IIHF’s new women’s program to promote and educate national teams; Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser assumes key role

July 1, 2011 will mark the start of the most comprehensive IIHF women’s hockey development initiative so far. Mentors and ambassadors from the top four countries will assist women’s programs in nine other countries for a period of two and a half years.

The IIHF Ambassador and Mentor Program (AMP) will create partnerships between some of the world’s best women’s hockey coaches and athletes from the top four world ranked teams – USA, Canada, Finland and Sweden – and countries that are striving to develop elite programs in women’s hockey. For example, former Canadian Olympic coach Shannon Miller will be a mentor for Russia, ex-NHL player Doug Lidster will be assisting the Czech Republic, while Finnish star Emma Laaksonen-Terho will be an ambassador for Kazakhstan.

The federation ensured that active players and coaches were not assigned to a country their own national team would be facing in the 2012 World Women’s Championship.

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The nine nations that will participate are China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland. The IIHF intends to focus on the top 14 world ranked teams to provide them with a better chance to qualify for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Hayley Wickenheiser, the world’s most accomplished women’s hockey player, has joined the program and will work directly with all of the Athlete Ambassadors.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the Athlete Ambassador program because I feel it will make a direct and immediate impact in helping players from countries 5-14 gain more information and resources to improve their game,” Wickenheiser said.

Once the program is running smoothly, the IIHF will look to expand to other nations that wish to improve their women’s program.