On Wednesday, the news broke that the current US Women’s Hockey team would not participate in the 2017 IIHF World Championships. Yesterday, The Ice Garden spoke to Dee Spagnuolo, one of the lawyers representing the postgraduate Team USA players. She and John B. Lee are attorneys at Ballard Spahr.
In a press release by the firm, we learned that Spagnuolo and Lee have taken on the case pro bono, or free of charge to the players. After talking with Spagnuolo, we pieced together a timeline that goes all the way back to February of 2016, the first time that USA Hockey’s lawyers reached out to USA Hockey:
Timeline prior to Wednesday:
- February 6, 2016 - Ballard Spahr informs USA Hockey they will represent post-graduate players in negotiations.
- April 4, 2016 - USA wins gold at the 2016 IIHF World Championships in Canada.
- April 2016 - USA Players and their legal counsel hold first in-person negotiations in Colorado Springs.
- September 2016 - USA Players and their legal counsel hold second in-person negotiations in Boston.
- November 8, 2016 - USA wins the 2016 Four Nations Cup.
- February 23, 2017 - USA Players and their legal counsel hold third in-person negotiations in Denver.
So prior to yesterday’s announcement by the US players, there had previously been three in-person meetings with USA Hockey to discuss increased support.
According attorney Dee Spagnuolo, players want 3 main things 1)Compensation 2)Increased programming 3)Support for marketing/PR @TheIceGarden— Erica L. Ayala (@elindsay08) March 15, 2017
At 10 am ET on Wednesday, March 15, the players announced that they were boycotting Worlds via two articles on ESPNW and a scheduled social media blast that went out from nearly every senior national team player’s Twitter and/or Instagram.
Since then, it’s been madness. Players like Meghan Duggan, Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux and Hilary Knight have been all over national media talking about the decision and it’s a story that’s gone far outside of the hockey sphere.
So now that we’ve broken down how we got here, here’s what’s happened since the initial announcement by the players (we’ll update this as more happens):
March 15, 2017:
- 3:00 pm ET - USA Hockey released a statement in response to the players intentions to sit out the 2017 IIHF World Championship, claiming that athletes will be provided close to $85,000 in cash across the Olympic training and performance period. The figure is in addition to housing, travel, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and training infrastructure.
“While USA Hockey is disappointed that players from the Women’s National Team program have said today they do not intend to participate in the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship unless their financial demands are met, USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team for the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Plymouth, Michigan.”
Jim Smith, President of USA Hockey also stated, “USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so. USA Hockey will continue to provide world-leading support for our athletes.”
- 4:19 pm ET - Ballard Spahr released the following response to the USA Hockey release
5:59 pm ET - Monique Lamoureux mentioned in a phone interview that the national team held a conference call with all U18 players and most of their parents. All U18 players agreed to stand behind the national team players boycott, along with every national team player in the pipeline from the past year.
7:16 pm ET - Per Bob McKenzie, the NWHL players announce that, if contacted, they will not take the place of national team members for Team USA.
8:32 pm ET - Stephen Whyno tweets a quote from a forthcoming Associated Press article in which Hilary Knight states, “Good luck getting a suitable No. 1 competition to represent our country on a world stage. I kind of dare them."
Hilary Knight to USA Hockey: "Good luck getting a suitable No. 1 competition to represent our country on a world stage. I kind of dare them"— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) March 15, 2017
Thursday, March 16, 2017
9:40 am ET The next morning, Knight (with the support of her teammates) made good on her promise. Ballard Spahr released the following statement on behalf of the U.S Women’s Hockey Team
10:40 am ET - Roughly an hour after Ballard Spahr released their statement, USA Today reported that USA Hockey implemented a 5pm deadline to national team players. USA Hockey spokesperson Dave Fischer informed USA Today that the women will be asked if they intend to play. Once all responses have been collected, USA Hockey will, “determine the next course of action.”
1:18 pm ET - The NWHL, which previously had no comment when the players first announced the boycott, releases a statement from Dani Rylan and the league expressing support for the US players and their boycott and pledging to stand with them.
5:00 pm ET- USA Hockey’s deadline passes. Shortly after, the Ballard Spahr release a statement from the players that nothing has changed from their original position.
The players have no intentions of backing down. “I’m so proud of our group,” Hilary Knight told us in a phone interview yesterday afternoon, “I’m so honored and humbled to be part of a team that believes so strongly and passionately in something and is looking to change the world for the better.”
7:40 pm ET: USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fisher speaks to a reporter about the deadline, clarifies that “It was never meant to be a line in the sand” and that efforts to come to a resolution will continue.
