The Naisten Liiga will expand from eight teams to ten starting in 2018, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association announced on Tuesday. In addition, the 2017 -2018 season will expand to 30 games from 28.
Naisleijonat general manager Arto Sieppi took the announcement opportunity to praise the 2016-2017 season's quality as well as the growing number of female coaches in the league. KalPa, Ilves, and Aurora Borealis Cup champions Oulun Kärpät all had female coaches last year, which Sieppi called "a very good thing."
Both the Naisten Liiga's rebrand from the SM-Sarja and the planned expansion are further signs of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association's growing commitment to women's hockey. The league sees the top-tier Swedish SDHL attracting elite international talent - including 15 Finnish players last season - and wish to emulate that success by creating a "competitive and attractive" league, according to former Naisleijonat captain and current board member Emma Terho.
The Naisten Liiga will celebrate their inaugural season with league-wide events held in Tampere, Finland.