In a major victory for gender equality, the women's national team scored an agreement with USA Hockey’s governing body which will see a significant boost in their wages, similar to that of their male counterparts, two weeks after they threatened to boycott the upcoming world championship.
The deal comes over a year after members of the three-time defending world champions began their fight to secure higher wages and support from USA Hockey.
"Our sport is the big winner today," U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said in a statement. "We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey's leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together."
The two sides have agreed not to disclose financial terms of the deal but the players were seeking a four-year agreement that included payment outside of the six-month Olympic period.
People with knowledge of the agreement told USA TODAY Sports that the players will make around US$70,000 each per year and potentially more than US$100,000 in Olympic years if they win gold.
The women’s team players also secured other benefits — like upgraded airfare, accommodations and meals — that put them on par with their men’s national team counterparts. Duggan told USA Today in an interview Tuesday that she had called more than 500 U.S. athletes and asked for their support and many agreed.
The deal also includes the formation of a group of former and current players to work towards advancing both girls' and women's hockey in all areas, including programming, marketing, promotion and fundraising, Reuters reported.
Players were under contract to USA Hockey only during years when the Winter Games are held and were seeking a deal that would compensate them during non-Olympic years. The players were being paid US$1,000 a month but only during the six-month Olympic period and nothing for the remaining three-and-a-half years.
The team drew international attention as well as support from U.S. senators and unions from the four major North American sports leagues when two weeks ago they threatened to boycott the world championship, to begin on Friday in Michigan.
The standoff raised the possibility of a humiliating situation for USA Hockey had the reigning champion U.S. women's team not attended or if a lower-level replacement squad was sent in their place.
USA Hockey said the resolution was for the betterment of the sport and that they will look back on this moment as one of the most positive in the history of the organization.