Story #47

IIHF starts the World Women's Championship

March 19, 1990 — Ottawa, Ontario


Although women have played hockey almost as long as men, it wasn’t until 1990 that they had their own official tournament. Indeed, Lord Stanley’s daughter, Isobel, was a famous participant in outdoor games at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in the early 1890s, and university hockey in Canada flourished from the 1900s on. National championships were played in the 1930s, but the war ended much interest in the game.

It wasn’t until 1987 that any attempt was made to play a world championship. This tournament was played principally at the Centennial Arena in Toronto, and its success so impressed the IIHF that a formal World Women’s Championship was scheduled for 1990, in Ottawa. Eight teams participated, but it was clear early on that two nations stood well above the others. Canada and the United States both went through the preliminary round robin with ease, although it’s interesting to note that the U.S. beat Finland by only a 5-4 score.

Nonetheless, the teams met in the gold-medal game, and Canada beat the Americans 5-2 to win the first gold medal ever handed out by the IIHF for women’s hockey. But the tournament was the most important moment in the women’s game in the game’s history. Players from European countries came to Ottawa using, in many cases, personal expenses, honoured to compete and enthusiastic about supporting this new initiative. The Canadians were famous for their pink sweaters and socks. The media gave the tournament more media coverage than it had hoped for, and TSN telecast the final game. Angela James (CAN) and Cammi Granato (USA) played in that tournament, and they will be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in May 2008 for their careers in the women’s game.

Despite that first success, the World Women’s Championship was not at first an annual affair. The next tournament was played in 1992, then 1994 and 1997, at which time its importance to international hockey could not be ignored and it was made a yearly event. Importantly, 1998 marked the Olympic debut for women’s hockey, and the event is now on firm footing and an important part of the IIHF’s calendar.

About the Top 100 Stories

As part of the IIHF's 100th anniversary celebrations, is featuring the 100 top international hockey stories from the past century (1908-2008). Starting now and continuing through the 2008 IIHF World Championships in Canada, we will bring you approximately three stories a week counting down from Number 100 to Number 11.


The Final Top 10 Countdown will be one of the highlights of the IIHF's Centennial Gala Evening in Quebec City on May 17, the day prior to the Gold Medal Game of the 2008 World Championship.


These are the criteria for inclusion on this list: First, the story has to have had a considerable influence on international hockey. Second, it has to have had either a major immediate impact or a long-lasting significance on the game. Third, although it doesn't necessarily have to be about top players, the story does have to pertain to the highest level of play, notably Olympics, World Championships, and the like. The story can be about a single moment — a goal, a great save, a referee's call — or about an historic event of longer duration — a game, series, tournament, or rule change.

Click here for the 100 Top Stories



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