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Bulldogs alumni supportive of Swedish Women's Hockey League allowing checking in 2022-23

The SDHL, as well as the country's tier-two league, will allow checking along the boards as part of a pilot program next season. A popular league for UMD alumni, the SDHL has increased its tolerance for physicality over the past four seasons.

Ice Hockey - 2019 Women's IIHF World Championship
Team USA's Sydney Brodt, a three-time Minnesota Duluth captain, battles Olga Sosina of Russia during the 2019 IIHF Women's World Championship in Espoo, Finland.
Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS
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The Swedish Women’s Hockey League and the country’s second-tier league, Damettan, will allow checking along the boards as part of a pilot program during the 2022-23 season, making them the first major women’s hockey league to allow checking.

Open-ice checks will still not be allowed, but contact along the boards will be permitted, just as it is in men’s hockey.

It was an announcement that was celebrated on social media by alumni of the Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey program who have gone on to play professionally in Sweden. Five former Bulldogs played in the SDHL in 2021-22, including former captain Sydney Brodt with Linkoping and Olympians Lara Stalder of Switzerland and Katerina Mrazova of Czechia with Brynas.

All three showed their support through their Instagram stories on Thursday.

“The league already allowed much more body contact!” posted Stalder, who has set single-season SDHL scoring records the last two seasons . “This is great as players will be more prepared for contact!”

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Ice Hockey - Women's Play-offs Quarterfinals - Russian Olympic Committee v Switzerland
Lara Stalder of Switzerland in action with fellow former Minnesota Duluth Bulldog Alexandra Vafina of the Russian Olympic Committee during the 2022 Olympics at Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing, China on February 12, 2022.
BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS

Brodt — a native of North Oaks, Minnesota, who is returning to play in North America in 2022-23 — said the league reached out to players after the 2021-22 season to gauge their interest in the change. Brodt said it was something she supported in the name of player safety.

“The thing we as players talked about was being ready for contact,” said Brodt, who was named the league MVP this season after finishing second in the league in scoring behind Stalder, posting 29 goals and 27 assists in 36 games. “It allows for less injuries, which is a good thing if they do it the right way. I, personally, don’t think that women’s hockey has to be the same as men’s hockey. Having more body contact is good for the game, just because there already is body contact, so you might as well let it not be a penalty. I’m still for you can’t hit someone at center ice.”

In its announcement , the SDHL touted the league’s tolerance for more physical contact over the previous four seasons and the positive results it has produced. According to the SDHL, concussions have decreased by 75 percent in the league over the previous four seasons.

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From a competitive standpoint, the SDHL hopes the increase in physicality will pay off for the Swedish national team as it attempts to get a step closer to the top international teams in the game — the United States and Canada — who are both known to play more physical styles of hockey than their European counterparts.

Checking remains banned by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) for women’s hockey. The NCAA also does not allow checking in women’s hockey, though some leagues — like the Western Collegiate Hockey Association where UMD plays — have built reputations as more physical leagues than others.

“We have tried to pursue the checking issue before at IIHF but have not been heard,” said SDHL sports manager Gizela Ahlgren in a statement translated from the release . “So it feels inspiring that we now make a decision for our own league, and not only pave the way for Swedish women's hockey, but for the entire women's hockey world. A large majority of the players have also been positive about testing this, so we think this will turn out well and that even more people will want to go to the arenas and watch really entertaining hockey.”

MORE WOMEN'S HOCKEY COVERAGE:

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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