In one unsurprising development, and in another very surprising development, France and Sweden have been relegated to Division IA of the 2020 Women’s World Championship, with France going back down after their first trip to the Top Division, while Sweden is relegated for the first time in their history.
France was eliminated after three straight Group B losses, ironically being formally relegated in a 2-1 loss to Sweden. Les Bleus did manage a 3-2 overtime win over Germany to end their tournament with two points, but will look to improve and return to the Top Division in 2021 after their inaugural trip to Espoo.
As for the other elimination, this comes as much more as a surprise, as most would have anticipated a newly-promoted team like Czechia or Japan to be sent down over the Damkronorna, who have played in every World Championship Top Division since the inaugural tournament in 1990, and are two-time bronze medalists in 2005 and 2007. Sweden, originally part of the “big four” of women’s hockey with Canada, the United States and Finland, had their team funding cut by the Swedish Olympic Committee after a disappointing second-last place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018, so the program’s free-fall became evermore evident after their relegation following a stunning 3-2 late loss to Japan.
Looking to replace these teams in Nova Scotia in 2020 are fighting for these two spots right now in Budapest, Hungary in the Division IA tournament, set to wrap up on 13 April. History will be made regardless of which two teams are promoted, however, as three teams (Austria, Hungary and Italy) have never made the Top Division, while Denmark, Norway and Slovakia have not been in the Top Division since 1992, 1997 and 2012, respectively. And while it is unlikely that the 2020 tournament will see a former titan like Sweden fall to Division IA, with parity getting closer each year, nobody can be certain of what to expect out of future tournaments in the upcoming decade and beyond.