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How Can We Make World Juniors for Women a Reality?

The

top under-20 men’s players from Czechia, Finland, Sweden and the United States

will vie for a spot in the gold medal game during the semifinals of the on Thursday. The best women in that age group won’t have the chance. They never have. Since 1977 the IIHF has sanctioned a men’s world juniors. The world’s best female hockey players compete in annual under-18 and senior national championships, tournaments which began years after their male counterparts. And even though the women’s game is rapidly growing — look no further than what will be a multi-million dollar investment into the professional game with the PWHL — there is still no women’s world juniors. That’s something Team Canada and Team USA general managers Gina Kingsbury and Katie Million want to change.

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“The U20 group is the missing piece,” Million said in an interview with The Athletic. “It’s been (our) dream to make this happen.” There have been discussions with the IIHF about a potential women’s world juniors within the last year, Million said, but in recent committee meetings the idea has been voted down largely because other nations outside the U.S. and Canada aren’t ready to add another team to their women’s programming. It’s true that Canada and the U.S. have dominated at the under-18 level, just as their senior teams have — no other nation has won a U18 gold medal since the tournament started in 2008. But there has been noticeable growth. Last year, Sweden beat Team USA in the semifinals and won a second silver medal after making it to the gold medal game for the first time in 2018. And it was Nela Lopušanová, a 14-year-old from Slovakia, who was the star of the 2023 tournament. Lopušanová might be the most obvious example of growth in international women’s hockey. If the IIHF had decided women’s hockey wasn’t ready for a U18 tournament all those years ago, Lopušanová probably wouldn’t have become one of the most exciting young players to watch right now. “We have to start somewhere,” Million said.

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