By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) - The U.S. women's ice hockey team threatening to boycott the world championships over a wage dispute held productive talks with USA Hockey on Monday and will continue discussions this week in the hope of reaching a deal.
Nearly 20 players and their lawyers met with USA Hockey executives in Philadelphia to discuss "equitable support and fair wages" in a last-ditch effort to reach a deal before the tournament in Michigan begins on March 31, the team said.
"The discussions were productive and will continue this week, with the goal of reaching an agreement that would allow the players to get to camp in time to train for and compete in the world championships," said a team statement.
"The players are hopeful they will get to take to the ice and represent their country."
The women's team, citing a lack of progress in year-long negotiations, threatened not to report for training camp on Wednesday unless adequate progress in the dispute was made.
USA Hockey then imposed a deadline of last Thursday for the team to decide whether to play in the tournament being hosted by the U.S. but the players opted to let that deadline pass.
Players are under contract to USA Hockey only during years when the Winter Olympics are held and are seeking a deal that would compensate them during non-Olympic years.
USA Hockey also called the latest talks productive and confirmed that further discussions will continue this week.
"Our goal remains to have the players we previously announced as the U.S. Women's National Team be the group that represents our country at the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship," USA Hockey said in a statement.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)