If you’re reading this, you know about #ForTheGame. You, like me, saw the coordinated blitz on social media, you in all likelihood watched it spread like wildfire, clicking ‘refresh’ again and again to look who became subsequent.
And then, at eleven:04, minutes after the most important names in North American hockey published their scheduled message, matters got exciting.
Forward Michelle Karvinen, who plays her membership hockey at Luleå Hockey/MSSK and the world over for Team Finland, became the first SDHL player to join in. The first, and some distance from the last.
Ronja Savolainen. Andrea Dalen. Jenni Hiirikoski. Pernilla Winberg. Fanny Rask. Lovisa Berndtsson. Sara Grahn. Eveliina Suonpää. The listing is going on. Players across the league loaned their voices to the movement. In neighboring Finland, Kiekko-Espoo defender Minttu Tuominen did the identical, the only Naisten Liiga participant (to the excellent of my know-how) to achieve this.
It’s vital to word that the #ForTheGame social media posts from European players in Finland and Sweden are not a statement of an upcoming exertions stoppage in their respective leagues. Many of the most famous names to put up — like Hiirikoski, Grahn, and Tuominen — are already signed for subsequent season.
Team Sweden head educate Ylva Martinsen, herself a former SDHL defender and Damkronorna Olympian, also took word.
“For me the news of the movement is crucial even though I teach a countrywide team,” she instructed The Ice Garden. “I suppose this is a matter for such a lot of inside the sport, who fought so long for a alternate for the higher.”
Inequality in girls’s hockey is as vintage as the sport itself, and parallels run effortlessly among Europe and North America.
Players inside the SDHL and the Naisten Liiga are not able to financially help themselves with hockey by myself. Some are students, others work as photograph designers, nurses, Air Force provider members, and crew General Managers, to call just a few.
Conditions, assets, and reimbursement where it’s available vary from crew to team in both leagues. Luleå Hockey/MSSK, one of the finest-run women’s teams in the game, mounted pay for all their senior gamers final season, in place of paying only some as they had been before. It’s nonetheless no longer a residing salary, however enough to permit the team to lessen their job masses and teach at some stage in the day as opposed to at night after a workday.
This, unluckily, is the exception rather than the rule of thumb. There’s in reality not sufficient investment in ladies’s hockey and the economic burden of bridging that hole frequently falls on gamers.
Which sucks. A lot.
The pay-to-play structure is still in location in many places throughout Finland; some teams are working to mitigate it as a lot as possible, however the fee remains a totally real problem for even the country’s most elite players. The issue has sent a number of Finland’s great gamers overseas, mainly to Sweden: out of 23 players rostered at the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championships, 10 play their club hockey inside the SDHL.
There’s also the difficulty of insurance. Naisten Liiga gamers pay for their personal coverage, but the Finnish federation has a deal in place with one specific corporation to get them a totally reduced rate for hockey.
Over inside the SDHL, communications director Angelica Lindeberg informed The Ice Garden: “At the instant the gamers don’t acquire any insurance via the league however is one in all many stuff we’re running with to arrange.”
A Different Structure
Both the SDHL and the Naisten Liiga are administered with the aid of their respective countrywide federations, and the Swedish Ice Hockey Association currently prolonged its agreement with the SDHL via 2023. Neither USA Hockey nor Hockey Canada has (or had) any position in strolling the NWHL or the CWHL.
In different phrases, a #ForTheGame movement in Finland and Sweden might be in direct competition of countrywide governing bodies. The gamers, especially more youthful ones seeking to earn a gap on their countrywide groups, need to ask if they’re willing to take that threat.
A Season Abroad?
Let’s say negotiations this offseason cross completely nuclear. Full-on, scorch-the-earth-and-salt-its barren-dregs nuclear. Do the North Americans head to Europe? Are they desired in Europe?
That depends on who you ask.
The debate approximately foreign players inside the SDHL has raged for years. Everyone from Swedish Ice Hockey Association chairman Anders Larsson to Swedish Olympic Committee CEO Peter Reinebo have opted to scapegoat import gamers for the Damkronorna’s disappointing international consequences as a substitute of really handling their very own companies’ screw ups.
Despite the misgivings on the top, elite overseas skills is welcomed at an organizational level with the aid of clubs all throughout the league. Ninety gamers from 17 countries round the world joined a hundred forty five Swedes last season, up from 77 in 2017-2018.
Former Calgary Inferno forward and 2019 Clarkson Cup champion Kelty Apperson has determined to attempt her success in Sweden, the first boycotting North American to do so.
(Kelty, if you’re studying this, I’m sorry I spelled your call incorrect on Twitter.)
If, say, Marie-Philip Poulin determined to signal with Brynäs (don’t strangle me, pricey readers, this is in simple terms hypothetical), she might be greeted in Gävle with open hands. Prior to the movement, Team Canada goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens discussed the possibility of signing in Sweden as soon as she’d completed graduate college. What’s to prevent her now? After all, Leksand wishes a goalie with Julia Åberg taking time without work, so why now not?
The Naisten Liiga’s mindset to overseas players is markedly specific. One of the problems introduced up following the league’s rebrand in 2017 was creating a “aggressive and appealing” surroundings for both Finnish expertise and imports.
The teams carry larger rosters, however the gamers are frequently more youthful and the ability stage varies. Does Kendall Coyne Schofield want to visit Rauman Lukko, for instance, and play on a group in which the youngest participant is 16 and the median age is nineteen.8? What about a iciness in Kuopio with KalPa? Her velocity would actually be an asset; put her on Tanja Niskanen’s wing and spot what takes place. Heck, throw her on a line with Elisa Holopainen and watch them move.
Personally, I’m concerned with the fine of the high-quality North Americans heading across the Atlantic. If the #ForTheGame boycotters want to head play in Europe and are capable of do so without disrupting the talent already in area, the eye they bring about with them will most effective be a wonderful. Time and time (and time…And time…) again we listen approximately how little attention is paid to the ladies’s sport. The media enhance and the subsequent exposure from a wave of excessive-calibre talent could be terrific.
The Bottom Line – For Now
So, then, what does #ForTheGame truely mean for the SDHL and the Naisten Liiga?
From a sensible viewpoint, nothing yet. Displays of solidarity are crucial in labor movements and there’s no doubt that girl hockey gamers everywhere in the international are watching this movement just as keenly as their North American opposite numbers.