The best team in hockey will face off at the historic 2022 IIHF World Women’s Championship

The best women’s hockey players work as allies as they strive to build a better foundation for their sport. But on the ice, those friendships are pushed aside. And this week, history is being made as these top players face off at the 2022 IIHF World Women’s Championship.

For the first time, the tournament is taking place in Denmark, the country of the 10th federation in the current world ranking of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

This year also marks the first time that women will compete in a separate world championship event in an Olympic year. The Women’s Worlds debuted in 1990. Then tournaments were held in 1992, 1994 and 1997 before women’s hockey was added as an Olympic sport in Nagano, Japan in 1998.

After that, women’s hockey received an annual global showcase. But every four years it would be at the Winter Olympics rather than a stand-alone world championship.

On the men’s side, the IIHF doubled a world championship with the Olympics for the first time in 1992, and has continued to do so ever since.

This year’s women’s event marks another important step towards gender parity in hockey, but gaps remain.

For example, the IIHF organizes only one prospect-level tournament each year for women: the World Under-18 Championship. On the men’s side, players participate in the U18 tournament before being eligible to be drafted by NHL teams. Then they can play at the U20, also known as the World Juniors – primarily a showcase for players who have been drafted but not yet settled as full-time NHL players, and arguably the most popular IIHF game for hockey fans in North America.

The women’s game also got a boost on Wednesday when EA Sports announced that Canadian forward Sarah Nurse would join the Anaheim Ducks’ Trevor Zegras on the cover of their new NHL Game 23, which will be released this fall.

The coverage announcement comes after playable players from their national teams were first added in an expansion for NHL 22 last January, just before the Beijing Olympics.

2022 Women’s Worlds Format

This year’s World Women’s Tournament will feature teenagers, including promising 19-year-old defender Caroline Harvey of the United States and striker Sanni Vanhanen of Finland, who turned 17 on July 1.

In 2018, the women’s Olympic and world tournaments were reduced from eight teams to 10. But unlike the men’s events, the teams are divided into two groups, according to their world ranking.

As a global sport, women’s hockey is becoming increasingly popular. The IIHF cites a global growth rate of 37% between 2007 and 2018, and USA Hockey shows a growth of 32% over the past decade, with 66,692 players of all ages registered in 2011-12 and 87,971 in 2021. -22.

But a significant gap still exists between the two top nations in the sport and the rest of the pack. Canada or the United States has won gold at every Women’s World Championship or Olympic Games. Only one other country has won the silver medal before – Finland, on home soil at the 2019 Worlds, in their controversial shootout loss to Team USA.

Thus, tournament groups are set up with the aim of delivering the most competitive matches during the round robin, while giving most teams the opportunity to reach the knockout round and have a chance to play for a medal.

This year, Group A will play at the KVIK Hockey Arena in Herning, located in central Denmark. It is made up of the top four teams in the IIHF World Rankings: Canada, USA, Finland and Switzerland, as well as sixth-placed Japan. Russia is ranked fifth but has been suspended from participating in all IIHF events since February following its invasion of Ukraine.

The five teams in Group B occupy places 6 to 11 in the standings: Czechia, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and Hungary. They will face off at Iscenter North in Fredrikshavn, on the northeast coast of Denmark’s Jutland peninsula.

In the preliminary round, each team will play four games in its group, in a round-robin format, between August 25 and 30. The top three teams from Group B will then join the five teams from Group A for the quarter-finals on September 1, and the top-placed Group B team will advance to Group A for the 2023 tournament, to be held in Canada.

This year’s semi-finals will be played in Herning on September 3, with the medal matches a day later, as the two lowest-placed teams from Group B play each other. The winner remains in the first division for 2023, while the loser goes down to division 1, group A.

Aim for Canada

The Canadians are the team to beat, having won gold against Team USA in Beijing last February and August at the 2021 tournament held outside Calgary. Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin, 31, has become legendary for her big game moments. In February, she scored twice in the gold medal game, including the winner, to propel Canada to Olympic victory over the United States – and in the process became the first ever female hockey player. gender to score in the gold medal game. at four Olympic Games. She also scored the overtime winner at the 2021 Worlds in Calgary – building on a legacy that began in 2010 when, aged just 18, she scored the only two goals in Canada’s Olympic victory over Team USA. at home in Vancouver.

Canada swept the all-star vote among forwards in Beijing: Poulin and Nurse took the honors along with teammate Brianne Jenner, who was also named tournament MVP. The trio are set to face off in Denmark, but the Canadians will miss star defenseman Claire Thompson as well as 2021 Worlds MVP Melodie Daoust and veterans Natalie Spooner and Rebecca Johnston.

Before the pandemic hit, it was the Americans who had the upper hand in the Canada-US rivalry. They had won eight of nine world championships between 2008 and 2019, and eventually won Olympic gold for the first time since 1998 in Pyeongchang in 2018. Hilary Knight was on course to set a long list of new individual records within of the American program, and Kendall Coyne Schofield delivered a viral moment for his sport with his lightning-fast lap around the SAP Center during the 2019 NHL All-Star Game in San Jose.

Knight, Coyne Schofield and other household names like Amanda Kessel and Alex Carpenter will be back in action in Herning. But in recent years, longtime American stalwarts like Meghan Duggan, Dani Cameranesi and the Lamoureux twins have opted out of the game. This time around, the Americans will also be without their starting goalie, Alex Cavallini, who is pregnant, as well as forward Brianna Decker, who was injured during the Olympics.

For the two best teams, this is an opportunity for young players to make an impression. Teenage defenseman Harvey has already done well for the Americans, while Nicole Hensley and Maddie Rooney will have the chance to fight for the starting position in net. Canada’s most promising emerging star is 22-year-old forward Sarah Fillier. She scored eight goals and had 11 points in seven games in Beijing, and won two gold medals in her first two senior world championships in the past year.

All US and Canadian group matches will be broadcast live, on TSN in Canada and on NHL Network in the US. Finland at 1 p.m. ET.

About Jonathan J. Kramer

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