US women's hockey players stand fast in wage fight

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A deadline for the U.S. women’s hockey team to tell USA Hockey whether they will play in the upcoming world championships passed Thursday without players changing their mind about boycotting the tournament in an effort to get higher wages.

“We are focused on the issue of equitable support and stand by our position,” the players said in a statement released shortly after 5 p.m. EDT. “We continue to be grateful for the encouragement and loyalty of our fans.”

It was not clear what USA Hockey will do to fill its roster for the tournament, which begins March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan. The U.S. is the defending champion and training camp was scheduled to begin Wednesday.

“The organization’s clear objective is to continue to work toward ensuring the players that have been selected for the team are those that represent the United States in the world championship,” USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said.

The deadline came one day after the team announced it would boycott the tournament, citing a lack of progress in labour talks. They are seeking more compensation and a four-year deal.

Stars such as Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, captain Meghan Duggan and twins Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando are leading the charge to skip the tournament. Knight thinks other players who might be asked will turn down the offer.

“We’re unanimously united as a player pool,” Knight said. “Good luck getting a suitable No. 1 competition to represent our country on a world stage. I kind of dare them. It’s tough.”

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said USA Hockey emailed players on Wednesday asking for a decision on the world championships.

“Every single playing is still waking up every morning and training and preparing like we are going to show up for camp on the 21st,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “With that being said, there was a deadline that was not met today because we are wanting to resolve this.”

Several players said USA Hockey pays players $1,000 per month during their six-month Olympic residency period. Players only have contracts in Olympic years and are seeking a deal that covers them during the remaining 3 1/2 years.

Some 14 months of negotiations have gone nowhere. An attorney for the players, John Langel, called the gap a “chasm.”

Neither USA Hockey nor the players has revealed details of the wages in dispute or how the men’s team is compensated. The U.S. men’s team is comprised of highly paid NHL players, as are most established men’s national teams.

Canada, the world’s other women’s hockey powerhouse, puts more money into the sport in part because of government funding. Hockey Canada general manager of women’s programs Melody Davidson said development players receive $900 a month and senior-level players $1,500 a month even outside Olympic years and that players are supported full-time for nine months around the Olympics.

The wage dispute follows one by U.S. women’s soccer players, who last year filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

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Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

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