A cloud of uncertainty and tension hangs over Plymouth, Michigan this week, with the biggest story leading up to the 2017 Women’s World Championships being told off the ice, as to whether Team USA will end up attending, or continue their boycott against USA Hockey over unequal treatment.
Team USA was poised to go for their fourth straight World Championship title (and eighth overall), this time on home ice and in the final Worlds before the 2018 Olympics in Korea, almost certain to face Canada in the finals, as they have done for every World Championship since 1990. However, now with the boycott seeming all but confirmed, as USA Hockey has resorted to recruiting Under-16 players as replacements, whether Team USA even fields a squad at all is debatable, throwing the entire tournament structure into question. Either way, if the “A” squad for the U.S. does not show up in Plymouth, Canada can all but be guaranteed of their first Gold since 2012.
The Americans’ absence will deal a huge blow to USA Hockey, facing the embarrassment of having either a subpar team or no team period take to home ice, at the home arena of USA Hockey. And now, with compounded pressure from the men’s team to potentially not attend their Worlds in May in solidarity, time is running out for USA Hockey to settle the issue or face the consequences. The U.S. missing the medal round would make history in other ways, allowing for a new team to compete for Gold for the first time in tournament history, with a squad like Finland, Russia or Switzerland now able to take advantage.
While the hope is that a fair and equitable agreement is reached by the start of the tournament this Friday, in lieu of this there will be major impacts for the U.S. women’s team not just at this tournament, but potentially for the 2018 Olympics, as well as the men’s World Championships as well. All eyes will be on the women’s hockey world this week, but sadly for all of the wrong reasons.