1. @usahockey spokesman Dave Fischer just told me deadline for women to declare World Champs intentions “never meant to be line in sand."— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) March 16, 2017
2. Fischer: “Our efforts will continue to come to resolution so players we have selected can play.”— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) March 16, 2017
3. Women’s national team has not wavered from resolve to boycott unless players get more equitable chunk of support revenue. On we go— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) March 16, 2017
USA Hockey is expected to reach out to players on its senior women's national team in an effort to restart negotiations— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) March 17, 2017
Friday, March 17, 2017
You thought things couldn’t get more complicated, didn’t you? YOU WERE WRONG.
5:39 pm ET: USA Hockey tweeted out another statement on the USWNT situation, and this one is a doozy. The release makes some of the numbers and demands public and includes subheaders like “What is USA Hockey’s Proposal?,” “What are Players' Demands?”, and “Why will USA Hockey not provide players a living wage?” in addition to a long list of ways that USA Hockey currently DOES support women and girls’ hockey. There’s too much in it to get into much detail about, but the full document is here.
To which Hilary Knight responded:
Lol.— Hilary Knight (@Hilary_Knight) March 17, 2017
8:15 pm ET: And like clockwork, we got a response from Ballard Spahr and the USWNT players, and they were NOT happy with USAH’s statement.
The USWNT response said that USAH’s press release contained “patently false information” and discussed how USAH didn’t distinguish between funds between USAH and USOC, how USAH’s financial support is limited to the six-month period surrounding the Olympics, and discussed in more detail the changes USAH made to its proposal to the USWNT national team members. The full release can be read in the tweet below:
Lawyers for USWNT release a statement in response to USAH's most recent press release, saying it contained "patently false information." pic.twitter.com/ZS68u1VUNO— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) March 18, 2017
Saturday, March 18, 2017
10:58 am ET - Julie Foudy reports that USA Hockey reached out to the lawyers for the USWNT to continue negotiations and that the two sides could meet as early as Monday.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
9:00 pm ET - After losing the Isobel Cup Final, Blake Bolden confirms that USWNT players will be on a 6 am flight Monday morning to Philadelphia to continue talks with USA Hockey.
Monday, March 20, 2017
9:16 pm ET - NBC reported that the sides met for 10 hours on Monday. A statement earlier from Ballard Spahr and the national team players said that the meetings were productive and would continue throughout the week.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Talks continued, but Nick Zaccardi said that players would not report on the first scheduled day of training camp on Wednesday. The tournament itself starts on March 31.
U.S. women's hockey player reps say players will not be present for the first scheduled pre-worlds training camp practice Wednesday.— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) March 21, 2017
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
8:38 am ET - NBC reports that USA Hockey has officially cancelled its pre-Worlds training camp and exhibition game against Finland, originally scheduled for Friday. USAH said that it was still planning on holding a training camp, now in Plymouth (the original camp was to be held in Traverse City) but didn’t have a timeline for when that would take place as talks were still ongoing.
2:34 pm ET - A.J. Perez of USA Today published an article that explains more of what USAH actually has to accomplish logistically for a deal to fall into place.
The short version is that any deal reached by USAH and the USWNT would need to be approved by the USAH board of governors. In order for that to happen, they need to meet, and all 90+ members need at least 15 days notice before a scheduled meeting can take place. As of Wednesday, Worlds was 10 days away, so that was out of the question.
USAH president Jim Smith could make a decision in an emergency. Smith is one of four representatives from USAH at the talks. The others are executive director Dave Ogrean, treasurer Donna Guariglia and director of women's hockey Reagan Carey.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
After talks that were characterized as “productive” on Monday, the USWNT got a bit of a slap in the face when news leaked that USAH had started reaching out to find new players.
Source close to the situation indicates that USAH started looking for "scabs" today. NWHL, Whitecaps, college players contacted. #USWNT— Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) March 23, 2017
USAH provided a statement to Puck Daddy’s Jen Neale in response to the report:
Around 9 pm ET, the USWNT and their lawyers issued a statement in response to the reports that USAH were now actively searching for replacement players. They also share that USAH made a counter-proposal to the players proposals, and that the team unanimously turned it down.
Just spoke to players side of USA Hockey. All Pl's were just on a Conf call together. Unanimously said NO to USA Hockey offer and said...— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) March 24, 2017
2/2... they (the USA Hockey Pl's) were incredibly surprised & disappointed by USA Hockey's offer.— Julie Foudy (@JulieFoudy) March 24, 2017
Friday, March 24, 2017
8:40 am ET - The USWNT continues their killer social media campaign with another timed post on Twitter and Instagram, this one of players holding up signs with various words written on the describing the team.
