Hockey Canada officials and players are hoping their southern rivals will come to a resolution after a dispute over pay reached an ultimatum Wednesday from U.S. players.
The American women’s team has threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships in Michigan unless major progress is made with USA Hockey towards an eventual four-year contract.
Hockey Canada GM of national women’s team programs, Melody Davidson, said that for her organisation’s part, they are preparing for the tournament as usual and they continue to have a strong relationship with their players.
“We talk regularly around agreements and contracts and what the players need,” she said. “We’re comfortable where we’re at, I’m not saying that we always agree, but we always get to a really good point in the best interest of the game.”
When asked about taking a stance on the USA dispute, such as supporting U.S. players, Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin said they can’t comment, but they do respect the position.
“I just hope they’re going to come with a mutual agreement in the short term,” she said.
The Canada-USA rivalry has been the undisputed gold standard in women’s hockey and one of the sport’s major marketing subjects.
Canada’s Lauriane Rougeau was asked about the prospect of not playing America’s best.
“It is difficult to imagine, but we respect their decision,” she said.
Earlier Wednesday, both USA Hockey and the players released conflicting statements regarding the dispute, with the governing body stating what it’s implementing ahead of the 2018 Winter Games.
“A six-month training camp, additional support stipends, and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period,” the statement read.
That sum would be in addition to housing, travel allowances, meal expenses and insurance.
The women’s team said that was misleading.
“That is simply not true and no such offer was ever extended,” a statement claimed.
The players have also pointed to the $3.5 million in funding USA Hockey spends on its men’s team development program, whereas women’s players have contracts in Olympic years.
While the U.S. is seeking a four-year deal, Hockey Canada wouldn’t go into the details of its player contracts.
When asked about the concern of equality in women’s sport overall, Davidson said they certainly work to support programming.
“I think that’s evident just in my position being a female in the game,” she said.
Some of Canada’s players including Haley Irwin and Brianne Jenner said there’s been no contact between them and their opponents since the news broke, nor have U.S. players reached out in recent years regarding player contracts.
As for Davidson’s position, she said she’s not sure it would be her place to offer help.
“We regularly communicate on a number of areas there and definitely if they asked our opinions or any comments, we would certainly discuss and talk with them, but overall I see that as a whole other picture,” she said.
Despite the public dispute and potential impact on the tournament, Poulin said they can only focus on themselves.
“It’s going to be another challenge for us, it’s a great preparation for an Olympic year and we’ve got to keep moving forward,” she said.