USA Hockey, players trying to finalize agreement
Detroit – After 15 months of talks and a boycott by the women’s national team, USA Hockey offered a new deal Tuesday that provides a chance for the United States to defend its world championship beginning Friday in Plymouth.
But continuing conversation over specific language delayed a vote by the players, according to representatives of the players.
It is the second time in eight days that a potential agreement has bogged down.
A representative said problems with details continue to be discussed by both sides, and if differences over the terms are resolved a settlement is close.
A potential four-year agreement set off preparations for a vote by the team late Tuesday morning.
But the proposal had not been presented to them by early evening.
The effort reflects a similar initiative last year by the women’s national team in soccer that is now before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The new proposal presented to the players came on the second day of a meeting of the board of directors of USA Hockey.
The national women’s team did not participate in a weeklong training camp, which was to start in Traverse City on Wednesday. The United States is scheduled to defend its world championship beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Canada in an opening-round game.
Like the Olympics, the world championships routinely include a climactic game with the powerful Canada team for a gold medal.
The Canadians wrapped up their training camp on Tuesday.
Most of the players in the eight-team, 22-game world championship tournament at USA Hockey Arena will also play for their countries in the Olympics in 11 months.
In their effort to improve their circumstances, the players have easily withstood a threat by USA Hockey to skate a team of lesser players in the championship.
They have achieved what appears to be air-tight solidarity.
Women at multiple levels of play, including players from earlier international rosters and the National Women’s Hockey League, declined entreaties from USA Hockey, along with collegiate players in all divisions, high school players, and United States players on the two teams for girls under 18 and 16 years old.
Some of those declining to break the United States players’ boycott took to social media to express their solidarity.
The players on the national team were seeking salaries of $68,000 per year and job benefits for International Ice Hockey Federation games equal to those of the men. (The IIHF, the international governing body for the sport, sponsors the world championships and works with the International Olympic Committee to organize the Winter Games.)
They also sought disability insurance, business class flights and the ability to bring guests to some games.
USA Hockey pays for some transportation for guests of men’s players at their IIHF world championship, and they fly business class.
They players also wanted USA Hockey to seek more games for them to play, and to better market the sport.
“We are among many other things asking for a simple, livable wage,” captain Meghan Duggan said during the negotiations.
“And in addition to that, just asking for equitable support in a lot of other areas, in terms of travel and meals and staffing and injury protection and insurance and marketing and (public relations).”
During the negotiations, it was reported that USA Hockey rejected a proposed rematch of the sparkling gold medal game between the United States and Canada at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The rematch was proposed by Canada, which beat Team USA, 3-2, in the only gold medal game ever decided in overtime in women’s Olympic hockey.
If there is an agreement with USA Hockey, the United States team would need to scramble to defend its championship.
Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany also will participate in the tournament.
The medal games are both scheduled for Friday, April 7, at 3:30 p.m. for bronze and 7:30 p.m. for gold.
Most of the games will be played in the main rink of the arena, which is NHL size. A few will be played on a secondary rink, which is of Olympic proportions.
The IIHF world championship is played in non-Olympic years.
The men will play in May in Cologne and Paris.
IIHF Women’s World Championships
When: Friday-April 7
Where: USA Hockey Arena, 14900 Beck, Plymouth
Thursday: Practice, 3:15-4:15 p.m.
Friday: Practice, 11:15-11:45 a.m.; game vs. Canada, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: Practice, 8:45-9:15 a.m.; game vs. Russia, 3:30 p.m.
Monday: Practice, 11:15-11:45 a.m.; game vs. Finland, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday: Quarterfinals, TBA
April 5: Practice, TBA
April 6: Semifinals, 3:30 or 5:30 p.m.
April 7: Bronze medal game, 3:30 p.m.; gold medal game, 7:30 p.m.