Tardif meets the press
by Andrew Podnieks|16 APR 2023
IIHF and Organizing Committee delegates met the press this afternoon in Brampton.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
IIHF president Luc Tardif and the principle organizers of the 2023 Women’s Worlds held a press conference this afternoon to discuss the tournament and the wider world of women’s hockey.

The panel included Tardif, IIHF Council members Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer and Marta Zawadzka, Dean McIntosh of Hockey Canada, and Fran Rider from the Organizing Committee's OWHA (Ontario Women's Hockey Association).

Tardif expressed satisfaction with the level of play here in Brampton and around the world. “There has been great improvement in the women’s game,” he said, “and there is a simple reason. The top 20 federations now have dedicated women’s programs. These are important for developing players and growing the game. You see here the number of close games. Maybe teams aren’t ready to beat Canada and the U.S. yet, but it’s getting there. It won’t happen over night. It takes some time. But it's getting better and better.”

Kolbenheyer revealed that the Women’s U18 next year will revert to a parallel structure rather than a vertical one currently used at the Women's Worlds. “We will see how that goes and we hope that we can do the same at the top level,” she added. The women used to play in two parallel groups but in an effort to reduce the disparity between the North American teams and the 7th and 8th teams, the IIHF changed the structure in 2012 to put the top four teams (now five) in a Group A and the lower-ranked four (also five now) in Group B. But the feeling is that there is enough growth and improvement around the world that the tournament can change back. Case in  point, two of the last five WW18 tournaments have included a European team.

McIntosh noted that the tournament has brought $10 million into the local economy and gave credit to Rider, who managed to recruit some 300 volunteers to help run the tournament. “There are 30-40 people from the IIHF and Hockey Canada here, but those 300 volunteers are essential to running the tournament,” he enthused. He added that there are now about 320,000 female hockey players in the world, and 40,000 of that number are in Ontario, the credit for which sits with Rider and the OWHA, the first organization in the world dedicated to women’s and girls’ hockey when it was established in the mid-1970s.

When asked about Russia, Belarus, and the Olympics, Tardif made two specific comments. “First, I hope Russia and Belarus return to the IIHF very soon because that would mean that the war is over,” he stated. “But we will make a final decision about those countries for Milano in March 2024 because soon after we will begin Olympic qualifications, and Belarus would need to be a part of that.”

Tardif also clarified the relegation process for this year, where two countries (Hungary, France) were demoted. The last time that happened was 2019, but during COVID-19 only one team was sent down in 2022 and one in 2021. “According to our Statutes and By-Laws, we must demote two teams, so we have no choice but to follow this,” he explained.

Zawadzka then addressed the elephant in the room when she was finally asked about bodychecking, which was more or less successfully implemented in the SDHL this past season. “We have monitored their season,” she began, “and will discuss with our committees further when we get some facts from the league. But we are trying to have a unified rule book that applies to all 83 member nations, so we have no plan to allow checking in international hockey.”