USA Hockey and US Women's National Team Moving Forward Together

The team drew worldwide attention as well as support from USA senators and unions from the four major North American sports leagues when two weeks ago they threatened to boycott the world championship, which begins on Friday in MI.

The team announced on March 15 that they would not participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation tournament that begins March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan. That is why the strike of the USA women's ice hockey team before the upcoming World Championships in MI matters so much for the future of their sport. But I told them whatever they decided, we would support them 100 percent.

Members of the women's team said all along that they hoped to reach a deal that would allow them to return to the ice in time for the world championships.

USA Hockey and the womens national team reached a wage agreement Tuesday night to avoid a boycott of the world championships. The Americans have reached the podium at each of the five Olympics at which women's hockey was contested.

The players canceled training camp set for March 22-28 in Traverse City, Mich., and an exhibition game against Finland March 24 as part of the protest, sending the USA scrambling to find players in lower ranks to defend the country's title. They also pointed to insufficient support for travel and marketing, and what they saw as USA Hockey's disparate support for men's and women's hockey at the development level: While USA Hockey spends $3.5 million annually on its national team program for boys, they said, girls receive no "comparable" support.

With a deal finally in place, the American women were bound for MI and planned to hold their first team practice Thursday afternoon at the USA Hockey Arena.

"Our sport is the big victor today".

Last year, the junior players in Flint stood up for what they thought was right and the Ontario League, to its credit, listened and took steps to improve the situation for the players.

Players were seeking a four-year deal that included payment outside just the six-month Olympic period. The standoff forced USA Hockey's governing body to postpone training camp and cancel an exhibition against Finland on Friday. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

The women's team has also received support from the men's hockey team, which is mostly composed of NHL players.

On Saturday, two high schoolers, Cayla Barnes and Natalie Snodgrass, tweeted that they'd been approached by USA Hockey and turned down spots on the replacement team.

THE HISTORIC power of sports unions is rooted in three truths: they have a long record of improving wages and working conditions for their members; they are one of the few places in USA society where the issues of labor and collective bargaining are discussed under a powerful spotlight; and most critically, when sports unions win, their sport invariably wins.

Throughout the boycott the team consolidated behind the #BeBoldForChange hashtag that quickly spread beyond the roster to other female hockey players, male players and any and everyone who supported the cause.

After 15 months of unfruitful negotiation, the team announced on March 15 to boycott the upcoming world championship, which was being hosted by USA Hockey in Plymouth, Mich.

Over the course of the public dispute, unions from the NHL, NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball and 16 US senators voiced support for the players. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow.

"USA Hockey's role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so", USA Hockey President Jim Smith said last week in a statement.

  • Julie Sanders