Director of Hockey
Director of Hockey, Marnie Hill, was in Switzerland as a guest of the IHF (International Hockey Federation) sponsored by USA Hockey, April 20th thru April 26th, 2011. She attended the first ever IHF Women's International Coaching Symposium in coordination with the IHF Women's World Ice Championships.
The summit explored women's ice hockey on the world stage, define ways to keep our great game in the Olymipics and help developing nations to continue to grow and share knowledge throughout the hockey nations.
What a fantastic opportunity and experience to be a guest of the IIHF, be overseas, during the Women’s world championships and get the chance to interact with women’s coaches from all over the world.
8 hours 40 minutes to get to beautiful Zurich a time change of 8 hours from Denver. Day one was the IIHF social that was held at the stadium where the games were being played. I met National team coaches from Norway, Finland, Sweden, France, Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, England, Czech Republic, Russia, Italy, Switzerland just to name a few. It was interesting how they all spoke pretty good English, which ultimately helped out this poor North American who did not speak any of their languages.
The conference started off the next day with an introduction from the president of the IIHF Dr. Rene Fassel. He gave a great intro and spoke on the “state of women’s hockey” and the necessity to keep growing the game. He talked about the retention of women’s hockey in the Olympic games as their primary focus and confidently reminded us that it is here to stay, that just a little over a half century ago Canada’s men’s teams were beating teams like Sweden 32-0 in the Olympic games and they did not take ice hockey out of the Olympic program. He also reinforced that without the carrot of an Olympic program for women we would end up going backwards. So it is safe to say Women’s hockey at the Olympic level will continue to have a future on the Olympic stage.
The first presenters were the three medaling teams at the games in Vancouver. Team Finland, USA and Canada. Each gave their views on how they designed their programs for the Olympic selections, preparation, periodization, challenges and ultimately handling the pressures of the Olympic stage. The front line message was to impart this information to other countries whose national team programs are in their infancy to allow them to learn and build off successful framework.
Still Day 1…The second session of meetings discussed the differences of coaching women and the trials and tribulations of inequality, financial and psychological issues facing the women’s game. We heard from Sweden, USA and Canada. Who gave funny yet upfront views on some of the difficulties of coaching women.
After the first days meetings we were treated to quarterfinal games between, Sweden and Finland, and Switzerland and Russia. The Fins knocked off the Swedes and the Swiss blew a 3-0 lead in the 3rd period only to succumb in overtime to the Russian in front of an enthusiastic yet stunned crowd.
Back to the meeting room. Mike Boyle from the US gave an insightful speech on strength and conditioning and had a lot of people asking questions. This is when I realized there were National team programs out there that did not partake in the off ice training aspect for their women. In the afternoon sessions we heard riveting presentations from nations like the Czech Republic, France and Sweden speaking on cultural challenges in the women’s game. They gave demographics on population, the numbers of girls that play, growth in the sport in their country, difficulties with equality, funding, and other issues that plague their nations.
In the afternoon we heard from the Finnish Ice Hockey representative that is in charge of recruitment and development in Finland. She spoke on growing the game in Finland and the methods they use to do it. Her presentation was based on the One Goal or our Test Drive principle. She gave credit to Hockey Canada for giving them the idea for the Girls Hockey Day program. Then the IIHF representative in charge of development proposed an international hockey day across the world. The date is set for Sunday October 2, 2011 and they are trying to get as many federations, club and countries involved in this one-day event. The event will be over multiple time zones and they are hoping to put new pictures up on the IIHF website over a 24 hour period of time with all girls hockey day information, flooding the website with just women’s and girls hockey information.
To round out the symposium we heard from Hockey Canada’s Karen MacNeil, who was there speaking on mental preparation and team building with the female athletes. She gave specific statistics regarding female athletes and stressed the importance of implementing mental training to the federations.
We closed the symposium and interacted even more with the people we had just met and found ourselves interconnecting well after the meetings had come to a close.
For a final treat of the IIHF we were invited to watch the semi final games between Finland and Canada and finally USA and Russia. Although the shots were not close (I think the US & Canada outshot their opponents 70 something to 15ish) it was nice to see the North American teams compete live at this event.