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Winter sports: Women players dispute USA Hockey numbers on wages

First Published      Last Updated Mar 18 2017 05:24 pm

Women players are calling USA Hockey's characterization of their wage demands "patently false" after the organization stated it would exceed $8 million in an Olympic year and $5.7 million in a non-Olympic year.

USA Hockey posted compensation estimates on its website Friday and said it would contact players' lawyers in an effort to resolve the ongoing labor dispute. Players have threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships on home ice unless significant progress is made toward a new contract after 14 months of negotiations.

USA Hockey estimated a rate of $237,000 per player for winning gold at the Olympics and $149,000 per player in non-Olympic years.



Players said it failed to distinguish between money paid by USA Hockey and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said USA Hockey's response was confusing, and fellow star forward Hilary Knight called the valuations "funny at best."

"We don't know where some of those numbers came from," Lamoureux-Davidson said by phone Friday night. "We're very aware and clear of what we've asked for. ... They throw out these pretty big numbers, which we read those and we go, 'Really, we asked for that?'"

Players say they're paid $1,000 a month for the six-month pre-Olympic period and nothing for the other 3 1/2 years. A players' statement said USA Hockey's most recent offer increased to $3,000 a month for that Olympic period but ignored their request to address the other years in the four-year Olympic cycle.

Lamoureux-Davidson said USA Hockey reached out to players' lawyers on Friday night. With the scheduled training camp report date set for Wednesday, she said players' feelings have only gotten stronger.

"A response like that just makes us more cohesive and stronger as a group," Lamoureux-Davidson said. "We believe what we're asking for is fair."

Players held firm to a Thursday deadline imposed by USA Hockey to commit to playing in the world championships. Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said Thursday that the organization was still hopeful the players picked for the team would be on the ice when the tournament begins March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan.

The U.S. is the defending champion and has won six of the past eight gold medals at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship.

In its update, the organization wrote: "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."

Canada has won the past four Olympic gold medals. The U.S. won the inaugural women's hockey gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

"It's frustrating because we need the support," Knight said by phone. "There's a reason why we haven't won an (Olympic) gold medal in 20 years. They need to step up. Who does USA Hockey aspire to be?"

Players have pointed to USA Hockey spending $3.5 million annually on the men's U.S. National Team Development Program with no similar program for women. Knight described USA Hockey's responses to their boycott threat dishonest and disingenuous.

"We've been in negotiations with them for 14 months, and our stance doesn't change," Knight said. "It's 2017 and the treatment that we've had has gone on too long and finally we're a group that's empowered enough to make a stance and fight for what's right, and that's equitable support across the board.

"I'm still waiting for them to step up and present something that's somewhat similar to a solution."

 

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