Faced with a boycott by most of the country's top women players, USA Hockey officials are refusing to back down, suggesting the powerhouse American team might field a substitute roster for the upcoming world championships.
Tensions between the sides reached a crescendo Wednesday when such veterans as Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel and Meghan Duggan announced the decision not to play.
The women say they have grown frustrated after 14 months of failed negotiations for what they characterize as financial support commensurate to what the men's program receives.
"We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought," Duggan said in a statement. "We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect."
National hockey officials, insisting the women's program is treated equitably, characterized the players' demands as unreasonable.
"USA Hockey's role is not to employ athletes and we will not do so," said Jim Smith, president of the national governing body.
Women's hockey ranks among the country's most successful Olympic programs, having won six of the last eight world titles and medaling in every Winter Games since 1998.
Knight said her team has taken inspiration from U.S. women's soccer players who previously filed a federal wage discrimination complaint against their governing body. "We're just as passionate about what we're trying to do," she said. "We want to set the table for women who come after us."
A U.S. boycott would be especially embarrassing for national officials given that the world championships are scheduled for Plymouth, Mich., at the end of March.
National team members said they receive monthly stipends of $500 to $2,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee but "virtually nothing" from USA Hockey during non-Olympic years.
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6:10 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional details and quotes.