On Friday, just hours before the start of the SDHL season, the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation announced that they were cancelling the Four Nations Cup tournament scheduled for November 5-9 in Luleå, Sweden.
The federation had met with the players’ union only days before in an effort to negotiate a new contract for the Swedish women’s national team. The union had presented a proposal, the federation had presented a counter proposal, and both sides seemed to think the differences were not insurmountable. Although the federation’s press release implied they had consulted with the Damkronorna players prior to the announcement, the players reacted with shock and anger, insisting they had not been asked and that they had wanted a few days to consider their response to the federation’s counter proposal.
The press release indicates that the reasoning for cancelling the tournament almost two months in advance was out of consideration for the travel planning of the other three national teams that would be participating: Canada, USA and Finland. This is particularly ironic, as one of the Swedish players’ issues was around not being given adequate travel time, including arriving at international tournaments the same day as their first game and not scheduling any pre-tournament warm-up games local to tournaments as many other national teams do.
Finnish national team head coach Pasi Mustonen may have hit on more pertinent issues for Sweden: cancelling the tournament saves the Swedish federation money. The host is responsible for expenses for the other three teams, and the Damkronorna has not been playing at the same level as Finland, USA and Canada for several years. The Swedish team has come in fourth several years in a row and there’s no reason to think they would have been able to do any better in front of their home fans.
Money is certainly a concern for the federation: Erika Grahm revealed that one of the issues in the most recent proposal was around bonuses. The Swedish federation had no objection to including bonuses for winning the top level World Championships or the Olympics, neither of which the Damkronorna are playing in this year (and if they don’t pull up their ranking in 2020 they will need to play in the qualifying tournament for a chance at a berth in the 2022 Olympics), but did not want to agree to what Grahm called a “small, symbolic sum” as a bonus should the Swedish team win the Division I World Championships this year.
It’s an extremely disappointing move by the federation, one that affects the World Championships preparations for Canada, USA and Finland. While Hockey Canada and USA Hockey are apparently working on arranging more Rivalry Series games this season, this was the only opportunity for either team to face off against 2019 silver medalist Finland prior to Worlds. By taking such drastic action, the federation may well have lost some goodwill not only from their own players but from the other hockey federations, something that may take time to earn back.
Four Nations Cup
Four Nations Cup canceled by Sweden amid equal pay battle
The Four Nations Cup is the top annual women’s hockey tournament that includes the U.S. and Canada.
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