International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #7

WW Top 25 Stories: #7

Rider organizes an international tournament

Published 29.03.2015 12:25 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #7
Fran Rider organized the unofficial Women’s Worlds in 1987 that would be followed by the launch of the first IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in 1990. Photo: Louie Palu / Canadian Press
21-26 April 1987. The news did not make headlines around the world. The players were not hounded by paparazzi upon arriving at the airport.

Arenas were not packed with thousands of rabid fans.

Indeed, the first international women’s hockey tournament was nothing but a start, a start with the most humble ambitions, but a start all the same. Canada, because it had more women players than anywhere, had two teams, one from Ontario, one from the other provinces.

The Americans were there, as were Sweden and Switzerland. The Netherlands and Japan rounded out the seven-team tournament which became the first – and unofficial – Women’s World Championship for ice hockey.

“This truly was the turning point for women’s hockey ‘against all odds’,” admitted its organizer, OWHA president Fran Rider many years later.

Finland wasn’t there and neither were the eastern Europeans, but Rider had made inroads and strong connections with the Swedes and Dutch, so they were there. The games were played in North York, a municipality now part of Toronto, at the Centennial Arena, a local arena where working men played shinny at all hours of the night and kids had practice at all hours of the morning.

Such was the schedule and lack of resources that players paid their own way to fly to Toronto. They stayed with other players or friends or billets or the sponsor hotel. Each day one team had to play two games in the same day!

In the end, Canada beat Ontario 4-0 to claim the gold medal, and the U.S. beat Sweden, 5-0, to claim third spot after Ontario had defeated it, 5-2, in the semi-finals.

The historic event featured many names which would become familiar to hockey fans a short time later. Playing for Canada were Shirley Cameron, France St-Louis, and Dawn McGuire. Ontario had Angela James and Geraldine Heaney. The Americans featured Cindy Curley and Lauren Apollo. Switzerland had Sandra Dombrowski, future referee supervisor for women’s hockey at the IIHF.

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Because one team played twice each day, games consisted of three periods of 15 minutes. Incredibly, there was no flood during the first intermission. To its pioneering credit, the Toronto Sun covered the tournament thoroughly, publishing game stories every day.

On the first day of the games, Rider hosted a banquet for all players, during which time she outlined the ambitions of the event: “What we’d like to accomplish is credibility, pubic acceptance, and understanding,” she explained.

By the end of the week, the IIHF had been suitably impressed to the point that it started conversations with Rider and other executives to support women’s hockey even further. In 1987, in a small arena in North York, Ontario, the Olympic dream began.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of women's hockey in the IIHF, writer Andrew Podnieks is counting down the top 25 stories in women's international hockey history. One story each day will appear until the Number 1 story is unveiled the morning of the gold-medal game of the 2015 Women's Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, on April 4.

Earlier Top 25 Stories:
#8: 15-year-old Wickenheiser makes her debut
#9: USA finally wins WW gold in 2005
#10: Lightning strikes for Manon of the crease
#11: 15-year-old Martin leads Sweden to bronze
#12: Angela James cut prior to Nagano
#13: Amanda Kessel misses 2014/15 with concussion
#14: IIHF removes body-checking from women’s hockey
#15: Jenni Hiirikoski becomes first Euro two-timer
#16: Former NHLer Yashin leads Russian women to bronze
#17: Cammi Granato cut before Turin
#18: Visitors win twice in North American finals
#19: IIHF makes Women’s Worlds official for 1990
#20: Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey
#21: IIHF goes to all-women officials
#22: Shannon Miller recruits Euros for NCAA
#23: IIHF introduces junior event for women
#24: Zorn a goalie and skater both
#25: Russia-Switzerland a dandy display in 2011


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