Talking Women’s Worlds
by Martin Merk|04 SEP 2022
Left to right: Marta Zawadzka, Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer, Luc Tardif and Henrik Bach Nielsen.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
The International Ice Hockey Federation and the Danish Ice Hockey Union held a virtual press conference with accredited media to talk about the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and other topics.

“It’s the first time we organize it in an Olympic year, in August, which is not so easy. We had a busy summer and it’s not over as we have one more women’s tournament left to be played in Austria in September,” said IIHF President Luc Tardif. He mentioned that there was a lot of criticism for the cancelled tournaments in January due to the high spread of Covid-19. “It was the right decision at that time to stop and I’m happy that we managed to reorganize all these tournaments even though summer is not easy to organize an ice hockey tournament. It's not our goal to play tournaments in summer. But everybody was happy here and we will have a great gold medal game and bronze medal game soon.”

“The teams are very happy to be here. The local organizing committee and the Danish Ice Hockey Union did an excellent job, we didn’t have any complaints from the teams,” said Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer, the IIHF Council member and IIHF Women’s Committee chairperson who was a co-chair of these Women’s Worlds. “Like last year we still have some uneven games but otherwise we had many competitive games and Czechia and Switzerland made it to the semi-finals, which is a good sign for the development in our game. We had good media coverage here in Denmark.”

Also at the second venue in Frederikshavn the participants were happy. “We had a great experience in Frederikshavn. We got great support for these players and felt hockey is growing and the people are interested in the games not only for the Danish team. We had teams who surprised here but also individuals who achieved and Hilary Knight and Jenni Hiirikoski setting records,” said Marta Zawadzka, co-chair of the tournament and IIHF Council member.

As chairperson for the IIHF Officiating Committee Zawadzka also talked about the process of rebuilding the crew in a new Olympic cycle for “the eleventh team” similar to the others. “Also for game officials we experienced some changes at the Olympics. We had the best game officials available here and they came from nine countries, also from non-participating countries such as Austria, Belgium and Latvia,” said Zawadzka. “We had a good disciplinary panel to work on player safety, analyze the hits and eventually three players were assessed a suspension.”

Henrik Bach Nielsen, IIHF Regional Vice-President for Europe and Africa and President of the Danish Ice Hockey Union, was happy with the work done in organizing this event in Denmark.

“It was not easy because we had a short time to plan it and we couldn’t do this alone. I want to mention especially the 200 volunteers and the two cities. It’s not just support with money and the arenas but they really wanted the cities to be good hosts so the teams could feel welcome and bring good memories back home from Denmark,” said Henrik Bach Nielsen.

“We had some games with good attendance and I hope we will have a great ending with the medal games. In 2018 we did a new strategy for female hockey and wanted to invest more. We could really see the improvement of the players, they went up to the top division. They’re the reason we are here because we can’t apply for the top division if they’re not here. Maybe the last game was one second too long for us but we will continue investing in women’s hockey.”

Tardif is positive that the event and women’s hockey will continue to grow. He hopes that next year more games will be broadcast in more countries since from the participating teams no broadcaster aired the games in Hungary and Japan.

“Here the IIHF had to take some risk to support the organizing committee with this, and create a product of a better quality. We are doing investments in that,” he said. “And we are in discussions with the Chinese Ice Hockey Association and Winter Sports Management Center of the General Administration of Sport of China for investments in the Division I. They want to get involved a bit more and asked us to host the tournament three years in a row.”

The proposal and contract, which Tardif hopes will become reality for the congress end of the month, would foresee investments of $3 million a year over three years and to be invested into women’s hockey.

The proposed venue in China is the 18,000-seat Shenzhen Universiade Centre that hosted the 2011 Universiade, an NHL game and games of the KRS Vanke Rays in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and Russia’s Women’s Hockey League.

“It would for the first time we generate marketing income in women’s hockey. We want to bring more sponsors because there is potential to do more. We want to drive the process of the professionalization of the top division. We will have discussions with the Women’s Committee to find out where is the best place and best time for this tournament but it won’t be August anymore.”

Kolbenheyer confirmed that playing in Olympic years will continue after the experience here. “But we will discuss which is the best period.”

Tardif was asked from the panel whether prize money and an U20 World Championship in addition to the senior and U18 events is planned.

“We want to have prize money as soon as possible but at the moment times are difficult with the three years of the pandemic we went through. At the moment every tournament is funded by the income from the men’s World Championship,” Tardif said. “We want to have more income from the Women’s World Championship so we would be able to give prize money from the event. Give us time but we want to do it as soon as possible. We give prize money to the member national associations but it’s up to them how they use it but I’m confident that they do what is the right thing to do.”

On discussions about an U20 event in women’s hockey, Tardif said: “We had discussions but we do everything step by step. In the long term we’ve got to reach it but I want to make sure there are enough players to have senior, under-18 and under-20 tournaments and for many countries that’s not the case. So we have to look at the numbers. If just three countries have a big enough player pool and the same players play at every tournament, it’s not a good investment.”

Kolbenheyer was asked about the pilot project of the Swedish women’s hockey league SDHL, which partly introduces body-checking as of the new season.

“We had many discussions within the Women’s Committee about this pilot project of the Swedish league. We are waiting for the results of their first year and we would need a lot of discussions also with the Medical and Athletes Committees. Player safety is important. If we feel it’s better for them to play without bodychecking, we will continue with the rules. But we will for sure have discussions on that.”

The next two editions of the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will be hosted in spring 2023 in Canada and in spring 2024 in the United States in cities to be determined.