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Women’s Hockey Wednesday: How to build a national program

The Ukrainian National Team’s win at the Div IIB Qualifying tournament is the next step in their development.

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Athletes from the Ukraine Olympic Team at Sochi.
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Story of the Week

IIHF - Debut win for Ukraine’s women
Success in South Africa at first Women’s Worlds event for Ukraine

With the Pyeongchang Olympics in the rearview mirror and the anticipation of Beijing in four years, there’s been a lot of coverage recently of how to jump-start a national hockey team’s development, with both South Korea and China seeking to make the most of their automatic Olympic berths and take the best team possible to the Games. This story about the Ukraine women’s national team winning their first World Championship event has some superficial similarities, but instead of talking about how to improve a team’s ranking, the Ukrainian women had a different goal to accomplish—they had to create the team itself.

One of the things that stands out the most in this article is that Ukraine is not really a non-traditional market. There have been a handful of Ukrainian NHL players, even more in the KHL, and the country has its own men’s pro league, as well as the infrastructure necessary for hockey to flourish (namely, places to skate). The problem, as Ukrainian women’s captain Diana Kovtun says, was that while girls could fall in love with hockey, someday girls will become women, and those women had nowhere to play.

“I started playing hockey on a boys’ team when I was about 12,” she said. “After a couple of years, I couldn’t keep playing because there’s no mixed hockey for older players. I had to switch to football.”

You see this sentiment in North America too - there’s a bit of a campaign on right now to get women to stick with sports in their teenage years, which is when they usually drop out. In North America it’s about societal pressure and the lack of full-time future opportunities. In Ukraine it was much more basic—creating somewhere to compete at all. The IIHF currently ranks 38 national women’s programs and with this win the Ukrainian team will finally rejoin that list.

To get there they built a five-team league from scratch, grabbed the opportunity of a national spotlight on hockey at last year’s U-18 men’s Div IB World Championships to lobby their federation, and provided an “almost entirely amateur” squad with a professional level support team.

The three women credited with founding the Ukrainian Women’s Hockey Championship — Olexandra Slatvytska, Nadia Boboshko and Yulia Artemyeva — are described as having “expertise in finance, marketing and law” as well as various ties to the sport of hockey. Ukraine’s success speaks to the importance of expertise in the infrastructure side of things. It’s one thing to want to play. No matter how naturally talented a player is, to create a sustainable, successful league, you must understand the importance of getting the right paperwork done, how to catch the right eyes, and how to find sustainable funding. These are challenges every league faces, no matter the country. You can have excellent players on the ice, but they need strong off-ice support to succeed.

There are a lot of holistic aspects to high-level hockey that can easily be overlooked or pushed aside, and despite this being Ukraine’s first World Championship appearance, they didn’t mess around with the details. Video coaching, a massage table, guidance regarding nutrition and sleep hygiene—it is both impressive and encouraging that a women’s team only just entering IIHF play would already be providing all of these things. We saw several articles during the first year of the CWHL-China partnership where the North American players talked about having to instruct their Chinese counterparts not only on the fundamentals of the game, but on a healthy diet that would properly fuel their training. The Chinese have had a national women’s hockey program since the 90s — more of a focus on the off-ice aspects of hockey might have seen them stay at a higher level. They’re really important, and something we can hope more national teams will provide from the jump going forward.

“Growing the game” is a phrase that gets bandied about a lot in women’s hockey, but that growth doesn’t look the same everywhere. A country that had no place for grown women to play made one, put together a national team two seasons later, and won the tournament to qualify for the DivIIB World Championships. There are currently ten Ukrainian men’s hockey players registered for every one woman; the women’s national team, and women like Slatvytska, Boboshko, and Artemyeva, are trying to change that. Considering what they’ve accomplished so far, there’s every reason to believe they’ll succeed.

International hockey

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U.S. Olympic Committee Announces Schedule For 2019 Team USA Champions Series, Presented By Xfinity
Team USA international match to be broadcast live on NBCSN December 14, 2019.

Recapping the U18 Women’s Worlds | CONWAY’S RUSSIAN HOCKEY BLOG
We’re back, and there is much to catch up on! Let us start with the U18 Women’s World Championship, which wrapped up in Obihiro, Japan, this past weekend.

