Since women’s ice hockey became an Olympic sport in Nagano 1998, the top-level IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship has been scheduled as annual event except for Olympic years due to difficulties for many players, who in most cases have a day job or study, to compete in two top-level events in a short period of time. However, the lower divisions have been played in Olympic years to give the countries not participating at the Olympics their annual opportunity within the IIHF.
This could already change as soon as 2022. The IIHF Council has approved a proposal of the IIHF Women’s Committee and the IIHF Competition & Coordination Committee to play the top-level Women’s Worlds also in Olympic years in the future.
While the Women’s Worlds will normally remain scheduled for March/April, the editions in the Olympic years 2022 and 2026 will be foreseen in August and mark the start of a new Olympic cycle for the involved national women’s team programs.
“We had many times discussions with the top countries. They are always at the Olympics but couldn’t play a few weeks later again, so we discussed whether it could work if we played in August,” said IIHF Women’s Committee chairwoman Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer.
“We know that after the Olympics many players end their careers with a highlight and that gives the opportunity to work with new players entering the team. We will now speak with potential host countries for 2022.”
The proposal has been approved by the IIHF Council and presented to the membership. Apart from giving the top female players another stage to play and promote the women’s game, another reason for the proposal were challenges with promotion and relegation since the lower divisions were played while at the top level no relegation happened.
“We had a good conversation within the Council. We wanted to find a long-term solution because we had a challenge with promotion and relegation every four years. We wanted to solve different issues with this proposal. It is a really fair solution for all the countries participating in the women’s program,” said Kolbenheyer.
“We want to stronger support women’s hockey in the future and thought that there’s no reason why the women should not play in an Olympic season at the top level,” said Franz Reindl, who chairs the IIHF Competition & Coordination Committee. “The promotion and relegation system was difficult without the top division being played, which had to be solved somehow. The solution will help the further promotion of women’s hockey.”
The proposal will require a bylaw change that will be voted on in September by the 2021 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress, which will also allocate the tournament host for August 2022.
The next Women’s Worlds will happen 20-31 August with the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship that was recently moved from May to August due to the cancellation by the province of Nova Scotia and will take place at a new venue in Calgary (see separate news).
If the bylaw change will be accepted, the 2022 Women’s Worlds will happen in August 2022 while the editions in 2023, 2024 and 2025 will happen in spring.