Members of the U.S. women’s hockey team agreed to extend their existing contract for one month on Wednesday to focus on completing the world championship tournament in Denmark.
Representatives for both the players and USA Hockey confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press, hours before their current contract was set to expire.
“It gives everybody a little bit of breathing room,” said the players’ lawyer, Dee Spagnuolo. “We will use that month to focus on issues of critical importance to the players. In the meantime, the players are focusing on gold.”
In saying an extension was in place, USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said “our focus is on the world championships,” while adding: “Conversations continue to be productive and everyone feels like we’re in a decent spot.”
The extension avoids putting the players in a difficult situation in continuing to compete at the 10-nation tournament without a deal in place.
The Americans rolled through the preliminary round with a 4-0 record and enter the playoffs as the top seed following a 5-2 win over Canada on Tuesday. The U.S. plays Hungary in the quarterfinal round on Thursday. The semifinals are Saturday followed by the championship game on Sunday.
The contract for Team Canada players expires next month, with talks scheduled to resume following the world championships.
This is the second time USA Hockey and its players have had to extend what was a ground-breaking four-year contract first reached in 2017, when players threatened to boycott the world championships on home soil.
The two sides agreed to a one-year contract extension last summer as the team focused on the Beijing Winter Games.
As part of the one-month extension, USA Hockey agreed to provide a bonus to its players only should they win the gold medal. The bonus was included in the extended deal because the existing contract did not take into account a world championship being played in August.
Previously, player bonuses were calculated on a sliding scale based on the medal won.
In 2017, players received a boost in their monthly pay — going from $1,000 to between $3,000-$4,000 — and a chance to earn around $71,000 annually. Those potential earnings increased up to $129,000 in Olympic years when combined with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
As part of the agreement, players also received business class travel that men get for the world championships and the insurance protection they were seeking.
Among the issues players are seeking to address in this round of talks is establishing a dedicated year-round training program, especially in non-Olympic years, and further benefits to take pregnancy into account.