2016-2017

2017





Contract Fight With U.S.A. Hockey Over, Hard Work Begins for Womens Team
1 2017 . NY Times. By SETH BERKMAN

On Tuesday night, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and her twin sister, Monique Lamoureux-Morando, helped the United States womens hockey team earn a major victory for gender equity in sports.

The twins were leaders in the players 15 months of negotiations and eventual two-week boycott that culminated in an agreement with U.S.A. Hockey for increased pay and support.

Less than 24 hours later, they were reminded of the battles still ahead.

In college, the twins helped carry North Dakota womens hockey program to national prominence; on Wednesday, the university announced it was dropping the sport.

Amid celebrations of Tuesdays news, players recognized that their work was incomplete. That was why a key component of the deal with U.S.A. Hockey was the formation of the Womens High Performance Advisory Group to work within the governing body.

The new four-year contract for the American womens team is similar to an agreement the Canadian team reached with its national governing body, Hockey Canada, almost 20 years ago. Vital to Canadas success was the creation of a Womens High Performance Advisory Committee, which acted as a players union in negotiations with Hockey Canada and fostered development on the youth level.

In a statement released Tuesday, U.S.A. Hockey said its advisory group would consist of former and current national team players, volunteers and staff leaders who would regularly meet to assist in efforts to advance girls and womens hockey in all areas, including programming, marketing, promotion and fund-raising.

There are mentalities that need to be changed, because people arent changed enough, said Hilary Knight, a star on the American team.

Some within womens hockey believe more action is needed from the International Ice Hockey Federation, which holds influence over every participating nations governing body.

Cammi Granato, a member of the American team that won the gold medal in the first womens hockey Olympic tournament in 1998, said the recent changes enacted by U.S.A. Hockey should put pressure on the international federation to look within and bring up the modern-day standard.

If you look at that organization, there are imbalances there, she said. If they do that and take the leadership role there, you might have other countries federations taking a stand as well.

The international federation did little to intervene in U.S.A. Hockeys dispute with its womens team, the three-time defending world champions. The federation released a statement on March 17 that said it was monitoring the situation closely. Several players said they learned during negotiations that the federation was pushing U.S.A. Hockey to find replacement players to field a new team in case the boycott continued.

The event that the womens team was boycotting, the federations world championship, began Friday with a 2-0 victory by the United States over Canada, and continued Saturday with the Americans 7-0 rout of Russia. A major point of contention in the teams boycott was not receiving travel and insurance allotments similar to mens players.

As the women fought for more equitable treatment from their national governing body, it appeared that the federation was trying to accommodate the demands of the N.H.L., which has been balking at releasing its players for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Reuters reported Thursday that the federation had agreed to pay for Olympic travel and insurance for N.H.L. players, which could cost up to $20 million.

The international federations latest financial report said it received just under $40 million in Olympic contributions during the 2013-14 season and more than $12 million for 2014-15. The federation did not respond to questions about how much of the money was designated for womens hockey.

Players from other countries followed the U.S.A. Hockey negotiations closely. Janine Weber, a member of the Austrian national team, said many European womens players shared news of the boycott on Facebook.

I think its something we can all relate to and something we hope to accomplish one day in terms of equal support from our federations, Weber wrote in an email, adding that more investment would help close the performance gap between the United States and Canada and the rest of the world in womens hockey.

Jongah Park, a forward on South Koreas national team, said that even though womens hockey was a relatively new sport in her country, her team had begun to think about the importance of expanding the game to the point where resources for both genders were equal.

Even we have desire to fight for equal wages and gender equality, Park wrote in an email during the United States teams boycott. I dont know how to do that. But always think of equalities.

American players hope their stance will ultimately assist womens hockey programs across the world, but they first are focused on increasing diversity in U.S.A. Hockeys leadership.

Currently, only 15 of 91 voting members of its board of directors are women. It is the only national governing body among American Winter Olympic sports with a board that has less than 20 percent women. According to U.S.A. Hockeys annual guide, the terms of 29 board members end this year.

The importance of having strong voices on the board was clear in the contract negotiations.

Meghan Duggan, the national team captain, is a player representative on the board. To avoid a conflict of interest, she did not vote, but she remained involved in negotiations throughout, acting as a channel for the concerns of her 22 teammates.

Women in these positions need to continue to be on calls and speak up and push the boundaries, Duggan said.

The prospects of a deal were dim on Monday. U.S.A. Hockey held a teleconference for its board of directors to vote on a proposal presented by the team. After more than three hours of discussion, the contract was voted down. Instead, the majority of the board wanted to respond with an offer that had already been rejected by the players.

But according to people with knowledge of the meeting, Julie Chu stepped up. One of the United States most decorated Olympic athletes, Chu is a four-time medal winner and a pioneer in womens hockey. She carried the flag for the United States Olympic team at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Throughout the boycott, Chu supported the womens team on social media. As discussions sputtered, she suggested that the executive committee should be authorized to continue negotiations with the players and then come to a final decision.

That path led to an agreement one day later.

It explains her character and how much it means to her as well, said Granato, who texted and called Chu throughout the negotiations. She was able to speak up, and thats why more women in there like that are needed because they can get through. That helps. It was vital.

Since the 1990s including Granatos teams, Chus era and the current roster led by Knight and Duggan the womens national team has been the most consistently successful U.S.A. Hockey product. The players who fought for their new contract said they believed they had only begun to shape the organization from within.

Starting a culture change in U.S.A. Hockey, thats ultimately at the end of the day what needs to happen to progress and move forward, Lamoureux-Morando said. Hopefully, other countries now will kind of follow suit. Were a model to look at.

 
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