Anything worth talking about, is worth blogging about

The 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championship has concluded, with Team USA winning gold. Canada won silver, and Russia won bronze. This is the first time Canada did not finish in first when hosting the Championship. This is Russia’s first medal since 2001 and second overall.

The final ranking is as follows:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. Russia
  4. Finland
  5. Germany
  6. Switzerland
  7. Sweden
  8. Czech Republic – Relegated to Division IA for 2013

And a big thumbs down to the IIHF. In 2010, they said:

In order to continue advancing the competitive level for the nations not involved in the Olympic Winter Games, it was agreed upon that an IIHF World Women’s Championship Program will be implemented for all divisions in the 2013-2014 season. That means that the World Women’s Championship will be played every year. Until 2010, it was not played in Olympic years.

However, there is no provision in their event calendar for a tournament next year. So in this case, it appears that the IIHF is continuing its sexist practice of holding a Men’s World Championship in Olympic years, but not a Women’s. They should stop this. Ideally, there should be a Women’s World Championship every year, but the next best thing would be to not hold a Men’s World Championship in Olympic years. I know the IIHF is forbidden from taking political factors into play, not a decision not to hold World Championships in Olympic years provides the perfect pretext to not stage the tournament in Belarus.

With all that in mind, I would expect the groups for the 2015 edition to be:

Pool A Pool B
United States Germany
Canada Switzerland
Russia Sweden
Finland Winner of Division IA

But it gets weirder. The IIHF’s statutes and bylaws say on page 67, section 901 (my italics):

1. Date

The IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship will be played each year in March/April, and must be finished at least one week prior to the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. However, the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship (top division) will not be played in Olympic years.

And then, in section 902:

1. Date

The IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I and Division II will be played each year in March/April.

In other words, it seems to be a clear indication that the lower divisions will play next year, but not the main tournament. This is backed up by the IIHF’s stats page for this year’s Division IIB Qualification page saying (emphasis added), “Turkey is promoted to the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Women Championship Div. II B”. It seems pretty likely that the lower divisions will have a promotion and relegation structure; if they didn’t, the 2014 Women’s Worlds would be glorified exhibition games. But if they do promote someone, there is no one to be relegated in their place. They cannot simply demote the lowest–ranked team from the top division, as that negates the point of this year’s Division I Group A. And they cannot relegate the other relegation round team, as that negates the whole point of a relegation round. Therefore, it seems that (unless I’m mistaken and there are no tournaments in 2014 or a main tournament in 2013), the 2015 Women’s World Championship will have nine teams. But if that is the case, then the IIHF Sport Regulations have (AFAICT) no provision for “vertically” seeding a nine–team competition. In other words, the only available format is that used in 2004 and 2007–09. But using that format negates the whole point (avoiding blowouts) of the vertical seeding.

So what the puck is going on? Will there be a 2014 edition for all levels? A temporary return to the previous formats? A new vertical seeding system for 9 teams? Something else? I prefer the first but think the third possibility is likely to happen.

We should find out later this month, in May, or in September. Stay tuned.

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