The Women's Hockey World Championships begin Friday, but one of the eight countries competing doesn't have a team. Team USA is boycotting the tournament due to inequality concerns, including wages and developmental resources. USA Hockey apparently has decided not to meet their demands and is instead seeking to field a team of replacement players.
This strategy is working about as well as you'd expect. Jim Johannson, an executive with USA Hockey, was scouting an Adrian College DIII/Alumni game against Switzerland. Adrian College lost 11-1.
USA Hockey was also turned down by a high school senior.
As of Sunday, one report indicated USA Hockey had recruited enough players to field one line.
The problem with the replacement players strategy is they will necessarily be women who play hockey, and are therefore unlikely to cross the picket line on an issue they care about and have been dealing with their whole lives.
But it's not just other women who have come out in support for Team USA. The NHLPA and NBPA have each issued statements supporting the boycott and one prominent sports agent made noise that men's players are considering a boycott of their World Championships this May in support of the women.
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
Walsh's vague, unsourced tweet shouldn't be taken as fact, and there are a bunch of (possibly cynical) complicating factors. For one, the Men's Worlds are in May, right in the middle of the NHL playoffs. NHL player participation in the Worlds is usually pretty low to begin with, since the playoffs are still going on for some and others don't want to cap off a grueling, disappointing season with another tournament.
That being said, it would certainly be a welcome gesture for the men to boycott the Worlds as a show of solidarity. But let's not lose sight of what the women of Team USA—and the ones not on the team who nevertheless refused the call-up—already have accomplished themselves. USA Hockey is getting embarrassed, not just for having its unfair treatment of the women's team placed in full view, but also by getting owned every time it gets turned down by a potential replacement player who supports the boycott.
Team USA has been laying the groundwork for a year and is calling players personally to keep them unified. Meanwhile, USA Hockey has been sending out mass emails. USA Hockey is taking the L in each and every facet of this conflict. It's hard to imagine them looking much worse than they currently do, or this boycott being a much bigger public relations disaster.