US women’s hockey players: We need more support – Detroit Free Press
Members of the U.S. women’s national hockey team said Wednesday that they will not participate in World Championships unless significant progress is made to secure what players consider to be fair.
The U.S. women’s national team’s players didn’t budge at the 5 p.m. Thursday deadline set by USA Hockey to end their boycott of the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship, slated to start March 31 in Plymouth.
With all 23 players following through with the boycott, USA Hockey executive Dave Ogrean is expected to begin fielding a replacement team for the event.
The U.S. vowed Wednesday morning to skip the tournament unless USA Hockey provided them “fair wages and support.” Lawyers for team said USA Hockey pays players $1,000 per month for six months of training leading up to each Olympics. They said the players don’t receive compensation for other international tournaments.
USA Hockey said in a statement Wednesday that the players can make up to $85,000 during a four-year Olympic cycle, but $37,500 of that is contingent on winning the gold medal. They’d receive $22,500 for silver or $15,000 for bronze. That money comes from the U.S. Olympic Committee and not USA Hockey, the team’s governing body.
The Free Press spoke with three U.S. players on Thursday: captain Meghan Duggan and twin sisters Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. Each said that about half the team has to work second and sometimes third jobs to support their hockey careers. They said some players must live with family members or have multiple roommates in small apartments because they can’t afford to rent nor own homes.
“That $85,000 is extremely misleading and dishonest, in the players’ opinions,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “Only about $20,000 of that actually comes from USA Hockey, so USA Hockey is taking credit for three-fourths of the money they’re not giving us, and it’s still not addressing the 3 1/2 years we’re still not under contract (before the Olympics).”
USA Hockey president Jim Smith said this week: “In our role as the national governing body, USA Hockey trains and selects teams for international competition. USA Hockey’s role is not to employ athletes, and we will not do so. USA Hockey will continue to provide world-leading support for our athletes.”
The U.S. players wish to secure four-year contracts each Olympic cycle.
“If we weren’t working, we’d spend more time in the gym and more time at the rink,” said Lamoureux-Morando, an alternate captain who estimated that she and her sister work three jobs and approximately 60 hours a week apiece, in addition to their training. “But we don’t have time on our side.”
The Grand Forks, N.D., natives say they begin their days around 4:20 a.m. during the work week. From 5 a.m. until almost 7 p.m., they lead multiple strength-and-conditioning training sessions for groups in Grand Forks.
They also help coach the women’s hockey team at North Dakota, their alma mater. Lamoureux-Davidson is the Fighting Hawks’ head strength-and-conditioning coach and is responsible for warming up the team before each practice. Lamoureux-Morando is a volunteer coach who helps with individual instruction and on-ice drills in practice.
The two also host hockey clinics in the summer. And the 27-year-olds must find time in their day to squeeze in about three hours of training and skating to keep in shape for the U.S. team.
“I make enough because of the other supplemental income that I have – and I’m married, so I have joint income, so that’s obviously helpful,” Lamoureux-Morando said. “But I also work Saturdays, as well. Sunday is my only off day from work. If I were on my own, I probably would have to live in an apartment with one or two roommates in order to afford everything I need to survive.”
The twins recognize that they’re fortunate they can leave their jobs for two to three months of the year to play for the U.S. team. Other players don’t have that luxury.
The U.S. has won six of the last seven women’s world championships and has appeared in all 17 of the gold medal rounds since the tournament started in 1990 – all championship games vs. Canada. It has brought home 10 silver medals and seven golds in all.
The U.S. won silver in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
“We pour our lives into this – everyone in our program does,” said Duggan, who has picked up speaking engagements and worked as an assistant for the Clarkson women’s hockey team in the past to help support herself.
“From the veteran players to myself, as someone who has been around for 10 years, all the way to the girls who are new to the program this year, everyone pours their heart, their soul and their every day into it. It’s why we live where we live, why we eat what we eat and why we go to bed at certain times and wake up at certain times. It’s why our days are the way they are – it’s for this team. That’s kind of what this battle is about. We hope we can get support from them in that area.”
Lamoureux-Davidson said she and her husband have to wait until after the 2018 Olympics to start a family because she could lose her spot on the team if she gets pregnant.
“Part of what we’re fighting for is pregnancy benefits,” she said. “If we’re not under contract, it’s a financial burden that I don’t know if we’re willing to put up with. I can’t work, be a mom and train full-time as an athlete. That’s quite a few hats to juggle, and we already juggle enough hats as it is.”
The U.S. players said they’ll continue to stand together. They also say the talent pool that feeds their program supports their movement.
That could make it challenging for USA Hockey to put together a replacement team to compete in the world championships at USA Hockey Arena.
“It’s extremely disappointing they’d even do that,” Duggan said. “I can’t imagine how they would do that or go about that.
“We didn’t come to this decision overnight, and our entire player pool and our entire national team – not just the girls on this year’s world’s roster – are standing hand-in-hand and united with each other, so I think it’s extremely disappointing. It just goes to show that they have a lack of value there and lack of mutual respect for our best interests.”
Duggan said the effort is for a much bigger cause.
“I think it’s instrumental and would change women’s hockey in the United States,” she said. “With that being said, I think it’s so much bigger than hockey. I think this is about women everywhere and women in all sports and women outside of sports, in different occupations.
“This is huge. I’m really proud of our group, and I think it’s an amazing stance to take. We’re not looking to change things for just 23 girls on our roster. This is for our entire program, the future of the program and women everywhere. This is for equitable support.”