USA Hockey and the women’s national team say their marathon meeting Monday was productive and they hope to have an agreement this week that will end their ongoing wage dispute and avoid a boycott of the upcoming world championships.
The sides met for more than 10 hours Monday in Philadelphia and will continue discussions later this week. Players announced last week they’d boycott the upcoming world championships in Plymouth, Michigan, unless significant progress was made toward a labour agreement.
USA Hockey and players released statements Monday night saying they hoped a deal would be reached in time for the tournament, which begins March 31.
Players said they were hopeful to get an agreement in time to have a training camp and prepare to defend their world championship gold medal on home ice.
"We feel like we made progress today," star forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said by phone. "They were productive, and we are hopeful that we can come to a timely agreement that would get us to Plymouth in time to prepare as a team so that we could compete in worlds."
Lamoureux-Davidson, twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando, captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy and Kendal Coyne were among the players who took part in the meeting on the players’ side. President Jim Smith, executive director Dave Ogrean, treasurer Donna Guariglia and director of women’s hockey Reagan Carey were among those representing USA Hockey.
In its statement, USA Hockey said its goal remains to have the team it selected for the world championships still represent the U.S. later this month.
Players said negotiations with USA Hockey had been ongoing for 14 months over fair wages and equitable support. The meeting Monday, which Lamoureux-Davidson said lasted from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., was positive in that the sides were in the same room talking on the verge of training camp, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday.
"We’re hopeful, I guess," Lamoureux-Davidson said. "This morning (we thought), ‘Wait and see how this goes,’ and after today we’re all hopeful that we can make something work with USA Hockey. We’re hopeful, I think, on both sides."
Players are pushing to be paid outside the six-month Olympic period, saying USA Hockey pays them nothing for the other 3 1/2 years.
USA Hockey said it is not in the business of employing athletes and put out a list of players’ financial demands that players referred to as "patently false."
Despite trading barbs last week, the sides agreed to meet in downtown Philadelphia the morning after the National Women’s Hockey League final in Boston, which several players took part in. Their lengthy meeting didn’t produce an agreement, but at least the agreement that talks would continue.
"It’s better than walking out saying, ‘This isn’t going to happen,"’ Lamoureux-Davidson said. "But we’re hopeful, so that’s a step in the right direction, for sure."