Later this month, a group of women will hit the ice for the first-ever Para Ice Hockey Women’s World Challenge. The tournament looks to raise the level of competition internationally for women’s para ice hockey as organizers aim to see the sport included in the Paralympic Games in the near future.
“The Para Ice Hockey Women's World Challenge will be a major stepping stone to ultimately include women's para ice hockey in the Paralympic Games one day,” said Michelle LaFlamme, World Para Ice Hockey Manager. “Para ice hockey is a sport open to all genders and backgrounds, and we are striving every day to grow the women's game to provide equal and ample opportunities for everyone.”
The first-of-its-kind all-women’s international tournament runs this weekend in Green Bay, Wisconsin featuring four teams - Canada, Great Britains, USA, and Team World, a group comprised of athletes from seven nations.
“It is important to host this event because it will raise awareness for women's para ice hockey around the world, showcasing all the sport has to offer for those watching in-person or on the livestream from afar,” says LaFlamme. “Perhaps some little girl will be watching in another country somewhere and will tell her parents she wants to start playing para ice hockey. This tournament will do wonders when it comes to growing participation and awareness for the sport and will set the tone for the future.”
Canada and the USA have fielded women’s para ice hockey teams in recent years, competing in challenge competitions and exhibitions. But this is the first organized event under World Para Ice Hockey and the International Paralympic Committee.
Similar to the 1987 women’s World Hockey Tournament, which was not officially sanctioned by the IIHF but led to the 1990 women’s World Championship, this tournament will serve as a stepping stone for the establishment of an annual para ice hockey World Championship, and the future inclusion of women’s para ice hockey in the Paralympics.
“It is important to know that this tournament is just one step of many in growing women's para ice hockey,” said LaFlamme. “The more people who buy into the sport, whether it be as an athlete, a coach, a supporter or a viewer, the better. That's the only way we are going to grow the game together.”
The tournament will feature a round robin phase, followed by a medal round. Despite the event being new, LaFlamme expects the competition level and entertainment in Green Bay to be high.
“Most of these athletes and teams will be facing each other for the first time so it will be exciting to see how they stack up and how their preparation compares. Para ice hockey is one of the most fast-paced, thrilling para-sports, so we expect to see some fantastic games and skills showcased throughout the event.”
Para ice hockey on the men’s side, governed by the International Paralympic Committee, has been part of the Paralympics since the Lillehammer Winter Games in 1994.