EHT

Daniela Diaz has selected her roster for the EHT-Finals - swisshockeynews.ch

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Last week, Hanna Olsson chose to break her contract with Djurgården.

CWHL

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From hockey players to professors, those with links to the country are sticking to their travel plans despite the ongoing detention of Canadians

Bribes from Glenn Healy, 20 Olympians, and a flight from Alaska: Takeaways from the CWHL All-Star Game – The Athletic (subscription)
There was more offense than defense on display as the two teams combined for 12 goals and put on a show for the fans.

Leah Hextall talks about broadcasting the CWHL on Sportsnet - Eyes On The Prize
Hextall talks about the challenges she, and Sportsnet face covering women’s hockey.

NWHL

Women’s hockey notebook: Pride proving start was no fluke – Boston Herald
Last season, the Boston Pride had just two victories with three weeks left in the season. Coming off a 6-2 home loss to the Buffalo Beauts, it looked more and more like a lost season. In the next two weeks, the Pride took two wins over the Connecticut Whale. It gave the Pride the third

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Michael Gilbert and Nik Fattey resigned earlier this month after allegations of sexual harassment on Dec. 16.

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Coaches discharged, players departing, and some other moves that make even less sense...

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Buffalo Beauts goalie Shannon Szabados stopped near center ice for a quick pre-practice stretch Friday in HarborCenter when she noticed several young fans gathe…

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Big month for Buffalo has nearly turned the tables

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Minnesota goes Whale hunting, steamrolls Connecticut

NCAA

Polls: USCHO - USA Today - The Ice Garden

Knights women's hockey completes impressive weekend at Cheel with 6-0 win over Brown | NorthCountryNow
Following up on Friday's convincing 5-1 win over Yale, Clarkson University came back on Saturday afternoon with a dominating 6-0 triumph over Brown to complete a weekend sweep in ECAC Hockey action at Cheel Arena.

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Kelly Pannek, now a senior, will lead the No. 2 Gophers women's hockey team in a showdown against No. 1 Wisconsin this weekend, with a potential regular-season WCHA title on the line.

Women's hockey adds transfer Rodgers | RMU Sentry Media
Robert Morris women's hockey (8-10-4, 6-1-1 CHA) has added a new player by the name of Alison Rodgers to the program via a transfer. Rodgers will be unable to play the remainder of this year due to NCAA rules but is already practicing and becoming apart of colonial culture.

Ivy climber: First year has been a fine year for Newfoundlander Maggie Connors | Hockey | Sports | The Telegram
St. John’s native excelling as a freshmen forward with Princeton Tigers, who are rising to new heights in NCAA women’s hockey

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Minnesota beat Wisconsin 3-1, splitting the series on Hockey Day Minnesota.

BC Women’s Hockey Defeats Vermont 5-2 To Complete Road Sweep - BC Interruption
Three in a row for the Eagles!

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Like laces on skates, the standings are tightening up

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A look at the Belt Championship Games of the last month

U Sports

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Pandas slide out of the top 3.

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Veteran Concordia women’s hockey goaltender Katherine Purchase has been a stalwart force for the Stingers over the past five years.

European club hockey

WHL (Russia) West takes Russian All-Star Game - The Ice Garden
SK Gorny’s trio of Fanuza Kadirova, Tatiana Rafter, and Hayley Williams led the way

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Can this please be a thing?

Hanna Olsson speaks about her break with Djurgården | Aftonbladet
Hanna Olsson broke her contract with Djurgården.

Luleå takes first place in SDHL | Aftonbladet
From the bottom to the top

AWIHL (Australia)

2018-19 AWIHL season: Round 9 | Ice Hockey News Australia
Round 9 of the 2018-19 Australian Women's Ice Hockey League season has finished with the Perth Inferno and Melbourne Ice picking up a win each from their double header at the Cockburn Ice Arena.

Game times announced for 2019 AWIHL playoffs | Ice Hockey News Australia
The AWIHL have announced the game time for the upcoming 2019 AWIHL playoffs.

Men’s hockey

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