The U.S. women’s hockey team barely had time to enjoy its hard-earned success in winning a better compensation deal from the sport’s national organization before it was jolted with some upsetting news. The University of North Dakota announced Wednesday it was shutting down its women’s hockey program, one that had supplied players to Team USA and to other countries’ national squads.
Current and former UND players not only objected to the cessation of the program, but to the way it was handled, accusing the university of informing the media while the team was still practicing. Adding to the awkwardness was the fact that the squad was hosting a recruit at the time.
Team USA members Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, twin sisters who played at North Dakota, took to Twitter to express outrage at UND’s treatment of its players. Both had been outspoken advocates for their national team, which threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships before reaching a deal Tuesday with USA Hockey.
“We put in the same work as the men,” Lamoureux-Davidson had said recently to The Post’s Barry Svrluga about her national team’s struggle for better pay, recognition and respect. “It’s the same sweat equity, and in the Olympics, gender shouldn’t matter. We believe, man or woman, our governing body should support athletes the same.”
Another former UND player, Team Canada defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak, posted a lengthy note to Twitter on Wednesday in which she described the school’s actions as “extremely disrespectful.”
“I am no longer proud to be a part of UND,” she wrote.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, eight UND products competed at the 2014 Olympics, and as many as 10 could participate in next year’s Games. The Fighting Hawks went 16-16-6 in their most recent season, losing to Wisconsin in the Final Face-Off semifinals. The team made the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2013.
The university cited budget cuts in announcing that it would discontinue its men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs, in addition to the women’s hockey team. It also said that “additional money” was needed to “comply with the Summit League’s minimum scholarship requirements” as it moved into the league.
“I have accepted the athletic director’s recommendation with the understanding that it provides for investing in championship teams in a balanced manner for both our women’s and men’s athletics programs,” UND President Mark Kennedy said. “This is a painful step to take for all parties involved, including me, but it is necessary given today’s budget realities. My heart goes out to all those who are disrupted by this change. We are proud of the way they have represented UND.”
“Today’s developments are excruciatingly sad for the University of North Dakota, the WCHA and the sport of women’s hockey,” Western Collegiate Hockey Association vice president and Women’s League Commissioner Katie Million said in a statement. “While we understand the significant, state-mandated budget cuts faced by the entire University and respect the decision-making process of the UND administration, there is no denying the impact of losing a program that has produced Olympians, advanced to NCAA tournaments and is a perennial fixture in the national rankings.”