After over a year of negotiations — and nearly two weeks of a threatened boycott — the US Women’s National Team has reached an agreement with USA Hockey that will provide for better support of the women’s game.
The women’s national team was seeking equitable support (financial and otherwise) relative to the men’s hockey players. In particular, additional financial support in both Olympic and non-Olympic years would allow the players to train at the level necessary to compete for championships without wondering how to support themselves. Training for the Olympics is a full-time commitment.
In addition, the players had been fighting for additional support for the sport as a whole, and they were able to make a big leap forward in that area.
The agreement includes the formation of a Women’s High Performance Advisory Group of former and current players from the U.S. Women’s National Team program, along with volunteer and staff leadership, to meet regularly to assist USA Hockey in efforts to advance girls’ and women’s hockey in all areas, including programming, marketing, promotion and fundraising.
This is a very solid gain for the women. Hockey Canada has had this form of committee for a while now, and it allows the women to have a seat at the table with USA Hockey to negotiate contracts, support of the women’s game, and any other issues of concern that the players may wish to voice in an official capacity.
While the financial details were not officially released, ESPN’s Johnette Howard has the details... and the women made, frankly, gigantic gains for their sport:
• The team's annual compensation ... will vastly improve to roughly $70,000 per player. Previously, USA Hockey paid each member of the women's national team only $6,000 for the entire six-month training residency before each Olympic Games. The other 3½ years, the players' only financial support came in training stipends the USOC provides athletes.
• For the first time, USA Hockey will pay the women's team performance bonuses ($20,000 for a gold medal; $15,000 for silver) to supplement the five-figure performance bonuses the USOC already pays athletes in all sports.
• For the first time, the women's team will receive the same level of travel arrangements and insurance coverage as the men's team. The women's per diem was also finally bumped up from $15 a day for non-travel days at events to $50, same as the men.
• USA Hockey and the players will establish a committee to make recommendations on how the federation can improve its marketing, scheduling, public relations efforts and promotion of the women's game.
• USA Hockey will add a foundation position to improve fundraising and other efforts for its girls' developmental teams, which currently receive virtually nothing compared to the $3.5 million the boys' program receives and the additional $1.4 million USA Hockey pours into the USHL, a top-tier league for 16- to 20-year-old boys.
Also, per USA Today,
In addition, the deal ensures each player will receive an additional $2,000 per month [training stipend] during the life of the deal — the maximum players get in direct financial support from the U.S. Olympic Committee. Players earn between $750 to $2,000 from the USOC, meaning USA Hockey has agreed to make up the difference.
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the women’s hockey players organized one of the most impressive and effective social media efforts in sports history to achieve this. The players, from the national team on down to high school and D3 non-members who USA Hockey had reached out to in an effort to field a backup team, organized and presented their message in wildly effective fashion.
Six current and former Boston College Eagles — Kelli Stack ‘11, Emily Pfalzer ‘15, Alex Carpenter ‘16, Haley Skarupa ‘16, Kali Flanagan ‘18, and Megan Keller ‘18 — are on the Team USA roster for next week’s tournament in Plymouth, Michigan. They’ll be going for their 7th IIHF World Championship of the last 8 tournaments, but they still hunger for Olympic gold — the United States has only won it once, at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano.