On the eve of the Swedish women’s national team’s training camp, 43 of the nation’s top women’s players have banded together and announced they will not participate, nor will they skate in the upcoming Five Nations Tournament slated for later this month, until they reach an agreement with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.
"Many of us have carried the frustration that has led to today's decision for several years. Now it is about the younger generation to avoid doing so," reads a translated statement released by Erika Grahm, who has been a member of the senior national team since 2009-10, captained the club at the 2012-13 World Championship and wore an ‘A’ at the 2018-19 competition. "Today, we have jointly chosen to reject the finest and most prestigious assignment we can imagine. From today, none of us will represent (the national team) before the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation's leadership shows that they want to work together with us players to develop and create better conditions for us in the current squad – and for the (players) in the future."
According to Swedish outlet Expressen, among the chief reasons for the boycott is compensation and the loss of income that is associated with participating with the national team. As with many North American women’s players, many Swedish national team members work full-time jobs away from the rink and attending training camps, team meetings, practices, exhibition games and international tournaments requires the players to take time away. As of April, there was a deal in place that would cover lost income for players as a result of their participation in team-related events, but Expressen reported that no new deal has been signed since the previous agreement expired.
"We have no unreasonable demands," reads the statement. "We just wish that we the players on the ice feel that we are a team together with the federal leadership. That all the time and effort we dedicate from our lives for the sport we have practiced since childhood will be respected and treated to us as an elite athlete, with a burning ambition to make Sweden a stronger nation in women's hockey."
The statement and the national team’s request, which has been tagged #ForFramtiden, or #ForTheFuture, is similar to the stand taken by the U.S. women’s national team ahead of the 2017 World Championships, which saw American national team members threaten a boycott in their fight for equitable support from USA Hockey.
The lack of a deal between the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and the women’s national team comes in the wake of one of the greatest disappointments in the team history. Ranked sixth in the IIHF's world rankings heading into the 2019 World Championship in April, Sweden dropped three of its four preliminary round games, including a dying-minutes defeat at the hands of the Japanese that resulted in relegation for Sweden for the first time in tournament history. A victory over France in a placement game saw Sweden finish ninth in the ten-team competition.
"We players are prepared to take our responsibility and do everything to take us back to where we belong," reads the statement. "But only with conditions, treatment and respect that convey an attitude to us as an elite athlete. Until the ruling men of the Swedish Ice Hockey Association show it, the women's crowns have an empty squad."
The Five Nations Tournament, which features Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic and Japan, is slated to begin on August 20 in Vierumaki, Finland.
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