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Champions Cup moved to United States

From Norrbotten to the NY-NJ Metro, is shock Champions Cup relocation a red flag?

Bildbyrån and Pat McCarthy

The Champions Cup series between the SDHL’s Luleå Hockey/MSSK and the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters is alive and well.

There’s just one hitch: the event has been moved across the globe, from its scheduled home at Coop Norrbotten Arena in Luleå, Sweden to the United States, as both leagues announced today. In addition, the initial three-game series has been reduced to a single game. There’s also no mention of the hockey clinics that were planned in Luleå.

“We thank our friends at Luleå Hockey and the SDHL for working with us and graciously accepting our invitation to host them for a major matchup of league champions in the New York-New Jersey area,” said NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan in the NWHL’s press release.

Such a drastic shift in plans so close to the event’s scheduled time prompts more than a few questions, all of which circle back to the dreaded “Why?”

Is it because of money? One of the most common queries raised when the Champions Cup was announced had to do with how, exactly, the NWHL planned to fund taking a whole team to Sweden. The league’s history of financial difficulty is well-known and neither the NWHL nor the SDHL is rolling in spare cash, so who’s paying for Luleå’s travel and accommodations?

Is it the Riveters’ lack of a head coach? Chad Wiseman’s departure was announced prior to the Isobel Cup Final in March, and no replacement has been named.

Is it at (presumably NWHL) players’ request, potentially due to work-life-hockey pressure? Asking any hockey player who isn’t supported full-time by sponsors or endorsements to travel across the globe is fraught with stress. Not only do they risk sacrificing wages and limited vacation time, they must also cope with the physical strain of international travel.

So, What Now?

Without pure on-the-record transparency it’s difficult to declare this situation a win or a loss for the NWHL. It’s odd, yes, and the SDHL is no doubt disappointed about losing such a big women’s hockey event on home ice. However, a solution was reached and the series is going forward. Whether or not this impacts the NWHL’s future relationship with both the SDHL and the Luleå Hockey organization has yet to be seen.

On one hand, it’s a shame for the loyal Luleå Hockey/MSSK fans who won’t be able to fill Delfinen and show off one of the best hockey atmospheres on the globe. On the other hand, the move exposes North American fans to a new team and a new league that houses some of the world’s best players.

Added Luleå defender Johanna Fällman in the SDHL’s release, “It’s obviously sad that we do not get the chance to play the Champions Cup at home and show the world the great atmosphere we have at our games in Luleå. But now it’s the way it is and we’re really looking forward to an adventure on the other side of the Atlantic instead and see it as a perfect opportunity to promote both LHF / MSSK and the SDHL abroad.”

More details — such as location, date, and broadcast information — is set to be announced in early September.