Examining dispute between USA Hockey, women players

USA Hockey and U.S. women's national team players are so far apart in negotiations for a new deal that they can't even agree on how much financial support the women are currently receiving from the governing body.

Players say they receive $1,000 per month for six months from USA Hockey before an Olympic Games, and USA Hockey officials say core players receive $3,000 per month. USA Hockey's figure includes $2,000 per month from the U.S. Olympic Committee's Direct Athlete Support program. Some athletes only receive $700 from that program.

USA Hockey officials say that money counts because they decide who receives it, and they have earmarked all of the money to women's national team players. U.S players say this disagreement is indicative of the disrespect they are receiving from USA Hockey during negotiations over more than a year.

Their dispute boiled over this week when players announced their plans to boycott the world championship, scheduled to start March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players were given until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday to declare their intentions and all 23 players on the roster said they wouldn't play under the current conditions. USA Hockey executive Dave Ogrean has said the U.S. will have a team at the tournament, even if there is a boycott. But USA Hockey hasn't yet said who will play if the current players stay home.

The sides haven't said how far apart they are. At the 2014 Olympics, USA Hockey officials say the U.S. women had the potential to earn $53,000. But that total included the USOC training stipend and projected USA winning the gold medal and receiving a bonus of $25,000 from the USOC. USA won the silver and received $15,000.

U.S. players point out that the vast majority of their financial support comes from the USOC, not USA Hockey.

"We have taken their interests seriously and put up a more substantial stipend and package on the table coming up to the Olympic year," Ogrean said earlier this week.

Now, USA Hockey officials say they are offering a deal that would allow players the opportunity to pocket $85,000 if they win the gold medal. But a chunk of that increase comes from the USOC raising the gold medal bonus to $37,500. The silver pays $22,500 and the bronze is worth $15,000.

Again, players don't count the USOC bonuses, or the Direct Athlete Support, as being part of what USA Hockey is offering.

By comparison, in 2014, USA Swimming gave star Katie Ledecky $75,000 for each gold in addition to the $25,000 that she received from the USOC for each gold.

Another major issue is that the women hockey players are looking for financial support to help them stay in the sport in non-Olympic years. USA Hockey won't go there.

"We've never had athletes as employees, male, female, sled, or anyone else," Ogrean said. "That's a line we don't want to cross and we don't think it's our charge or responsibility to do that."

Women's players are also asking for more support for the women's development program. The NHL gives USA Hockey an $8 million grant annually, and the women want to see some of that money go into women's programs.

"It's USA Hockey's decision to determine how to allocate and distribute the funding they receive from the NHL," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.

Daly said the NHL hasn't made any specific requests regarding women's hockey.

"We are comfortable with how USA Hockey has administered and allocated funding from the NHL," Daly said, "and the organization has repeatedly demonstrated that it is entirely and exclusively committed to the growth of hockey in this country — both men's and women's".

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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