USA Hockey contacting potential replacements; USWNT responds (UPDATE)

Negotiations between USA Hockey and the boycotting US Women’s National Team are still on going after a marathon eight-plus hour in-person session on Monday. The two sides split up to consider what had been discussed.

Training camp for the upcoming Women’s World Championships was set to start on Wednesday; however, USA Hockey was forced to cancel it and an exhibition game against Finland on Friday because they don’t have a team.

On Thursday evening, A.J. Perez of USA Today reported USA Hockey had started to contact players to fill in for the striking USWNT.

Puck Daddy reached out for comment from USA Hockey and received the following statement confirming the report:

USA Hockey remains committed to resolving issues with players named to the U.S. Women’s National Team and the priority is to have those players represent the United States in the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship.

With the tournament less than 10 days away, USA Hockey shared with the players’ representatives today that it will begin reaching out to alternate players to determine their availability and interest in representing the U.S. in the event a resolution cannot be reached.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. Women’s National Team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

Basically, USA Hockey is trying to put together a ‘Plan B’ so they have a team to ice when the tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan.

Puck Daddy contacted the group representing the USWNT. They are working on a statement and we’ll post it once it becomes available. (Ed. Note: See below.)

Hannah Bevis of The Ice Garden reports players from the NWHL, the independent Minnesota Whitecaps, and collegiate athletes had been contacted thus far by USA Hockey.

When news of the boycott first broke, the NWHL players stated their allegiance to the USWNT; although it wasn’t clear if that pledge came from the NWHLPA as a whole or just a group of players.

Bevis adds the Whitecaps, of which many from the National Team are a part of, have shown support for the boycott, but have not explicitly said they’d ask their players not to cross the proverbial picket line. Puck Daddy reached out to the Whitecaps for a statement and are waiting to hear back.

Before announcing the boycott, the National Team reached out to U-18 players and their parents to let them know what they were doing, and asked for their support. According to the players, they received a pledge from the group to not replace them if USA Hockey should come asking.

The wildcard here is the collegiate players outside USA Hockey pipeline. They have no allegiance to USA Hockey or the USWNT.

However, should players opt to join the team of ‘scabs’ (the not so nice name for those who cross a picket line) they will hold that distinction for the rest of their hockey career. They will not only have to answer to the media and fans, but to the USWNT if/when they come back to play.

This is so much bigger than money and promotion for the USWNT. It’s a crucial moment for women in hockey to demand and receive equality from the governing body they’ve devoted their life to and support those taking the stand.

UPDATE:

Representatives for the USWNT released the following statement in response to USA Hockey’s decision to contact potential replacements for Worlds:

The players are aware that USA Hockey is attempting to secure a team to play in the World Championship, in case the players and USA Hockey are unable to reach agreement. As we have maintained from the beginning, this issue is about more than the compensation of the current team: it’s about equitable treatment for female players now and in the future. A forward-looking agreement will benefit the next generation of players even more than the current players. For that reason, and the fact that the younger players identify with us, we are confident that they would choose not to play.

Some in the media have asked if USA Hockey made a counter proposal. They did—they made a disappointing offer that didn’t reflect the progress of the negotiations. We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting.

Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the World Championship.

We’ve been saying it from the beginning, this is going to get uglier before it gets better.

As far as icing a replacement team, this quote from Hilary Knight to Stephen Whyno of the AP from last week seems especially relevant, “Good luck getting a suitable No. 1 competition to represent our country on a world stage. I kind of dare [USA Hockey].”