Four Nations Cup canceled as Sweden's national team fights for equality in U.S. footsteps

Cassandra NegleyYahoo Sports Contributor

The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation canceled the top annual tournament in women’s hockey on Friday after failing to ensure its nation’s players would participate.

The Four Nations Cup was scheduled for Nov. 5-9 in Sweden and included the U.S., Canada and Finland. The four are some of the best women’s hockey teams in the world. But Sweden’s best players are currently boycotting the national team in an ongoing pay dispute.

Four Nations cup canceled

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The federation canceled the tournament since it could not guarantee its players participation and other nations needed enough time to plan travel, it said in a release.

The Swedish players’ rep, Klara Stenberg, said that despite the federation saying it contacted the players, it didn’t.

“The federation didn’t talk to the players before they canceled the tournament in Lulea,” Stenberg told TheHockeyNews.com. “The players did not tell the federation they won’t play. They just said they can’t give the federation an answer (right away), but the federation made the decision all by itself to cancel the tournament.”

Sweden fighting for compensation

Sweden typically ranks behind the U.S., Canada and Finland as the world’s best hockey teams and became the only non-North American team to win Olympic silver in 2006. After a disappointing seventh place at the 2018 Olympics that dropped the team to sixth in the IIHF rankings, the Swedish Olympic Committee cut the team’s funding rather than fire coaches or mix up the roster.

In August, 43 members of the Swedish national team announced they would boycott the team training camp and Five Nations tournament in Finland due to a lack of support and financial compensation. In coordinated statements they used #FörFramtiden, which translates to “for the future.”

The group has formed a union and has raised complaints about its previous deal, which ran out in April. It includes issues regarding:

  • compensation

  • fitting work (non-hockey jobs) and family schedules around national team requirements

  • travel conditions and schedules

  • lack of short- and long-term vision for women’s hockey in Sweden

  • perceived lack of respect

That Sweden pulled the plug on its tournament so early is telling. It suggests they don’t believe the players will budge and no deal can be made.

Sweden's federation canceled the Four Nations Cup scheduled for November. (REUTERS/Shaun Best (CANADA))
Sweden's federation canceled the Four Nations Cup scheduled for November. (REUTERS/Shaun Best (CANADA))

U.S., Canada players still boycotting NWHL

The move is in the direct footsteps of the U.S. national team, which intended to boycott the 2017 World Championship in Michigan. Team USA wanted “significant progress” on the year-long negotiations for fair wages and support. They went with the hashtag, #BeBoldForChange.

They asked for “fair treatment from USA Hockey” and took issue with similar things as Sweden, such as financial compensation and equal per diems to the men’s national team. The two sides reached an agreement days before the tournament on an unprecedented four-year deal.

In canceling the Four Nations Cup, three other teams will feel the ramifications of losing out on the best chance to play against fellow top competition. And it comes at a time when both Canadian and U.S. players are boycotting the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).

The NWHL is the last remaining women’s hockey league in North America after the CWHL folded. The more than 200 women who announced they would boycott are doing so in an effort to establish a single, economically viable professional league.

The NWHL is going forward with its fifth season with an expanded schedule. Meanwhile, some of each nation’s top players will sit out of meaningful hockey for a year. And now a premier annual world tournament. The U.S. won the last four titles.

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