In midst of boycott, UWRF hockey players reject chance to play in world championships
Three members of the UWRF women’s hockey team turned down an invitation to play for USA Hockey this week in the wake of a boycott by the current national team.
Dani Sibley, Carly Moran and Paige Johnson, all leaders of the WIAC conference champion Falcons, were contacted by USA Hockey to see if they would be willing to participate in the IIHF Women’s World Championships on Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.
The opportunity came about due to a breakdown in communications between current national team players and USA Hockey. National team members were boycotting the games in order to seek a livable wage while playing for their country, according to USA Today Sports.
The players knew what was going on with the story, but said they didn’t expect it to have an impact on them. That was until a phone call changed everything on Saturday morning.
“I first got a phone call from Coach Cranston that we were going to be contacted by Jim Johannson of USA hockey. I was contacted later that day, and it was kind of vague, but it involved flying us out on Wednesday for a tryout,” Moran said.
The call came as a complete surprise to the three Falcon hockey players. While it was an overwhelming opportunity, the decision became clear after another phone call.
“We were contacted by a few of the USA players, and that really put it into perspective for me. Hannah Brandt was actually one of them, and she was a former Gopher. She’s been such a role model for me, and she’s been an inspiration to the game and myself,” Sibley said.
Hearing from the professionals and understanding their views on the boycott made the decision easy to make for the three players. Sibley described how they didn’t want to disrespect all the work the national team had done with the boycott to get to this point.
The players considered the opportunity of having the chance to wear the red, white and blue, but ultimately decided to stand with the other college players and pass on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But they said the reaction since the decision has been one of the most interesting parts of the story.
“We’ve gotten a ton of support from everyone on campus, family and friends. We’ve received crazy support for the decision that we made,” Moran said.
The story was picked up on Monday by ESPN, with Sibley and Moran appearing on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. WCCO in Minneapolis also featured the two on a story Monday night.
“I honestly think it was so eye-opening that [our story] really took off and got a lot of attention. Even though we don’t think we play a big part in women’s hockey, we still have a say in future generations,” Sibley said.
But with all the controversy surrounding the world championships and trying to find replacement players, the story can finish with a happy ending. On Tuesday night, the boycotting national team and USA Hockey came to a four-year agreement that will pay players beyond the six-month Olympic period, according to the Associated Press.
“It’s really exciting that they came to this before the world championships on Friday. To know that me and Dani and Paige were all a part of that and that we could help change women’s hockey forever, it unified us as women’s hockey players,” Moran said.
Sibley also said that the national attention received by this story could have a further impact on the future of women’s hockey.
“This shows women’s hockey is earning the respect it deserves from the top down to the youth. It deserves respect from everyone and has so many people involved,” Sibley said.
The US National Team can now focus beyond the off-the-ice issues and return to playing in the World Championships. The United States plays Canada at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night in the first round of the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship.