Back to Full Strength: U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Scores Big in Payment Dispute

In a stunning win for equal pay between genders, the United States Women’s hockey team secured a major victory by coming to an agreement with USA Hockey on a new four-year labor agreement. This result came on the heels of the Women’s team plan to boycott the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship, which began Friday March 31, 2017. The move to boycott drew a large amount of support from athletes to politicians, who reverberated the argument that the women’s team should earn a paycheck equal in amount to what is earned  by the Men’s team. In a letter sent by twenty United States Senators on March 27, politicians pleaded with executives at USA Hockey to provide “equitable treatment” to both the Men’s and Women’s programs.

In highlighting many of the disparities in treatment between the programs, the letter mentioned specific instances of unequal treatment between genders. Such grievances included a “seemingly endless” supply of free hockey equipment to the Men’s program, while the Women’s team were forced to “buy their own [equipment].” Disparities also existed in areas of funding including support for staff, meals, travel expenses, transportation, and publicity, as well as support for youth programs. The letter specifically alleged that USA Hockey spends about $3.5 million to support youth hockey for males, but has “no parallel development program for women.”

The settlement, while not disclosing a total dollar figure, did produce a sizeable raise for the Women’s team. Notably, all players will be paid $70,000 per year, have access to a $950,000 compensation pool, receive a pre-bonus salary of $4,000 per month, and spend up to $50 per diem on non-travel days. In addition, travel accommodations and insurance will also be equal to what the Men’s program receives. Perhaps the most important development, however, is the provision in the agreement permitting a committee aimed at developing youth hockey for young girls—something that has gone without needed material support.

Pressure and tensions mounted recently when USA Hockey attempted to “buck” the boycott by attempting to recruit college and junior hockey programs to roster a team for this year’s World Championship. In a unique showing of solidarity, scores of these attempted recruits declined the invitation to break the picket line, putting USA Hockey into dire straits. Even attempts to recruit adult recreational players failed. The new deal is being hailed as a major victory for women’s sports and will likely provide a framework for future Women’s sports contract negotiations.

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