The International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship is set to drop the puck, for the first time ever, at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan, on March 31. The United States is slated to take on their arch-rivals from Canada on opening night at 7:30.
Fans looking to give the Americans a distinct home-ice advantage should probably lay off buying those tickets just yet, though. As of Wednesday, the game will be missing a key ingredient—namely, the U.S. women's hockey team. Seth Berkman has the story for the New York Times:
"Members of the United States women's national team have decided to sit out the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship this month, after negotiations for an increase in wages and support from USA Hockey stalled.
'We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,' the team captain, Meghan Duggan, said in a statement. 'We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.'"
The boycott comes on the heels of a drastic, unilateral pay cut last November in the National Women's Hockey League, which features a number of players from the national team. Player salaries, which ranged from $10,000 to $26,000, were slashed 38 percent—a sacrifice the NWHL said was necessary to keep the league, which is in only its second season, going. Those players responded with a call for more transparency and open communication.
Ballard Spahr, the law firm representing the U.S. women's hockey team, released a statement Wednesday saying USA Hockey pays players $1,000 a month during the six months of the Olympic residency period and little else the rest of the time, "despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full time and compete throughout the year, including in the World Championships. Approximately half of the players on the Women's National Team hold second or third jobs, and many others rely on financial support from family members."
Several women have pointed to the U.S. women's national soccer team's similar fight for equal treatment as inspiration.
Six-time world champion Duggan tweeted the team's official statement along with the hashtag #BeBoldForChange.
Obviously, having the host team sit out of any international tournament would be devastating, all the more so because the American women are the top-ranked team in the world, one slot ahead of the Canadians they won't be playing at month's end if the boycott holds.