Detroit — After 15 months of talks and a 14-day boycott by the U.S. women’s national team, USA Hockey settled its disputes with the players Tuesday, providing for the United States to defend its world championship beginning Friday in Plymouth.
The players ratified a four-year agreement that takes them well beyond the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Both sides decided to keep the financial terms private, USA Hockey announced. The United States players sought more money, better support in training and improved marketing of their events.
“Our sport is the big winner today,” said Meghan Duggan, captain of the women’s national team. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened.
“In the end, both sides came together.”
The women garnered seemingly air-tight solidarity, as USA Hockey made extensive efforts to recruit another team.
Women at multiple levels of play, including from players from earlier international rosters and the National Women’s Hockey League declined the 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 years old and 16 years old.
Unions for the Major League Baseball players and National Hockey League players spoke out on their behalf, along with 14 U.S. Senators and their arch-rivals on the ice, Team Canada.
“Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport,” said Jim Smith, president of USA Hockey.
“We’ll now move forward together knowing we’ll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.”
The two sides agreed to form a group to “advance girls’ and women’s hockey in all areas, including programming marketing, promotion and financing,” according to USA Hockey.
The Women’s High Performance Advisory Group will include former and current players from the women’s national team and staff. It will meet regularly, USA Hockey said.
“I’m glad we could come together and reach an arrangement that will have a positive and lasting impact,” said Hilary Knight, a veteran forward on the national team. “This is an inspirational time and we’re excited to get back on the ice and represent our country.”
The effort reflected 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 players on the women’s national hockey team were seeking salaries of $68,000 per year and job benefits for International Ice Hockey Federation games more equal to those of the men.
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.
The players also wanted USA Hockey to seek more games for them to play and to better market the sport.
Despite missing its entire week-long training camp, which was to have begun in Traverse City Wednesday, the United States team will defend its world championship, beginning at 7:30 p.m., Friday, in USA Hockey Arena, in an opening round game against Canada.
Like the Olympics, the world championships perennially include a climactic game with the powerful team from Canada for the gold medal.
The Canadians wrapped up their training camp Tuesday.
Most of the players in the eight-team, 22-game world championship tournament will also play for their countries in the Olympics in 11 months.
Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany also will participate in a 22-game tournament.
“I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough,” Duggan said.
“It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”
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