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Everything you need to know about the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team boycott

Tensions between USA Hockey, the organization responsible for selecting, organizing and compensating U.S. hockey players for international competitions, and the U.S. women’s national team have been brewing for quite some time. As the World Championships approach, however, the dispute is intensifying, as is the news coverage. The women’s national team has threatened to boycott the world championships unless USA Hockey meets their stated demands.

The crux of the disagreement stems from major contract disparities between the women’s and men’s national hockey teams. In terms of just numbers, the women’s team is asking for players to be paid $68,000 per year — far more than the $14,000-$18,000 per year that most women’s players currently earn. Many players have to work one or two other jobs in addition to competing at the very top level of their sport. In sharp contrast, most male hockey players bring in healthy salaries from the well-established National Hockey League (NHL), where the minimum contract is currently $650,000.

But the dispute is far more than just a numbers game. The women’s national team is also demanding contract benefits and support on par with what male players currently receive. For instance, USA Hockey spends $3.5 million per year on its Men’s National Team Development Program, which focuses on grooming 17-18 year old players for competition on the world’s stage. No such program exists for the women’s team.

Female players don’t receive paid maternity leave, nor can they bring guests to competitions without purchasing a ticket for them, give out free apparel to fans, fly to and from competitions in business class, stay in a hotel room by themselves and receive disability insurance — all benefits that the men’s team enjoys. USA Hockey has previously said that they consider these benefits to be unnecessary and too expensive for the women’s team, as they are technically not full-time players.

USA Hockey has threatened to field a replacement team at the national championships to undermine the boycott effort by the current women’s national team. Per ESPN, USA Hockey has reportedly been contacting just about every hockey player that they’ve ever been in contact with, including ones that the organization previously cut from the team. However, the effort has been largely fruitless so far — just about every prospective alternate player has expressed support for and solidarity with the boycott. It is unlikely that any alternate team thrown together by USA Hockey would be comparable to the current team at the international stage.

The solidarity effort has extended beyond just the alternate players. Major corporate sponsors such as Dunkin Donuts have spoken up to support the boycott.

Other major sports leagues’ players’ unions, such as the NHL Players’ Association and the Major League Baseball (MLB) Players Association, have also expressed their support for the Women’s National Team’s efforts. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, well known for advocating for more equitable conditions in their own sport, has expressed solidarity. Even the Canadian Women’s National Hockey Team, despite their strong rivalry with the U.S. team, has voiced their support for the boycott.

The World Championship is set to begin on March 31. If USA Hockey wants to be a part of it, they have just five days left to negotiate an acceptable agreement with the Women’s National Team. Although negotiations have reportedly gone well in past weeks, USA Hockey hasn’t been able to come up with an acceptable offer.

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