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USA Hockey and USWNT come to agreement to end boycott of IIHF World Championships


Alex Rigsby and the rest of Team USA will attend the IIHF Women’s World Championships thanks to a deal struck between the team and USA Hockey on Tuesday.
Chris Tanouye

After almost two weeks of tense negotiations and back-and-forth statements between USA Hockey and the US women’s national team, the two sides finally came to an agreement that ended the boycott and will send the original Team USA to the IIHF Women’s World Championships.

The tournament begins on March 31, where Team USA will open the tournament against Team Canada.

The deal was a significant win for the players, who originally turned down a counter-proposal made by USA Hockey last Thursday despite the players thinking they had come to an agreement after 10 hours of talks on Monday.

The parties agreed to keep financial details between them, but the press release from USAH and the USWNT said that the four-year contract includes the formation of a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group of former and current players from the US Women’s National team along with volunteers and USA Hockey staff (Team Canada has a similar advisory board in place for its national team that negotiates contracts and communicates with Hockey Canada staff). This group will meet regularly to assist USA hockey in marketing, promotions, and fundraising girls and women’s hockey. The deal also will focus on growing girls’ hockey at the grassroots level.

It is expected that players will go to Plymouth for a practice on Thursday.

The boycott was originally announced on March 15, when ESPNW broke the news and the original Team USA players sent out a mass social media message announcing the strike.

From there, the responses started getting nasty. USA Hockey put out a release later that day discussing how they have already improved support of the women’s team and that they do not employ athletes, which didn’t actually address the demands of the women’s team.

Players were looking for longer contracts, as they have only been paid $6,000 a month over a course of six months by USA Hockey in the past during Olympic years, in addition to more support for marketing and PR as well as equitable support when it comes to things like travel expenses, hotels, staffing, and youth team development.

An emergency conference call was held on Monday at noon ET, and lasted for approximately three hours with no votes. The USWNT and their lawyers didn’t comment on the talks at the time. Those talks continued Tuesday morning, where they two sides danced around a deal seemingly all day before USA Hockey confirmed the deal with a press release at 8:15 ET.

“Our sport is the big winner today,” said Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

Before the deal was reached, the USWNT sent out well-timed and unified social media blasts while USA Hockey continued digging themselves into a hole. While USA Hockey began looking for a replacement team, players who were contacted began tweeting a pre-determined post that they had refused.

Apparently, USA Hockey asked players a few years out of college as well as at least one athlete on the U16 team. It became clear as the days went on that the USWNT had done their homework before boycotting.

The IIHF Women’s World Championships open on Friday, March 31 at Plymouth, Michigan.