Finland’s continued investment in women’s ice hockey took a historic step forward last week, when the Ministry of Education and Culture awarded 22 national team players 10,000 euros (just over $11,000 USD) each in grant money. Five more players received €6,000 each, bringing the total to €250,000, a landmark for the Naisleijonat.
It’s all but impossible to overstate the significance for the women working to earn a living in addition to competing, playing, and training as elite athletes. They are not paid by their leagues and bear the financial burden of pursuing the sport they love. In 2017 eight players were awarded €5,000 each. Some returned home to live with their parents during the Olympic season while Susanna Tapani and Meeri Räisänen were denied unemployment benefits. Now, with a tax-free €10,000, some of the stress is alleviated.
”It helps our everyday lives trying to meet the quality and amount of training it takes to play at the highest level,” Team Finland defender Minttu Tuominen told The Ice Garden. “It also shows the growing support and respect this team and other women’s sports in general surely have earned, and I hope this news also paves way for other female athletes and teams in Finland.”
Finland’s steadily increasing financial interest in women’s hockey has already borne fruit at the international level. Since 2014-15 the team has earned two bronze medals in three World Championships and won bronze at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. The 2019 World Championships will be held on home ice in Espoo.