As the IIHF Women's World Championship approaches, tension remains high as the USA Women's Hockey team negotiates with USA Hockey to reach an agreeable outcome. Multiple national team players announced the team's intention to boycott the World Championship kicking off in Plymouth, Michigan on March 31, unless "significant progress" is made on negotiations with USA Hockey on fair wages and other support initiatives. And, the outpour of support has been incredible.
The female players, according to their attorney Dee Spagnuolo, are asking for three things from the organization:
Fair compensation and wages
Increased support for marketing and public relations
USA Hockey claims that the players' concerns will be proactively taken into consideration. However, they also stated that they are prepared to field an entirely new team while the current players sit out of the World Championships. USA Hockey even approached players from variousyouth national teams, reportedly all the way down to Under 16 level, seeking replacement players for the tournament. No youth players have accepted the offer. Fortunately, the USA women's team isn't alone.
The National Women's Hockey League, one of two professional women's hockey leagues in North America, said they stand by the players. Dani Rylan, the NWHL Commissioner, said in a report:
"After spending a day listening to the players and looking deeply into the issues, I want to be clear that the National Women’s Hockey League stands behind the women of the U.S. National Team in their quest for equality.
The goal for all of us in women’s hockey should be to work together to grow the game. There will often be challenges, but we must keep advancing the sport.
These national team players have elevated our professional league and worked tirelessly to develop the game and serve as role models to the next generation of players. Their commitment to equality is admirable, and we will continue to fight for them and alongside them.
To the amazing athletes and women of the USNT, we have deep respect for the way you have brought this issue to the forefront. The NWHL fully supports you. We are incredibly proud to have such strong and empowered pioneers in our league.
My hope is that a resolution comes soon so that our greatest players can represent the U.S. at the World Championships."
In addition, both professional and amateur hockey players have stood together in support of the women's team, men and women alike spreading the hash tag #BeBoldForChange.
Denver Women's Hockey League , an amateur hockey association in Colorado that takes pride in creating an environment in which women can play hockey free from all forms of harassment or discrimination all while encouraging fair play, openness and friendship, is one of them. Beforetheir scheduled league game Monday night, players gathered to make signs and spread the word on social media accounts. Other amateur leagues all across America are joining in the social media campaign, showing their support for the USA Women's team.
The men's USA Hockey team and other NHL players also confirmed Monday that they would boycott the men's IIHF World Championship event in May, should USA Hockey find replacements for the tournament. The NHL released in a statement Friday:
"NHL players fully support the US Women's National Team's efforts to reach an equitable agreement with USA Hockey.
It is important that the best American women players be on the ice for the World Championship and the notion of seeking replacement players will only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.
We trust this dispute will be resolved fairly and quickly."
The US Women's National team has cited the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, which mandates that national sports bodies provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis.
The players say that their goals "are to achieve fair treatment from USA Hockey, to initiate the appropriate steps to correct the outlined issues and to move forward with a shared goal of promoting and growing girls and women in the sport while representing the United States in future competitions, including the Women's World Championship."
USA Hockey and the players for the U.S. women's national team agreed to meet and discuss a potential deal to avert the boycott Tuesday afternoon. Together, they will vote on the proposal to hopefully end their year-plus efforts to secure higher wages and other benefits. As more information becomes available, we will keep you posted and updated on the story.
If you want to show your support, post your latest hockey pictures with #BeBoldForChange.