In a shocking development less than a month before the 2017 Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan, the U.S. women’s national team today announced, in solidarity, that they will sit out the Worlds in protest of a lack of support from USA Hockey, the culmination of a year’s worth of legal proceedings with the American hockey body.
21 of the 23 players announced to the Worlds tweeted the same message this morning in support of the boycott, noting that they have asked for “equitable support in the areas of financial compensation, youth team development, equipment, travel expenses, hotel accommodations, meals, staffing, transportation, marketing and publicity,” aiming for equality from USA Hockey while women’s and girls’ hockey receives more marketing and support equivalent to men’s and boys’ hockey.
This protest is similar to the current lawsuit currently being undertaken by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, although USA Soccer is seeking full parity with the men’s team, unlike this protest, which simply seeks more equitable support, as national team players are only provided a stipend of $6,000 in the year leading up to the Olympics, and remain unpaid for any training and development outside of Olympic years.
USA Hockey responded to the boycott, noting that the level of support has been increased in advance of the 2018 Olympics, and that while they support the right to protest, they will work to field a competitive team for the upcoming World Championship in spite of the protest, as they do not consider any of their members to be paid employees, meaning that longtime stalwarts of the U.S. squad, such as Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel and Meghan Duggan, would be replaced.
However, it should be noted that the U.S. Under-18 Women’s team is in support of the protest as well, so finding competitive replacement players on three weeks notice may be a far more difficult task than expected. The possibility still remains that USA Hockey and the players to reach a compromise before the tournament starts on 31 March, but if not, this would serve as a huge blow to USA Hockey, less than a year away from the Olympics, and serving as hosts of the Worlds this year, in the very home of their national development teams, playing at the aptly-named USA Hockey Arena.
This would almost certainly guarantee Canada’s 17th World Championship Gold, and first since 2012, without their natural rival being part of the tournament, and would give another country a good chance at being just the third nation to ever play for Gold at the Worlds. But the larger question would loom whether these players would further participate at the 2018 Olympics, a far larger and more heavily-promoted tournament than the World Championship.
Both sides appear to have dug in their heels for now, and the resulting process may not be resolved for quite some time. We hope both sides can reach an equitable, amicable agreement soon, to ensure the world’s best female players are well represented in Plymouth and beyond.