USA Hockey will send a full complement of talent to the IIHF Women's World Championship after settling a contract dispute with top players two days before the tournament begins.
The U.S. women's national hockey team and its governing body agreed in principle to a new contract Tuesday, averting a planned boycott of the premier tournament by the team's 23 regulars who were seeking better pay, benefits and training conditions commensurate to their male counterparts.
The new contract is for four years and includes a salary increase to roughly $70,000 per player, ESPN.com reported.
"It's historic, it's new and different, and the players are happy," said John B. Langel, the lead counsel at Ballard Spahr, which represented the players pro bono.
"Today reflects everyone coming together and compromising in order to reach a resolution for the betterment of the sport," USA Hockey president Jim Smith said in a joint statement with the players. "We'll now move forward together knowing we'll look back on this day as one of the most positive in the history of USA Hockey."
The world championships begin Friday in Plymouth, Mich., and the labor dispute became a black eye for the host nation.
Negotiations, ongoing for upward of 15 months, had turned contentious, and the players announced March 15 they would not participate in the upcoming tournament if USA Hockey did not accommodate their requests.
The players canceled training camp set for March 22-28 in Traverse City, Mich., and an exhibition game against Finland March 24 as part of the protest, sending the U.S. scrambling to find players in lower ranks to defend the country’s title. Members of U.S.’s under-18 team declined out of solidarity with the first team.
The new deal, agreed in principle Monday night, will not require a vote by the 91-member board of USA Hockey after giving the executive committee authority to finalize terms.
"Our sport is the big winner today," U.S. women's national team captain Meghan Duggan said in the statement. "We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey's leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I'm proud of my teammates and can't thank everyone who supported us enough. It's time now to turn the page. We can't wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal."