Similar to a scenario that played out in 2017 with the U.S. women’s team, today all 43 members of the Swedish women’s national program announced they will boycott participation in any further international competition, including November’s Four Nations Cup in Luleå.
Like the U.S. approach, players today released an identical statement over social media calling out their dissatisfaction over financial compensation from the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, noting that an agreement between the association and the players union over lost work income expired this past April, which allowed for players with full-time jobs or studies to make up their wages. Now with no agreement in place, and with many players unable to now play for the team while remaining financially viable, the players will not report to training camp this month until a solution is reached.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Association noted surprise about the decision, remarking that the lapsed agreement means no team, men’s or women’s, are compensated by the national association, and that new deals are underway in regards to financial compensation. However, new deals are being reached for compensation via professional leagues, meaning that the more popular men’s leagues in Sweden will result in higher income to be distributed amongst male national players, while the female players will not receive nearly the same income generated.
This is yet another dark stain on a difficult 18 months for the Damkronorna, which, once an Olympic Silver medalist and in the “top four” of women’s hockey, has seen the program’s success plummet due to a lack of support, seeing a disappointing sixth place finish at the 2018 Olympics, which caused the Swedish Olympic Committee to pull their funding. The downward spiral continued with an even more disappointing (and stunning) relegation from the 2019 World Championship this spring, sending Sweden to Division IA for the first time in history.
It remains to be seen whether the Swedish federation will withdraw from upcoming tournaments or try to send in replacement players from the junior ranks of the Swedish women’s system, a similar plan proposed by USA Hockey in 2017 before coming to an agreement. If the boycott were to continue into the spring, a forfeit by Sweden at April’s Division IA tournament in Angers, France would see them fall even further from the Top Division, as they would be automatically relegated to Division IB for the 2021 season.
Both sides appear to have dug in their heels for now, and the resulting process may not be resolved for quite some time. We hope both sides can reach an equitable, amicable agreement soon, to ensure that one of the top hockey nations in the world continues to see top representation from its female players, both at the Four Nations Cup and beyond.