After rejecting their latest deal to put an end to a standoff with the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, today the organization announced that the upcoming Four Nations Cup, scheduled for 5-9 November in Luleå, has been cancelled.
In a statement released Friday, the SIHF confirmed that an offer was tabled to women’s players to compete in the tournament while negotiations were still continuing, but in their response, the players were non-committal to participating, triggering the cancellation of the Four Nations Cup, which according to the players union, was a swift and immediate decision made without consultation. This now leaves the next major tournament where the Damkronorna are participating being December’s Four Nations tournament in Füssen, Germany (against Finland, Switzerland, and the host Germans), but if negotiations do not gain much traction than their participation in this tournament could also be in question.
The Canadian, American or Finnish national associations have yet to release a statement on whether one of them would host the tournament, returning the Nations Cup to the Three Nations Cup, three-team format for the first time since 2001, when the United States withdrew following the terrorist attacks of 11 September, or perhaps if a new nation would replace Sweden. Canada, Finland and Team USA would also return the Cup to its original three participants from 1996-99, before the Damkronorna were invited to the tournament in 2000, where they have won eight bronze medals in 19 years in the tournament.
Unlike the planned boycott of the U.S. women’s team in 2017, the SIHF will not be looking to replace the Damkronorna with replacement players from their junior ranks, but this tournament, which really benefits the Swedish and Finnish squads more than the Canadian and American teams in their development and centralization for the World Championships, now will see team development suffer further, which potentially could even impact their relegated state in Division IA this spring.
Now with potentially no major international women’s tournament until the 2020 World Championships next spring, a tournament where Sweden was shockingly relegated from last season, and a number of players from other hockey nations currently part of their #ForTheGame boycott of professional hockey in North America, the gap between the players and their teams, both on the professional and international stage, seems to have had another major wedge driven through it in the struggle to further develop women’s hockey and ensure equitable pay for all parties involved.