The hockey world reacts to the cancellation of U18 Worlds

It seemed as though the hockey world united over the holidays to implore the IIHF to do the right thing.

Since the U18 Women’s World Championship’s cancellation was announced on Dec. 24, many across the hockey world — and even across the sports world at large — have united in outrage and disappointment over the IIHF’s lack of regard for the progress and development of young women hockey players.

Several federations have released collective statements on behalf of their U18 teams, including Norway, which wrote:

We are very concerned about how this development affects our group of players and that we will see an increasing dropout from the sport on the women’s side, among our teammates and our opponents. For three seasons, many goal-oriented, hard-working, and ambitious young women have experienced seeing their dreams shattered by the International Ice Hockey Federation.

For the full statement in both Norwegian and English, click here.

Sweden’s U18 team also released a statement calling on the IIHF to answer for the discrepancies in the preparations for their tournament and the men’s U20 tournament, which is taking place in a bubble in Alberta and scheduled to finish just two days before the start of the women’s U18 tournament. The team wrote:

The U20 men [have] also been in a bubble for 10 days ... what stops us from also going through the same procedure? We consider this to be a question about equality and that this is an injustice. Every single one of us has fought our entire life for the opportunity to represent our country at a world championship. Now when we finally had made it, our dreams got snatched away from us, leaving us with [a] horrible and empty feeling.

For the full statement in English, click here.

Sydney Brodt, a U18 gold medalist for Team USA and forward for host city Linköping’s SDHL club, shared a video on Twitter showing hockey being played in Linköping and calling out the IIHF. After all — the federation cited “league responsibilities” in Sweden as a reason for the tournament’s inability to be postponed...but also cited health and safety concerns as a reason for its cancellation. Health and safety concerns that don’t affect professionals...?

Four-time Olympian Florence Schelling shared her thoughts as well, in a four-part thread posted on Twitter. Schelling pointed out that the tournament is “more than just a tournament,” but “about [the players’] future” — and she’s right.

Minnesota Duluth goaltender Emma Söderberg, who was named Best Goaltender at the 2016 U18 tournament, compounded upon Schelling’s thread, writing on Twitter that the tournament “is much more than just hockey, it’s about the opportunities it can give for the future” (see full Tweet).

More than just the athletes themselves took to Twitter to call out the IIHF, too — just check the quote tweets and replies to any of the IIHF’s recent Tweets. A particularly popular one is embedded below, where the IIHF asked followers what Christmas gift they’d give their national teams...predictably, the Tweet did not go over well, with dozens of fans answering some iteration of “a chance for the U18 women to play.”

On Tuesday, the Finnish U18 team also took to Twitter to share their frustrations in a powerful letter to the IIHF.

It is time for the national ice hockey associations to demand better treatment for [girls’] and women’s hockey. We deserve the same investment as boys and men get. We demand that the IIHF works ... to postpone the championship tournament and find a date for this tournament to happen. Girls today and in the future deserve it. The IIHF has the responsibility to show the way to grow women’s sports.

For the full statement in English, click here.

Two-time U18 medalist and current Wisconsin Badgers forward Casey O’Brien also shared what playing in the U18 tournament meant to her, and implored the IIHF to be transparent and hold themselves accountable for their decision.

“I know how much U18 Women’s Worlds meant to me, my teammates, and our competitors,” O’Brien wrote in a screenshot posted to Twitter Monday evening. “I know how much it meant to our families. I know how much it meant to our trainers and our coaches ... how much? How much was all of that worth? To you?”

Anaheim Ducks (NHL) forward Maxime Comtois was one of a handful of men’s hockey players that also vocalized his disappointment in the IIHF, reasoning that the health and safety risks for the women’s tournaments are exactly the same as for the men’s — and yet, in spite of it, World Juniors is allowed to continue.

The Hershey Bears’ Zach Fucale and Ottawa Senators’ Drake Batherson, brother of Syracuse junior defender Mae Batherson, also chimed in.

Nearly 60,000 people have signed a petition started by photographer Lori Bolliger to, at the very least, postpone the tournament. “Let’s send the IIHF a message,” writes Bolliger in the body of the petition, “we care, we see the hours players spend in gyms and on the ice, we support women in sport, and we want the 2021 U18 Women’s Championship to have a date.”

You can view and sign the petition here.