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Women’s national team agrees to 4-year deal with USA Hockey

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Members of the U.S. women’s national hockey team have agreed to a four-year labor deal with USA Hockey.

It signals an end to the team’s protest for fair pay, which lasted for more than a week.

The women’s team had vowed to sit out the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship games unless it reached a deal.

The games, which the U.S. is hosting, begin on Friday. The team is the defending champion and was supposed to report to training camp last week, but negotiations with USA Hockey faltered.

The women’s players were asking for a $68,000 annual salary as well as benefits such as child care, maternity leave and the ability to compete in more games throughout the year.

The financial terms of the deal weren’t released, but one thing the players got was the formation of a group that will oversee the advancement of girls and women’s hockey.

“We’re extremely excited both sides were able to come to an agreement and compromise,” national team member Monique Lamoureux said after the deal was struck.

“I don’t think either side had to give up major things to make each other happy. USA Hockey is now the leading federation for women’s hockey and hopefully other countries follow suit.”

Fellow teammate Meghan Duggan said the women were confident about defending their IIHF title because the protest had made them that much stronger.

“I feel like it brought a ton of visibility to the sport and woke some people up that women’s hockey is the real deal and deserves to be honored,” Duggan said.

The women, who are ranked No. 1 in the world, also wanted better benefits at IIHF World Championship games. Specifically, they wanted to be able to bring guests to competitions, fly in business class and get disability insurance.

These are all benefits that the male players already get, according to former national team player Anders Lee, who plays for the NHL’s New York Islanders.

Those benefits are also described in player handbooks from 2013 and 2014. The men are ranked fourth in the world.

The deal came a day after members of USA Hockey’s board of directors met to discuss the protest and decide what to do. The board has 91 voting members, 15 of whom are women.

During the protest, the players’ associations of Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL released statements praising the efforts of the women and encouraging them to stand together.

According to NHL agent Allan Walsh, male pro players were “seriously considering” whether to sit out their IIHF games as well in solidarity with the women.

They also received support from 14 U.S. senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Dianne Feinstein, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, who called on USA Hockey to treat the women’s team fairly.

USA Hockey said from the beginning of the protest that it would field a team to compete in the games — with or without the current members.

However, filling an alternate squad didn’t prove to be easy.

Current team members reached out to alternate players to ask them not to play in the games as a show of solidarity. The women’s team also reached out individually to NCAA coaches and college players to get them on board.

“A lot of people are going to give the 23 people on the roster a lot of credit, but it was really every single person who turned down an invitation and helped spread it on social media,” Lamoureux said.

As USA Hockey struggled to fill a roster for the games, it had to go further down the list to high school players.

On Saturday, two high schoolers, Cayla Barnes and Natalie Snodgrass, tweeted that they’d been approached by USA Hockey and turned down spots on the replacement team.

Barnes is a senior at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire and Snodgrass is a senior at Eastview High School in Minnesota. Both have played on the U.S. women’s national under-18 team.

USA Hockey declined repeated requests for comment.