USA Hockey offers update on women's team protest for fair pay ahead of World Championship

Kacey Bellamy, Amanda Kessel, Kelli Stack, Megan Bozek, Hilary Knight, Michelle Picard and Kendall Coyne of the United States huddle around the net before the Women's Ice Hockey Playoffs Semifinal game in Sochi. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

USA Hockey is responding to the women's national team's protest of the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship games in Michigan on the grounds of fair pay. 

The tournament will be held later this month at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich. The American women are the reigning tournament champions.They say they've been trying to get fair wages for more than a year. They also want the same treatment as the men's team when it comes to equipment, staff, per diems, publicity and travel.

"We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought," captain Meghan Duggan said in a statement. "We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect."

USA Hockey statement

USA Hockey released the following statement Friday evening, which includes a rundown of what the women are being offered and what they demand:

“We remain committed to having the players that were selected to represent the U.S. in the upcoming women’s world championship to be the players that are on the ice when the tournament begins,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey.

USA Hockey is contacting legal representatives of the players to have further conversations in an attempt to resolve the matter.

What is USA Hockey offering the players and what are the players demanding of USA Hockey?

It is important to note that negotiations with members of the U.S. Women’s National Team have been underway for several months and USA Hockey has increased its level of support during those negotiations. Below is the latest offer made to the players. During the negotiations, the demands from the players have only increased, with their most recent proposal dated March 8, 2017, described below.

What is USA Hockey’s Proposal?

USA Hockey has offered terms to the Women’s National Team players for the Olympic training and performance period that include the opportunity to be provided with more than $90,000 in training stipends and other performance incentives for gold-medal performances in both the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship and the Olympic Winter Games. In the case of silver-medal performances in both events, players could receive $74,000 each. USA Hockey’s offer to the players is more than 50% greater than what they received in 2014. These figures do not include other substantial expenditures by USA Hockey for housing stipends, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite level support staff to train and prepare the players.

In non-Olympic years, players are typically together at various times throughout the year for approximately 60-70 days, for two competitions and three to four camps. Most players receive $24,000 each in cash training stipends, allocated by USA Hockey through funding provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Players are also eligible for a performance bonus up to $7,500 for winning gold in the world championship. Those funds are in addition to other expenditures for housing, travel, meals, insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite level support staff to train and prepare the players, a total that exceeds $1 million annually.

What are Players' Demands?

According to our calculations, the players’ demands would result in total player compensation in an Olympic year of approximately $210,000 per player if the team attains a silver medal and $237,000 for a gold medal. The total includes requested player compensation, per game payments, travel for a guest to every event and exhibition game, roster bonus, performance bonuses, training stipends, and benefits and payroll taxes that would be required under the proposal. This does not include the operational expenses of the team, including housing stipend, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players, which in preparation for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games totaled more than $2 million. Further, the demands from the players also include a wide variety of other financial obligations to USA Hockey, such as business class airfare on flights of more than three hours, day care, nanny support and increased staffing that total more than $1.3 million.

Additionally, in a non-Olympic year, according to our calculations, the players’ demands would result in approximately $146,000 per player for a silver-medal performance and approximately $149,000 each for gold. The additional operational expenses of the team noted above are not included in those figures. Further, the demands from the players (business class airfare on flights of more than three hours, day care, nanny support and increased staffing, etc.) total more than $830,000.

In total, the player's demands, including compensation, benefits and other expenses of operating the program, exceed $8 million in an Olympic year and $5.7 in a non-Olympic year.

What Are the Next Steps in Reaching an Agreement?

USA Hockey will continue to have conversations with representatives of players that are part of the U.S. Women’s National Team program. The clear objective is to resolve the situation so that the players previously selected to play in the upcoming IIHF World Championship are those that represent our country. From the outset, USA Hockey has been clear it will not employ players; however, that does not mean USA Hockey is opposed to a yearly agreement which outlines allocation of direct athlete support and other training resources that USA Hockey is willing to provide to players. USA Hockey has moved its offer significantly during the course of the current negotiations and believes its offer is comparable or better than any federation that sponsors women’s ice hockey.

Players Have Said USA Hockey Will Not Provide Them With a Living Wage. What's the Story?

Providing players a living wage implies USA Hockey employs players and it does not. Simply, USA Hockey does not pay players a salary – women or men – and instead provides training stipends and support to help put athletes that participate on our national teams in the best possible position to compete for a gold medal. USA Hockey is not a professional sports league, rather a non-profit organization that fields teams for international competition with players who participate on a voluntary basis. In a non-Olympic year, players from the U.S. Women’s National Team are typically involved in official team activities for a period of 60-70 days over the course of a year, while in an Olympic year, players have typically trained together in a residency program for the six months prior to the Games.

There is even more to this statement here.

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