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Hockey Canada pulls Jennifer Wakefield from Swedish team

Just as her playoff final is about to begin, Jennifer Wakefield has been called home for training camp.

Jennifer Wakefield in Sochi.
Jennifer Wakefield in Sochi.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A loss of a star forward like Jennifer Wakefield right at the pinnacle of the season has got to be heartbreaking and galling for Linköping HC. Described as a nightmare by the Swedish press, it's difficult to determine how much advance notice the team had of the move.

Wakefield, from Pickering, Ontario, is a forward for one of the best teams in the Riksserien in Sweden. They are in the heat of the playoffs, and two-time champion Linköping is due to defend their title against Luleå beginning tomorrow. The final round is a best of three format, and the second game goes on March 19, with the final the next day if necessary.

Hockey Canada has said Wakefield may only play in the first game, and then must report to a training camp for the national team in preparation of the IIHF Women's World Cup which begins March 28, in Kamloops, BC.

As the Swedish paper Expressen reports (translation by Google Translate):

Jennifer Wakefield, who during the playoffs has accounted for six points in five games, is part of the Canadian teams playing the World Cup at home in late March.

As part of the preparations so Canada has a camp for the tournament which starts on 19 March. Thus, all players must be in place until, Wakefield included, even though it's the middle of the final series.
Canada justifies this decision by it is a year when there are Olympic qualifiers and that it is important to have Wakefield in place even if it clashes with her and Linköping matches.

"After taking everything into account it was decided that Jennifer will join Canada after Linkoping first final match on 16 March. We respect Linkoping, Jennifer and the entire coaching staff and have communicated how important it is that she returns to Canada when our team prepares for World Cup," says Hockey Canada's Melody Davidson in a statement.

Wafefield hasn't just been a help in the playoffs for Linköping, she has dominated in the regular season. Playing in only 18 games for the club, she scored 18 goals and 38 assists for 55 points and fifth place in scoring against other women who played 36 game seasons.

By saying they've "taken everything into account", Hockey Canada is communicating that they have weighed, measure and found wanting the value of the Riksserien when placed next to a couple of days of training camp.

This is not the first time Hockey Canada has been held responsible for directing Wakefield's hockey career in Sweden. In the 2015-2016 season she played for Borås HC in the Men's Division II in Sweden. She appeared in 6 games, and tallied 1 assist and 4 penalty minutes.

In a profile published in January of this year her departure from that team was said to be due to visa issues.

On October 12, 2015, Borås HC posted the following on their website, again translated by Google with clarifications added by me.

Unfortunately, we lose Jennifer Wakefield. The Canadian Hockey League [Det kanadensiska ishockeyförbundet or Hockey Canada] is not satisfied with the ice age [ice time] she had with us so we can only wish her ​​well in future.

USA Hockey has made similar decisions to the detriment of professional leagues. At the first women's game ever played at the Winter Classic this year, they blocked US players from the game as it conflicted with a training camp. Social media outcry over the decision had no effect, and the game went on without some of the biggest names in women's hockey on the ice.

Women's leagues all over the world are working to grow and improve the game for their own players and for the players of the future. They have to fight for money, ice time, prestige, press attention and every other thing they need. And they have to fight the national team organizations of the two most powerful countries in women's hockey too.

For these leagues to be taken seriously by fans, they must be accorded the respect of the national organizations. If the Riksserien playoffs are not a thing that when taken into account means something significant, then what is? Or do only the games played wearing the red maple leaf matter?

In the January profile Wakefield is quoted on her future plans:

"Because I’m involved with the national team program and going for [the 2018 Olympics], I need to talk it over with Hockey Canada [about] my next move," Wakefield said. "I would love to play back in Sweden, but if they need to see me play more live, then I’ll probably come back home to Canada. I would love to stay out in Europe, but I don’t really know necessarily what the plan for team Canada will be."

PPP plans to cover the IIHF Women's World Championships and we will focus on the Canadian players from the local CWHL teams. In addition, look for a more extensive profile of the Toronto-area Wakefield in the next few days.