Batherson on cancellation of Women's U18s: 'They deserve to play as much as we do'
USA Hockey has asked the International Ice Hockey Federation to reconsider canceling the women’s under-18 world championship that was scheduled to take place in Sweden in January.
It’s the second consecutive year the tournament has been canceled. The 2021 event was also scrapped because of the pandemic. The IIHF said the decision to cancel all January tournaments was based on a recommendation from the organization’s medical committee and that it was not possible to reschedule the women’s under-18 championship because of league commitments within Sweden.
“I believe the IIHF is trying to do what they can to make sure that if they run events they are as safe as possible for every participant,” USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said Monday. “However, we have requested they look at the U-18s specifically and see what they can do to at least postpone it and explore options with the countries that are involved with that event.”
Kelleher called it “a critical event for the future of women’s hockey” and an important one for players and staff involved.
The IIHF's announcement last week — two days before the start of the men's world junior tournament that was not affected by the cancellations — sparked outrage across the hockey community. U.S. star Kendall Coyne called it unacceptable and tweeted, “Figure out how to safely play the U18 Worlds this season.”
She's far from alone in that sentiment. Drake Batherson, a forward for the NHL's Ottawa Senators, saw the uproar on social media and paid particular attention because 21-year-old sister Mae plays Division I college hockey at Syracuse.
“Hopefully they can reschedule it,” Batherson said on a video call Monday. “They deserve to play just as much as we do. I’d like to see that tournament happen. I watch a ton of girls' hockey. I watch the Olympics, the girls' team, and I watch my sister all the time. They’re such great players, and they deserve to showcase their skills just as much as we do.”
The Group A, Group B and Division II women’s under-18 tournaments also were canceled, as were the Group B and Division II men’s under-20 tournaments.
“Challenging situations all the way around,” Kelleher said. “We certainly hope there’s ways for people to continue to look for solutions to some of these issues down the road.”
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