All 23 named players for the U.S. Women's National Hockey Team scheduled to play in the upcoming IIHF Women's World Championship – including 2016-2017 Gopher Women's Hockey players Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein, and GWH alumnae Megan Bozek, Hannah Brandt, Amanda Kessel, and Gigi Marvin – announced on Wednesday, March 15, that they would not participate in the World Championship, being hosted by the U.S. in Plymouth, Michigan, "unless significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support."
Although a face-to-face meeting with USA Hockey this past Monday, March 20, was classified by the players as "productive" in many reports (including this one from Yahoo! Sports), no agreement has been reached. USA Hockey announced on Wednesday morning that the team's training camp in Traverse City, MI, along with an exhibition game against Finland scheduled for last night (Friday, March 24), were cancelled.
A report from USA TODAY on Thursday evening indicated that USA Hockey is trying to put together a team of replacement players. However, news surfaced yesterday (Friday) that potential replacements had rejected USA Hockey's inquiry into their availability; two of those were goaltender Brittany Ott of the NWHL's Boston Pride and Wisconsin Badger forward Annie Pankowski, and numerous others indicated their support of the boycotting players on Twitter.
Locally here in the Twin Cities, Cory Zurowski at City Pages caught up with Gopher alumna and U.S. Olympian Natalie Darwitz to discuss why the players have potentially stepped away from defending the world title they won last year.
The Women's World Championship is scheduled to begin next Friday, March 31, with round-robin group play through Monday, April 3. The playoff and relegation rounds begin on Tuesday, April 4, and conclude with the Bronze and Gold Medal Games on Friday, April 7.
We will continue to monitor reports on the situation and will share updates on our own Twitter and Facebook accounts. We'll do our best to preview the World Championship next week in our next issue of the Penalty Box Post.