Four years ago, women’s hockey did not exist in Luxembourg, one of the smallest and least populated countries in Europe with only 645,000 residents.
Today, however, Luxembourg is preparing to send their first national women’s team to the IIHF Women’s Development Cup in Kuwait this November. Established in 2017, the Development Cup is designed for IIHF members who do not meet regulations to participate in World Championship competitions. For Luxembourg, there currently are not enough registered women nationally for official IIHF play, but the Development Cup is a step toward growing the sport for the nation.
“Four years ago, we wanted to form a beginners team for everyone, but there was a surprising number of women and girls joining, and then there were more and more, so we decided to split the women from the men, and that’s how it started,” said Alain Schneider, president of Luxembourg’s ice hockey federation.
“We were watching all of the other nations starting women’s teams, but years ago, we were not able to get enough girls," Schenider said, "Because there weren’t enough, we saw them stop playing around age 14 or 15. It was never possible, but now we have it. We’re really looking forward to seeing them play in an international championship with the IIHF.”
Women in Luxembourg are now playing for the Tornado Women, the first all-women’s hockey team in the country that currently competes domestically against men’s teams. Earlier this year, however, the Tornado travelled to Germany to play in a women’s tournament for the first time.
“It was very exciting to see the level of play that is out there,” said Mara Wagner, a defender for the Luxembourg team. “Here in Luxembourg, we play almost always against boys, so it’s hard to see where we stand. But at this tournament, we saw we can play with other teams. It was very motivational. We are very competitive, and we continue to learn and develop skills.”
Tornado captain Kera Meyer echoed Wagner’s excitement about the development of women’s hockey in Luxembourg. In four short years, Meyer finds it hard to believe how far their team has come, which will soon include playing in an IIHF-sanctioned tournament.
“If they’d said four years ago we could play in a Development Cup with other countries, we would not believe it,” said Meyer. “Now we have the power to play games and we are very proud of it. We are quite excited even to have the chance. Luxembourg is quite a small country, so we as a team are quite excited to continue to grow and get better and maybe someday play in the World Championship.”
Wagner and Meyer, along with their teammates, are excited about the future, but they know the next steps will not be easy as they officially enter international competition.
“It will be hard, but we saw what we can do and it’s really exciting,” said Meyer. “We know it will get very hard, but that’s part of the game.”
From starting a team where only a handful of players had ever skated to competing as the Tornado in Luxembourg’s ice hockey league, to now travelling to the 2022 Development Cup, women’s ice hockey in Luxembourg has already grown by leaps and bounds. According to Wagner, it’s only the beginning.
“Participating in the Development Cup will help us in the future and will take us far in the future,” said Wagner. “It’s a great start.”
The IIHF’s 2022 Women’s Development Cup will take place from Nov. 6 to 12 in Kuwait City, Kuwait. Along with Luxembourg, the event will also feature teams from Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Andorra, and Ireland.