Women's Hockey

The International Ice Hockey Federation encourages its members to promote the game of ice hockey to women and girls.

Ice hockey is for everybody, and more and more female players have joined the game in the past two decades and the numbers are still going up substantially.

Between 2007 and 2010 the number of registered female players worldwide grew from 153,665 to 170,872. Women’s hockey is on the rise in almost every part of the world and there are teams in North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America.

36 countries applied to enter their national team in the 2011 IIHF World Women’s Championship program and 18 in the women’s U18 category.

First records of women’s hockey games date back to 1889 in Ottawa and 1892 in Barrie, Canada. One of the players of that era was the daughter of Lord Stanley of Preston, Lady Isobel Stanley. The first women’s hockey games in the United States were recorded around 1920.

This first period of women’s hockey history in North America peaked in the 1930s before the female game disappeared with World War II. Ice hockey was seen as a men-only sport in the post-war era. It took a while until a new generation of female hockey players grew up and got the opportunity to play the game.

The modern era of organized women’s hockey began in the late 1980s when the first international invitational tournaments were organized, culminating in the first IIHF European Women’s Championship, played in 1989 in Düsseldorf and Ratingen, Germany, with Finland as its first winner.

One year later the first IIHF World Women’s Championship took place in Ottawa with Canada winning on home ice, and in 1992 the International Olympic Committee welcomed women’s ice hockey as an Olympic discipline. The first Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament was played in Nagano 1998.

The following competitions are sanctioned by the IIHF today:

  • IIHF World Women’s Championship since 1990
  • Women’s ice hockey tournaments at the Olympic Winter Games since 1998
  • IIHF European Women’s Champions Cup since 2004
  • IIHF World Women’s U18 Championship since 2008
  • IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia since 2010

Since the ‘80s and ‘90s more and more countries have started to run national women’s programs and championships. With the new millennium, women’s hockey also became an established sport in the U.S. college system with the start of the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship in 2001. Women’s ice hockey is also played in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) system.

Regional, national and border-crossing professional leagues were founded in North America in the 1990s and 2000s. The CWHL and WWHL are considered the major professional leagues today, while many world-class players from outside North America play in the NCAA system in the United States.

As with men’s hockey in the beginning of worldwide competition in 1920, women’s hockey is dominated by North American teams. Between 1987 and 1997 Canada didn’t lose a single game and seldom conceded a goal in international play. The first defeat came in 1998 in the first-ever Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament in Nagano when the United States claimed gold.

Sweden became the first European team to beat a North American squad in major international competition when it edged the United States in a shootout in the semi-finals of the 2006 Olympics in Turin before the Europeans lost the gold medal game to Canada, 4-1.

Following the fourth Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament 2010 in Vancouver there were many discussions about the progress in closing the gap between North America and the rest of the world. The same year, following the World Hockey Summit in Toronto, the IIHF approved to assign more resources to women’s hockey and take measures to improve the sport’s development.

Here’s a list of non-competition activities, positions and measures:

  • IIHF Women’s Committee since 1994
  • IIHF Women’s Program Manager since 2010
  • Transfer fee waiver for female players since 2010
  • Annual Women’s Coaching Symposium since 2011
  • IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program (AMP) since 2011
  • Female Recruitment Program – Ice Hockey is for Girls since 2010
  • IIHF Women’s Hockey Development Camp (bi-annually, since 2004)
  • IIHF High Performance Women’s Senior Camp in 2011
  • IIHF High Performance Women’s Under-18 Camp since 2011
  • Twelve Nations Invitational Tournament 2011-12 season
  • World Girls Hockey Day – October 2, 2011
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