The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has said that the women’s winter Olympic Games tournament could expand to include more teams at Beijing 2022, while the sport’s global governing body also talked up the possibility of a return for the unified Korean team.
The women’s ice hockey competition at this year’s Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, featured eight teams, with the US to meet Canada in the gold medal match on Thursday. Finland will face off against the Olympic Athletes of Russia team in the bronze medal match on Wednesday.
Speaking today (Monday), IIHF president Rene Fasel said the governing body has already held initial talks with the Beijing 2022 local organising committee about the possibility of increasing the tournament to 10 teams for the next edition of the winter Games in the Chinese capital.
Fasel said: “The Chinese organiser was asking to add two teams in the women’s competition. And we will play our next Women’s World Championship with 10 teams too.”
The IIHF Congress is due to decide on the exact format for its expanded World Championship by this spring. Fasel said similar approval would be required to add more teams to the Olympic event.
Meanwhile, Fasel has spoken positively about a unified Korean team returning to the Olympic competition at Beijing 2022.
North Korea and South Korea joined up for the women’s event at PyeongChang 2018 and despite losing all four of its opening games, Fasel said that the IIHF was “very pleased” with how the venture went.
“Right now we are already thinking about trying to continue,” Fasel said. “So now we have to go to the International Olympic Committee, and discuss it with North Korea.
“I think it would be a very good operation to continue it to 2022 and somehow to go to the Beijing Olympics, to still keep the North Korean and South Korean women’s hockey team and then have this unified team as a message of peace. We should really continue that.
“It would be very difficult to tell five or six players that there was no place for them after they prepared for four years, so against any rule in our federation, we added an extra 12 players to have a mixed team. This team was so important for us, as it was for Korea – for South Korea and in the North. We are very pleased with how it worked out.”
Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang 2018 local organising committee, also talked up the possibility of a return for the unified Korea team. Lee said the team only had minimal time to prepare for this year’s Games, having only gained clearance in January, and that with more preparation, a future joint team could be more successful.
Lee said: “We only had two weeks to practice as a joint Korean team. It was too short to prepare well for the Games, but, as Rene mentioned, we will continue to discuss this issue in the run-up to Beijing.”