For the first time in its history, the IIHF Women’s World Championship will expand to a 10-team field when the best women’s players in the world face off in Espoo, Finland, for the 2019 edition of the championship, the 19th edition of the tournament.
Like the 2017 tournament in Plymouth, there will be plenty of external drama surrounding the tournament – while the 2017 drama was more internationally focused, in relation to the presence of the hosts Team USA at the tournament, this drama is on the professional level, around the cloud of uncertainty regarding the sudden shutdown of the CWHL, as many of the players (particularly on the Canadian squad) now do not have a club team to return to at the start of the 2019-20 season. Many are hopeful for a CWHL-NWHL merger to follow, but for now the tournament begins with this uncertainty lingering over it.
In terms of international play, the tournament should certainly hold lots of drama, and luckily none of the type of drama that nearly derailed the 2017 tournament. This will mark the first IIHF tournament since the theatrics of the 2018 Olympic final between Canada and the U.S. in Pyeongchang, which saw the United States capture its first Gold in 20 years in a stunning shootout victory over Canada, ending their streak of four consecutive Olympic titles, and maintaining the recent streak of American dominance over Canada, which has seen the Americans win four straight World titles. Team USA will look to continue this momentum, while Canada will look to cool the U.S. and win their first Gold since 2012.
However, the rest of the field cannot necessarily be discounted, as the world of international women’s hockey is becoming more competitive every day, with parity coming closer and closer every year. Finland has been a thorn for both the U.S. and Canada lately, and can look to surprise on home ice, while the likes of Russia, Switzerland or Sweden will aim to challenge the Goliaths of the field. But based on the debut Rivalry Series this past February, it looks like this tournament is set for a Canada-USA final once again, which, while repetitive in placement, is certainly never lacking drama or excitement.
From the perspective of the IHLC, a few interesting facts related to this year’s Women’s World Championship, starting on 4 April:
– Canada enters as incumbent champions for the second straight tournament, and for the 14th time in tournament history
– Canada and the United States have met in 18 consecutive Gold Medal finals, with Canada winning 10 times and the Americans winning 8
– the expanded tournament sees the debut of France at the Top Division, after their debut in Division B in 1999
– the United States has won the last two World Championships following Olympic years (2011 and 2015), while Canada won the first three instances (1999, 2004, 2007)
– hosts Finland will look to place higher than bronze for the first time in tournament history, after winning 12 including medals on home ice in every tournament they have hosted (1992, 1999, 2009)
– this marks the return of the World Championship to Finland for the first time in 10 years, and to Espoo specifically for the first time in 20 years; Canada kept the IHLC throughout the 1999 tournament and won their fifth straight Gold Medal