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Women not pushing for world hockey championship and Olympics in same year

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OTTAWA - There will not be a women's world hockey championship in the same year as a Winter Olympics any time soon.

The International Ice Hockey Federation has never held a women's championship in an Olympic year, and there are no plans to do so in 2014 following the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

That's just fine with several women at this year's world championship in Ottawa.

IIHF president Rene Fasel says it would place too much of a strain on the world's pool of elite female players. Fasel points out many of the European players take time off work or school to represent their countries.

"It's too much if they go to the Olympics and then to have the world championship, it's too much," Fasel says. "They're students or they have a job. They take their vacation to go to the Olympics.

"I would say right now, my feeling is we'll stay like it is."

Even though the men have the opportunity to win Olympic gold and a world title in the same year, the women aren't pushing for it.

"Personally, I think in an Olympic year, the players are spent after an Olympic year, so I don't think we really want it," Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser said.

"It's pretty emotional to go through an Olympic centralization and then try to ramp up for the worlds."

The NHL has yet to give the green light for its players to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but it has for the past four Winter Games.

Often the top players in the NHL don't participate in the world championships because they're in league playoffs, but the world's pool of professional male players is large enough for their world championship to be competitive.

There's far fewer elite women and many don't relish the thought of playing in a world championship that would fall a month after the emotional and physical wringer of the Olympics.

"I think it's not necessary," Finland goaltender Noora Raty says. "All the same players go to the Olympics and that's what we train for.

"The Olympics is such an emotional event, so it's hard to get yourself together after. When I came back from Vancouver (in 2010), I played absolutely awful after that because it was so emotional winning a bronze. We call it the Olympic post-depression and it happens to many NHL players too, so I would rather not have a worlds after."

Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling expressed the same sentiment and captain Julia Marty believes another high-stakes tournament so soon after the Olympics may lead to more injuries among the women. Even U.S. captain Julie Chu was lukewarm on the idea.

"I kind of like the Olympics to be the pinnacle of the year," she said. "Is there a bonus to go on and play another tournament? If they put it in, then yes, I'd be happy to.

"I don't know if a month later, if you're playing in a different atmosphere, you'd get as excited or have the same passion in that environment. I like the Olympics being the pinnacle that year and then every other year, the world championships are our pinnacle."

There are some who want the chance to win Olympic and world titles in the same year.

"For me, the more hockey the better," Canadian assistant captain Caroline Ouellette said. "Mentally it would probably be difficult, but if we think about what's best for our game, in my opinion use the momentum created with the Olympic Games and have another big tournament after."

"For me, every time I have a chance to play in a tournament with the Canadian team, I embrace it. I know I only have a few more years, so yeah, absolutely, I would love, love to see that tournament."

U.S. coach Katey Stone points out that the annual Four Nations Cup and world championships add up to nine international tournament games a year for Canada and the U.S.

The women need more games to develop, so she's not adverse to a world championship on the heels of the Olympics.

"We want to give them more and they certainly want more," Stone said. "It's also an opportunity to grow the game. The more people get to see this wonderful product, the better off we're going to be."

Wickenheiser says she would be more in favour of a series between Canada and the U.S. in North American cities later in the Olympic year to capitalize on the post-Games momentum.

The first women's world championship was in Ottawa in 1990. The IIHF held the event sporadically that decade and didn't starting running it annually until after women's hockey made its Olympic debut in 1998.

Women's world championships were not held in 2002, 2006 or 2010 because of the Winter Olympics those years.

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