Two more teams will get a chance to compete for medals in women’s hockey at the 2022 Olympics as the International Olympic Committee has approved a request to expand the tournament field from eight to 10, according to the IIHF.
The new format will debut at the 2019 World Championship in Espoo, Finland next April.
“The IIHF is extremely happy and satisfied with the decision of the IOC Executive Board to increase the number of women’s ice hockey teams. It is something we have discussed for a long time and we are glad it will become reality for Beijing 2022,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement. “This is one of the biggest milestones for women’s ice hockey since its inclusion into the Olympic Winter Games in Nagano 1998 and for all the female players who dream about competing at the Olympics. It also reflects the improvement and growth of women’s ice hockey, the increasing parity as well as the discussions we have had about gender equality.”
Women’s hockey debuted at the Winter Olympics in 1998 with six teams competing. The field expanded to eight teams in 2002 and has remained that way ever since.
Canada has won gold four times (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014) while the U.S. has won gold twice (1998 and 2018). Finland (bronze in 1998, 2010 and 2018), Sweden (bronze in 2002, silver in 2006) and Switzerland (bronze in 2014) are the other teams that have won medals.
At the Pyeongchang Olympics earlier this year, Canada, the United States, Finland, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Switzerland and the host South Korea participated in the tournament. Expanding to 10 teams could open the door for Germany, the Czech Republic or France to compete on the Olympic stage. Those three teams will compete in the expanded 2019 World Championship with all of the Pyeongchang group, aside from South Korea.
“We at the IIHF Women’s Committee are very happy that the IOC is on the same page with us and understood why it is important to increase the number of women’s teams at the Olympic Winter Games,” said Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer, IIHF Council member and Chairwoman of the IIHF Women’s Committee, in a statement. “As we could see at the last two Olympics, female ice hockey is growing every year and this not only at the top level but also in the other countries.”
While host China has been guaranteed a berth in both the men’s and women’s tournaments for the 2022 Olympics, the other teams will have to play in qualifying tournaments to secure a spot. The dates of the qualifying tournaments have yet to be announced.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will run Feb. 4 to Feb. 20, 2022 in Beijing, China.