The 2017 Women’s World Hockey Championships are later this month, and the U.S. team has won the last three titles. But its players may not even show up if they aren’t given what they are asking for: fair wages and support from USA Hockey.
Professional women’s hockey players rarely get paid, and USA Hockey isn't any different. The organization and the players are now in a bind.
The players say they won't play if they don't get paid.
“We couldn’t come to terms,” team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We decided that we were going to put the world championship on the line, and stand by that, and make a sacrifice that’s very difficult for us.”
Duggan plays for the National Women's Hockey League's Boston Pride, who played the Connecticut Whale Thursday night in a league semi-final in Boston.
Duggan’s teammate is Hilary Knight. Both play for USA Hockey.
“The rest of the world wants to play us,” Knight said. “When we’re representing our country on a world stage at home, it’s almost like everything aligned for this moment, but it’s unfortunate that we even have to put not going on the table.”
The NWHL is the only North American league that pays women’s hockey players. The league said it pays all 72 players between $10,000 and $26,000 each, but that salaries were cut by 35 percent in November.
Despite it being a playoff game, both teams came together before Thursday’s game to honor participating members of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Instead of announcing starting lineups, the league decided to introduce only U.S. Women’s National Team players from both sides. Afterward, the rest of the teams stood behind the kneeling national players in a show of solidarity for a group photo.
“Not just in hockey -- this is a statement for women athletes,” Connecticut coach Heather Linstad said. “I think they are doing the right thing.”
USA Hockey responded to the possible boycott in a statement this week saying its role is to find and develop players, but not employ them.
The players did not respond to a Thursday deadline to declare their intent to play at the world championships. They said that they will not play nationally until the federation approaches them with an offer.