every single one of them. We also talked to every National Women’s Hockey League player and players from the Minnesota Whitecaps. We did this after we had already had conversations with every single person in our player pool, which is about 90 players. We had those players all on board before we made our stand last Wednesday. This past Friday, we caught wind that USA Hockey was reaching out to Division-III and high school-aged players. As soon as we heard that, we emailed every single organization or coach that had a team going to Nationals next week (which are also in Michigan). We also emailed every single Division-III coach and talked to most of them on the phone. From what we know, we have heard of possibly one to three players that have said ‘yes.’”
Nicole Haase of Victory Press documented all of the known players who were approached by USA Hockey to serve as replacement players; the list that includes not only National Women’s Hockey League and Canadian Women’s Hockey League players, but also members of the U-18 team and Division III hockey teams. (Sports Illustrated reports that USA Hockey even reached out to players on the Under-16 national team.)
— Dani Sibley (@dmsibs13) March 27, 2017
These players literally turned down the chance of a lifetime in order to secure the best outcome for the elite players now and the elite players of the future. Most will never again get a chance to compete in a world championship.
That solidarity is ultimately what allowed this boycott to be a success. The USWNT ended up with all of the leverage — USA Hockey was either going to have to come up with an appropriate offer, or suffer the embarrassment of hosting the world championships without a home team. Thankfully for everyone, it didn’t come to that.
“Our sport is the big winner today,” U.S. women’s national team captain Meghan Duggan said in a statement.
“We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”