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USA Hockey, players optimistic about worlds after meeting

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USA Hockey and the women’s national team say their marathon meeting Monday was productive, and they hope to have an agreement this week that will end their ongoing wage dispute and avoid a boycott of the upcoming world championship.

The sides met for more than 10 hours Monday in Philadelphia and will continue discussions later this week. Players announced last week they’d boycott the upcoming world championship in Plymouth, Mich., unless significant progress was made toward a labor agreement.

USA Hockey and players released statements Monday night saying they hoped a deal would be reached in time for the tournament, which begins March 31.

Players said they were hopeful to get an agreement in time to have a training camp and prepare to defend their world championship gold medal on home ice.

“We feel like we made progress today,” star forward Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said by phone. “They were productive, and we are hopeful that we can come to a timely agreement that would get us to Plymouth in time to prepare as a team so that we could compete in worlds.”

Lamoureux-Davidson, twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando, captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Kacey Bellamy and Kendall Coyne were among the players who took part in the meeting on the players’ side. President Jim Smith, executive director Dave Ogrean, treasurer Donna Guariglia and director of women’s hockey Reagan Carey were among those representing USA Hockey.

In its statement, USA Hockey said its goal remains to have the team it selected for the world championship still represent the U.S. later this month.

Players said negotiations with USA Hockey had been ongoing for 14 months over fair wages and equitable support. The meeting Monday, which Lamoureux-Davidson said lasted from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., was positive in that the sides were in the same room talking on the verge of training camp, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday.

“We’re hopeful, I guess,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “This morning (we thought), ‘Wait and see how this goes,’ and after today we’re all hopeful that we can make something work with USA Hockey. We’re hopeful, I think, on both sides.”

Players are pushing to be paid outside the six-month Olympic period, saying USA Hockey pays them nothing for the other 3 ½ years.

USA Hockey said it is not in the business of employing athletes and put out a list of players’ financial demands that players referred to as “patently false.”

Despite trading barbs last week, the sides agreed to meet in downtown Philadelphia the morning after the National Women’s Hockey League final in Boston, which several players took part in. Their lengthy meeting didn’t produce an agreement, but at least the agreement that talks would continue.

“It’s better than walking out saying, ‘This isn’t going to happen,'” Lamoureux-Davidson said. “But we’re hopeful, so that’s a step in the right direction, for sure.”

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USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

Neither side has said when its next scheduled meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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