Members of the U.S. women’s national hockey team will skip the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship after a breakdown in negotiations with USA Hockey, the law firm representing the players, Ballard Spahr, announced on Wednesday.
The players vowed “not to participate” in the tournament they’ve won six times after “more than a year of stalled negotiations with USA Hockey to secure fair wages and support,” according to a news release.
Players were scheduled to arrive in Plymouth, Mich., for training camp next week ahead of the world championship, which begin March 31.
The players, who have never had a collective bargaining agreement with USA Hockey, are seeking a four-year contract, John Langel, one of the lawyers representing the players, told USA TODAY Sports. Langel said that he's led efforts to secure a deal for more than a year and there was "one productive meeting" held in October, but two sides remain far apart in negotiations.
“It’s disheartening we’ve made zero progress,” Monique Lamoureux, a member of Team USA’s silver medal-winning teams at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, told USA TODAY Sports. “When push came to shove, we knew this could happen. It’s the last thing we want to do — to forgo representing our country — but were are backed into a corner."
Messages left with USA Hockey by USA TODAY Sports were not immediately returned.
Asked if there’s a way to avoid the boycott, Langel said, “We have invited (USA Hockey) to continue discussions."
Players have contracts with USA Hockey individually and receive $1,000 per month for six months prior to the Winter Olympics and receive no other compensation from USA Hockey, according to Langel. The U.S. Olympic Committee pays members of the U.S. women's national hockey team a stipend to represent the country at the World Championship.
“We are looking for firm support on a year-to-year basis,” Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Monique’s twin sister and also a member of Team USA’s Olympic teams in 2010 and 2014, told USA TODAY Sports. “Out of four years, we are supported for six months. Still, we are expected to train full-time and show up prepared the Four Nations Cup, World Championship and Olympics. USA Hockey expects us to be in the best shape, but they don’t support us in any manner.”
According to IIHF bylaw 608, if the United States doesn't participate in the World Championship, it will be fined $15,000. The fine is doubled because the U.S. wouldn't have notified the IIHF of its withdrawal before Sept. 1.
“The IIHF is in contact with USA Hockey and is monitoring the situation closely," the IIHF said in a statement. "We still expect that Team USA will participate in the tournament and that the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will continue as planned.”
The World Championship will not affect the United States' qualification for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. The United States is ranked No. 1 by the IIHF, and remains one of the strongest hockey countries with Canada.
Contributing: Kevin Allen