Members of the U.S. women's national hockey team agreed to a four-year contract with USA Hockey on Tuesday night to avert a threatened boycott of the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Plymouth, Mich.
Both sides declined to disclose the financial terms. The deal includes the formation of a Women's High Performance Advisory Group that will contain former and current members of the women's national team. This group will offer advice in helping USA Hockey advance girls and women's hockey.
"Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport,” said USA Hockey president Jim Smith in a statement. “We’ll now move forward together knowing we’ll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey.”
U.S. star player Hilary Knight said the arrangement "will have a positive and lasting impact."
In addition to seeking an improved financial package, the women's stated objective was to receive a commitment from USA Hockey for a stronger focus on the women's game.
“Our sport is the big winner today,” said Meghan Duggan, captain of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”
Although details are still being finalized, the Americans will hold a practice on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. ET in Plymouth.
The Americans will open their title defense with a game against Canada on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in USA Hockey Arena. The U.S. women have won seven of the last nine world championships.
"This is a very successful outcome, and very good for the future of USA Hockey and our women's athletes and women's hockey in the United States," USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean told USA TODAY Sports.
Frustrated by the lack of progress in more than a year of negotiations for a new contract, players announced March 15 that they wouldn’t play in the tournament unless a settlement was reached.
An eight-hour negotiation session on Monday in Philadelphia laid the groundwork for the new deal.
Before the agreement was reached, Ogrean had said his organization would put together a replacement team if the national team players boycotted.
Knight had said the boycott threat was about “stalled negotiations over fair wages and support from USA Hockey.”
One of the U.S. women’s primary objectives was to achieve enough financial support, particularly in non-Olympic years, to help players stay in the sport beyond college.
Duggan had said the players wanted was “a living wage” and for USA Hockey to fully support girls and women’s hockey.
In their former deal, players received $1,000 per month from USA Hockey for the six months leading up to the Olympics, and nothing during the non-Olympic years.
USA Hockey officials countered that players did receive up to $2,000 per month as a training stipend from the U.S. Olympic Committee and that money should be counted as compensation from the organization because USA Hockey officials ultimately decides who is to receive it.
A primary element of USA Hockey's position was that that organization didn't want athletes as employees. Ogrean said it was not his organization’s “obligation” to support players in non-Olympic years.
With a new contract in place, the question now is whether the public nature of the squabble will prompt USA Hockey to be more aggressive in promoting girls and women’s hockey. USA Hockey funds a national team development program for Under-18 and Under-17 boys players, and the women have lobbied to have a similar program for women. About 13% of USA Hockey's players are female.