It took 23 female hockey players to strike the deal.
Last week, the United States women’s national hockey team reached a wage agreement with USA Hockey, the sport’s national governing body, after announcing March 15 that they would boycott the approaching world championship tournament without “significant progress” in negotiations over fair pay and support equal to what the men’s national team received.
The men’s national team is largely made up of NHL players who earn seven-figure salaries and do not rely on USA Hockey for training or financial support. Rather, the NHL provides $9 million annually to USA Hockey, the majority of which goes to the National Team Development Program for top under-18 boys. By contrast, girls and women’s programming receives no “comparable” support.
In launching the boycott, the team demanded better wages, which only provided them with monthly stipends during a six-month Olympic training period, but not during the rest of the remaining three and a half years of each Olympic cycle. They also vied for equitable support in areas of youth team development, equipment, travel expenses, meals, staffing, transportation, marketing, and publicity.
“The goals of our requests are to achieve fair treatment from USA Hockey, to initiate the appropriate steps to correct the outlined issues, and to move forward with a shared goal of promoting and growing girls and women in our sport while representing the United States in future competitions,” read the team’s statement. “In making these requests, we are simply asking USA Hockey to comply with the law.”
The women held the line until the last possible moment, less than 70 hours before the world championship tournament began on March 31. The team’s absence would have left the tournament without a host and defending champion, as the United States has won six of the last eight world championships. To break the strike, USA Hockey even tried to recruit college and rec-league players as possible replacements—but not one person agreed.
Now, the risks have paid off. After garnering support from the public, their male colleagues in the NHL, and 16 U.S senators, their newly negotiated contract includes a four-year deal and the formation of a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group to cultivate greater female participation in hockey at youth levels. The resolution also provides players with insurance and travel provisions on par with the men’s national team’s benefits.
“Our sport is the big winner today,” said U.S captain Meghan Duggan in a statement. “We stood up for what we thought was right, and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. 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.”
On Friday, during the opener of the world championship tournament, the women’s team claimed victory 2-0 over their Canadian archrivals.