US national women’s hockey team players stand firm in wage fight

Ameriican Kacey Bellamy, right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against Sweden during the first period of a 2014 Winter Olympics women’s hockey game in Sochi, Russia. The U.S. women's team is threatening to boycott the world championships because of a wage dispute. The team announced Wednesday that they will not participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation tournament that begins March 31 in downstate Plymouth. (AP photo)

By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer
U.S. women’s hockey players let a deadline to decide on whether they’ll boycott the world championships pass Thursday without any indication they’ve changed their minds in a standoff with USA Hockey over wages.
“We are focused on the issue of equitable support and stand by our position,” the players said in a statement released shortly after the 5 p.m. EDT deadline. “We continue to be grateful for the encouragement and loyalty of our fans.”
The powerhouse U.S. women’s program has been plunged into chaos less than a week until the scheduled start of training camp and two weeks before defending its world championship gold medal on home ice in Plymouth, Michigan.
Coach Ken Klee was replaced by Robb Stauber earlier this month, and now it’s unclear how USA Hockey will fill its roster for a tournament it has won six of the past eight times and was expected to serve as a measuring stick for the South Korea Winter Olympics just 11 months away.
It was not immediately clear what USA Hockey’s next step will be ahead of the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Hockey Championship, which begins March 31. USA Hockey said it is proceeding according to plan.
“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.
Players are seeking more compensation and a four-year deal. The deadline came one day after the team announced it would boycott the tournament, citing a lack of progress in labor talks.
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 Wednesday. “Good luck getting a suitable No. 1 competition to represent our country on a world stage. I kind of dare them. It’s tough.”
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.