The team announced Wednesday that it will not participate in the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship after saying negotiations with USA Hockey to secure fair wages and support equal to the men's program were unsuccessful.
The U.S. womenâ€™s national hockey team is making a stand.The team announced Wednesday that it will not participate in the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship after saying negotiations with USA Hockey to secure fair wages and support equal to the men's program were unsuccessful. Team USA is the host of the games set to begin March 31 in Plymouth, Mich., and is the reigning world champion.
"We've been asking for equitable support for over a year now," two-time Olympic silver medalist Hilary Knight told the Tribune. "It sort of seemed like the stars were aligning and this is the right time to do it. We have a great group of leadership and great player pool. Obviously, before world championships on home soil, itâ€™s a big deal."The national team is being represented by the law firm Ballard Spahr, which cited the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. The firm said the Ted Stevens Act â€œrequires USA Hockey to provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women where, as is the case with hockey, separate programs for male and female athletes are conducted on a national basis.â€
Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove and Kendall Coyne of Palos Heights, both members of the United Statesâ€™ silver-medal squad in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, were among players who took to Twitter to announce the boycott with tweets reading, â€œUS WNT will not play in 2017 World Championship due to stalled negotiations over fair wages and support from USA Hockeyâ€
Team USA said girls in the development program do not receive the same financial support and playing opportunities consistent with boys teams and members of the womenâ€™s national team â€œalso receive inequitable support for equipment, staff, meals, travel expenses, transportation and publicity.â€The decision to boycott the world championship was not an easy one, according to Knight."We donâ€™t have many scheduled games or programming for our team and our sport so to have the biggest thing of year potentially taken off the table is tough because this is what we train for all year," said Knight, who began playing hockey while living in Lake Forest.
"Weâ€™re training for the Olympic Games, weâ€™re training for the World Championships and weâ€™re training to represent our country on a world stage and when we have that opportunity and arenâ€™t able to go itâ€™s definitely a difficult decision. But it also speaks wonders to the power of our group and what we stand for and what we believe in and thatâ€™s achieving equitable support."At the end of the day, we want whatâ€™s best for our team, our program, our fans and our country," Knight continued. "I hope that we can continue negotiations and we can start moving forward."Knight said resentment over not getting the same treatment as the men's program has been growing. She sighted the women's team not being invited to Team USA's unveiling of 2014 Olympic jerseys and the omission of the 1998 gold-medal winning squad on a list of Olympic champions on the inside collar of the sweaters as examples of the unequitable treatment. Â "Things like that add up over time and this is the time to make sure we can shape the future for the right direction of the younger generation," Knight said. "I mean, itâ€™s 2017. Itâ€™s sort of a no-brainer. These things are things that need to get worked out over time and weâ€™ve had many strong individuals try to do it before us and now weâ€™re able to build upon what theyâ€™ve done and also take motivation from U.S. womenâ€™s soccer and also Billie Jean King and some other tremendous outstanding role models and move forward for our sport, specifically, but also the younger generation and women in industry."Knight said that the hope is for a deal to be made so Team USA can participate in the World Championship and also not have an impact on the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea."Everyone is hoping for the best," Knight said. "I think we can come to a reasonable solution or make steps to work in the right direction. Weâ€™re strong women. Weâ€™re a strong group. We have been fighting this fight for many, many years and we need to get whatâ€™s right and whatâ€™s fair and whatâ€™s equitable support. Whatever that looks like weâ€™re prepared to do that."
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