11:25 am ET - In an article about USAH looking for scab players, NWHLPA director Anya Battaglino announced her own thoughts on the issue:
A brief excerpt from the article:
"I think you won't see [NWHL players agreeing to be scabs], but I think if you do, there's a really rough conversation that needs to happen after that," Battaglino said. "How do they fit into the framework of the NWHLPA, and how do they fit into the growth and development of the league if they're not willing to stand behind player advocacy for the betterment of our sport?"
Battaglino added that if a player did cross over, she might find herself frozen out in the locker room, whether they are NCAA, NWHL, CWHL, or Whitecaps players.
"I think it is going to appear like you stand against [us]," said Battaglino. "If you don't stand with us, you stand against us."
2:24 pm ET - The MLBPA becomes the first professional men’s league to release a statement of support to the USWNT.
5:59 pm ET - Not to be outdone by a baseball league, the NHL releases its own statement on the situation.
Meanwhile, Natalie Snodgrass, a high-school senior who has spent time on Team USA’s U18 team, tweeted out that she turned down an offer to play on the replacement squad.
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 #BeBoldForChange— Natalie Snodgrass (@nataliesnod9) March 24, 2017
8:14 pm ET: Dunkin’ Donuts becomes the only USAH sponsor to comment on the situation. Dunkin’ Donuts is also a sponsor of Meghan Duggan (and the NWHL)
9:46 ET - In an updated ESPN article, it’s mentioned that the USAH Board of Directors will hold a vote on Monday on the player’s original proposal.
UPDATE USA Hockey's thwarted quest for replacement players latest embarrassment in talks with women's team https://t.co/SBykiwaGhS— Johnette Howard (@JohnetteHoward) March 25, 2017
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Are you ready for things to get fun again because they got REALLY fun over the weekend.
9:14 am ET - The NFLPA became the third professional men’s league, behind the MLB and the NHL, to voice its support for the women’s national team.
Of course, they have the NFLPA's support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached. #USWNHT— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) March 25, 2017
These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers. #USWNHT— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) March 25, 2017
As the morning progresses, more information comes out about exactly how far USAH is looking for replacement players. On Thursday, it was confirmed that USAH had reached out to the NWHL, the Minnesota Whitecaps, and colleges, and Snodgrass confirmed that at the very least, members of the U18 team were contacted. By Saturday, news spread that the league was also reaching out to Division III players, prep schools, and even beer-leaguers.
Another DIII player says no to USAH. Carly ended the season fifth overall in scoring https://t.co/ciRDktxe10— Nicole Haase (@NicoleHaase) March 25, 2017
I joked last week that @usahockey would need to hit up beer leagues for replacement players. Hearing that could indeed be happening now.— A.J. Perez (@byajperez) March 25, 2017
Tweets from players, other sports handles at Cushing, SSM and NAHA - prep schools are on board https://t.co/z8uALGu7py— Nicole Haase (@NicoleHaase) March 25, 2017
4:46 pm ET - And we get another social media blast from the players:
10:55 pm ET - The NBA becomes the fourth and final of the ‘Big Four’ men’s pro sports leagues in North America in issuing a statement of support for the USWNT.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Got word now that USA hockey reached out to a player on a U16 (!!!!!) team to play in World Championships.— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) March 26, 2017
2:47 pm ET - An agent of several NHL players tweets that NHLers may boycott Worlds in solidarity with the women, though no players or NHLPA reps have confirmed (yet).
Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men's World Championships in solidarity with the women.— Allan Walsh (@walsha) March 26, 2017
8:31 pm ET - USA Today reported that there was a tentative deal in place after negotiations the previous Monday, but that higher-ups at USAH vetoed the deal. USAH spokesman Dave Fischer called the accusation “patently false.”
In that same article, it says that the 92-member USAH board will vote on the player’s original proposal via emergency teleconference at noon ET on Monday, March 27. Stay tuned...
Monday, March 27, 2017
12:33 pm ET - As the USAH conference call happens, 14 US Senators sent a letter to USA Hockey and Dave Ogrean, USA Hockey’s executive director, urging them to “resolve the dispute quickly to ensure that the USA Women’s National Hockey Team receives equitable resources.”
2:45 pm ET - In an episode of The Garden Faithful podcast released early Monday morning, Brianne McLaughlin was a guest to talk about the Isobel Cup Final and the USWNT boycott. While discussing marketing, she dropped this little tidbit about a potential gold-medal rematch from the 2014 Olympics: