Swedish women’s professional hockey league SDHL has announced the launch of a pilot program. introduction of bodychecking next season. The program will also cover Sweden’s second-tier women’s league Damettan.
Hits on open ice are not allowed, however body checks along the sides will be allowed.
“Over the past four seasons, we’ve allowed more physical play in the SDHL with good results,” Morgan Johansson, project lead for Project Zero Vision, said in a statement to the SDHL via Google Translate. “It’s hard to say without the facts on the table that more physical play means less concussions, but now we have that foundation. It’s incredibly exciting that Swedish ice hockey can pioneer the use of tackle in women’s hockey.”
Johansson’s Zero Vision project was launched in 2018–2019 with the aim of preventing concussions in Swedish ice hockey. Since the program was launched and more physical play has been allowed in the SDHL, the number of concussions among female hockey players in the country has been reduced by 75%.
In women’s hockey in North America, body contact has been allowed throughout the history of the game. Body checking was a regular part of women’s hockey in North America prior to the 1987 Women’s World Hockey Tournament. At this event, due to differences in talent levels between countries, the organizers removed the body check. In later years, body contact became the norm in women’s hockey, and body checking was banned.
Even though body checking was dropped from the 1987 tournament, the Swedish hockey organizations see the introduction of body checking as a way to bridge the gap between Sweden’s worldwide success and countries such as Canada, the United States and Finland.
“By allowing ice hockey qualifiers for women, Swedish ice hockey wants to take a step closer to the top nations at the international level,” it said in a statement.
“I think it’s about the natural competition in the game. With the puck, you have to keep your eyes up and protect it and yourself to buy time to attack,” Ulf Lundberg, head of the Swedish women’s national program, said via Google Translate. “Without the puck, you want to minimize time and space to get the puck back as quickly as possible. As coaches, we have been practicing blade against puck, body against body for a long time, and I think this change will benefit creative play because there is a higher demand for action speed.”
The pilot program will be reviewed during the 2022-2023 season. Luleå won the SDHL title last year by defeating Brynäs in front of a sold out crowd of 7,765 fans. The SDHL is one of the top European leagues for Olympians. In the championship game between Luleå and Brynäs, 20 Olympians from Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Czech Republic competed.