The U.S. women's hockey team is threatening to boycott the world championships because of a wage dispute.
The team announced Wednesday that they will not participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation tournament that begins March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan.
A spokesman for USA Hockey did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The female players are asking for higher wages — pointing out that in the past, USA Hockey paid them $1,000 a month for six months every Olympic cycle, and "virtually nothing" for the other 3 1/2 years. That works out to $1,500 a year.
Forward Meghan Duggan tells NPR it's not fair for USA Hockey to pay them for only six months every four years when they train full time. "It's 365 days a year to be an Olympic athlete," she says. "It's our life, our everything."
The players do receive year-round support directly from the U.S. Olympic Committee — without which, Duggan says, "there would be no financial survival at all."
Approximately half of the national team players hold "second or third jobs," according to a press release from the lawyers representing the team.
The team's lawyers highlight the differences in support for boys and girls youth programs, in particular:
"At the younger levels, USA Hockey spends approximately $3.5 million annually to support a schedule of more than 60 games a season for boys participating in its National Team Development Program. There are no comparable development opportunities for girls, and the Women's National Team plays only nine games in non-Olympic years. Over the course of its yearlong negotiations, the players have made repeated requests of USA Hockey for increased playing opportunities and financial support consistent with the boys' teams."
In a press release, USA Hockey said it was "disappointed" by the players' decision to boycott the championships.
"USA Hockey has a long-standing commitment to the support, advancement and growth of girls and women's hockey and any claims to the contrary are unfounded," the organization said.
Players say they informed USA Hockey that they would not report to training camp March 21 unless meaningful progress is made. The U.S. is the defending champion after winning the gold medal last.
The players are seeking a contract with USA Hockey that they say "includes appropriate compensation."