16/04/2024

Photo Credit: Stjepan Cizmadija

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is the international governing body of the sport.

According to their website, one of their objectives is to “bring hockey to a broader population”.

However, the IIHF has disappointed fans and players with its coverage of lower-division tournaments.

Specifically, the Division II Group B Women’s World Championships held in Zagreb, Croatia provides a poignant example of IIHF’s failings.

The IIHF did not post anything on social media before or during the tournament. They eventually posted a single social media post 18 hours after the final game of the tournament.

What is particularly disappointing for journalists passionate about the sport is that IIHF made it difficult to provide coverage.

The Inner Sanctum was the only website covering the tournament in Australia. Moreover, a Google search reveals that we were likely the only website providing coverage globally.

One of the reasons for this is that IIHF made it challenging to find photographs to use in social media posts or articles.

IIHF’s Missed Opportunity

After the first day of the tournament, the IIHF posted photographs from the day’s games on their website. The pictures were in a format that made it difficult to download without a computer science degree.

However, after the first day’s games, the IIHF uploaded no further photographs. To obtain photographs, The Inner Sanctum needed to contact the photographer from the 2020 tournament, who passed on details of the 2022 photographer.

Obviously, for a journalist without such contacts, it would have been impossible to provide professional coverage of the entire tournament.

To be clear, photographs were taken and submitted, the IIHF couldn’t be bothered uploading them. This encapsulates IIHF’s attitude toward grass-roots hockey.

Each player spends thousands of dollars on travel and accommodation to attend IIHF tournaments. Moreover, for some players, it may be the only international tournament of their career.

The disparity between the sacrifices players make and the lack of coverage and recognition by IIHF is stark.

For example, in one game, Australia versus Croatia, IIHF did not record any assists on the scoresheet. Australia won 13-0, and according to the IIHF, all goals were unassisted.

After watching the game and recording assists, storylines, discarded by IIHF, emerged. Molly Lukowiak recorded her first-ever point, and fellow rookie Matilda Pethrick notched five assists.

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IIHF Feels Equity Means Covering All Tournaments Poorly?

IIHF tweeted on International Women’s Day the message “if you can see it, you can be it”.

https://twitter.com/IIHFHockey/status/1501165850933575684

It’s a pertinent message, a message that IIHF would do well to consider in light of their appalling tournament coverage.

The Inner Sanctum reached out to the IIHF to respond to their lack of coverage. We received an email in reply that did not address most of our concerns.

Instead, the IIHF pointed to their superior women’s coverage during the Olympics as evidence of their commitment to the women’s game. A cynical reader may think ‘doth protest too much’, seeing the response from IIHF as coming from a place of insecurity.

However, IIHF insists that the lack of coverage of lower divisions stems from a lack of sponsors. This may be true, and while fans weren’t expecting the Women’s World Championships in Zagreb to have the same coverage as the top men’s division tournament held at the same time, there should still be some coverage.

While the men enjoyed 50-plus social media posts a day, comprehensive highlights, interviews, photographs, and more, the women got nothing.

IIHF said in their statement, “It is simply not possible to allocate the same level of resources to all lower-division tournaments that we do to the top divisions. Focusing more coverage on Zagreb would mean that we would need to have done for the lower division women’s events in France, Poland, Spain, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc.”

Hosting a Tournament Includes Providing Coverage

The incredible statement that IIHF made about tournament coverage does not pass the litmus test. Matilda Pethrick, who was part of the Australian National Women’s Team in Zagreb last month, responded to IIHF’s statement.

Pethrick mentioned the lack of coverage was “frustrating”, and that “it shouldn’t be a one or the other” approach. “It’s really stupid at the end of the day,” she said, “that we’re still trying to fight for equal coverage.”

“It is a lower division, but that doesn’t mean it’s less important. Everyone on each of the teams that were there worked really hard to get there.” Pethrick concluded, “For that not to be shared with more than the people that were at the tournament or in the circle of those who were at the tournament is unacceptable.”

According to Pethrick, resources should be shared to provide more coverage to lower-level tournaments. You can listen to the full interview in The Inner Sanctum’s newest podcast on Spotify – Net, Sticks, and Chill.

IIHF Must Reassess Their Values

It is appalling to me that the IIHF feels that a single tweet about a tournament a day after its conclusion is acceptable. Furthermore, the excuse given that if they gave more attention to the tournament they would need to do the same for other tournaments smacks of ignorance.

From a pragmatic point of view, it makes sense to dedicate assets to tournaments that generate the most revenue.

However, to dedicate ALL the assets to these tournaments at the expense of all the other tournaments is short-sighted. It shows IIHF has a purely mercenary approach to the game.

There are plenty of freelance writers that would jump at the privilege of writing for IIHF and covering tournaments. The costs would not be onerous to IIHF, but the benefits of such attention would be massive.

Australia is sending a team to the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships in Istanbul from June 27 through July 5. With the tournament beginning in less than 10 days, the IIHF has yet to release a schedule for the event, further illustrating their ambivalence, bordering on contempt, towards lower division women’s hockey.

Meanwhile, at The Inner Sanctum, we are committed to covering women’s sport, and Australian women’s ice hockey. Subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss out on our coverage of the Australian U18 Women’s team as they compete in the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championships later this month.

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