With less than a week until the World Championship begins, negotiations between USA Hockey and the women’s national team have only gotten rockier. An attempt to find replacement players has been publicly embarrassing, with dozens turning down the request and instead declaring their support for the women’s national team.
The team is boycotting the championship to fight for an increase in wages, benefits and general support for the women’s game. Players currently are paid $1,000 a month in the six months leading up to the Olympics, but are not paid during the rest of the four-year cycle though they are expected to train and compete in events such as the upcoming championship.
USA Hockey reportedly sent a form letter via email to potential replacement players this past Wednesday. None have publicly accepted the offer, but many have publicly rejected it. The federation has even tried reaching out to high school players, but many had already reached an understanding that they wouldn’t be considering the offer:
All players who have publicly announced their rejection have used the same language on social media: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC,” with the hashtag #BeBoldForChange. Most who have spoken out are college players or current NWHL players. As Blake Bolden—an NWHL player who was once part of the national team’s player pool but has not been considered since 2014—told ESPN:
“It’s a bit desperate by USA Hockey,” Bolden said. “They’re going so far as to email every hockey player they can think of, or every player that was in the USA pool that they previously cut and told they were never going to reach out to again. And everyone I know is telling them, ‘I support the national team.’”
The NHL Players’ Association released a statement in support of the women’s boycott yesterday, including a caution against the use of replacement players. The MLB Players’ Association released something similar.
The last face-to-face talks between USA Hockey and the women’s team came last Monday. Though both sides reportedly felt the talks went well, the federation waited until Thursday to give the team an offer with financial terms that were reduced from what had been agreed to in principle earlier in the week. The players voted to reject the offer and announced that they would continue the boycott until terms had changed.