Sports are an escape from reality at times, but things like the COVID-19 pandemic can be impossible to ignore. COVID-19 has caused a lot of leagues to be continually delayed or even outright canceled. For women’s hockey, that risk is even greater. Women’s clubs don’t receive the same funding as their male counterparts. Things were looking bleak with funding already being at risk as well as the increased cost of things like COVID testing. The IIHF was quick to cancel pretty much all women’s tournaments while still fighting to hold their select few high revenue events. If there was anything that was going to slow down the revolution of women’s hockey in Poland, it was going to be COVID. That has not happened at all.
The Polish women’s league retained all of their teams, with only PTH Kozice Poznań dropping down to PLHK B. Not only that, but Metropolis Katowice, formerly the Silesia Brackens, are still playing in the EWHL. The EWHL gives national team members chances to play against some top European clubs. The biggest thing is the young core of Poland continuing to play abroad in top leagues around Europe. Wiktoria Sikorska made the jump to the top women’s league in Europe in the Svenska damhockeyligan. While Julia Zielińska returned to Finland, Iga Schramm made her first attempt at a league outside Poland. Multiple young Polish players have also popped up in Slovakia, but the league has yet to play many games.
Wiktoria Sikorska has long been the #1 prospect in Poland. She is easily the best young forward Poland has seen since Kamila Wieczorek. Even then, Sikorska reached a height that Wieczorek has yet to, as Sikorska is the first-ever Polish player to appear in Sweden’s Svenska damhockeyligan. The Svenska damhockeyligan is considered to be the top women’s league in Europe.
Through 18 games this year, the 17-year-old forward has a goal and assist with Göteborg HC. While the numbers are not as eye-popping as we are used to with her, they are very impressive in context. Göteborg HC is the worst team in the SDHL. They are currently 0-18-2, with only 20 goals on the year. The team’s leading scorer has seven points, so not a lot of support for Sikorksa. Her two points also rank 9th among U18 skaters. Only 25 other U18 players have played five games in the SDHL this year, so getting there is not an easy accomplishment. She currently is tied for the lead in shots on goals for the team with 44.
Julia Zielińska had already made a statement in Finland last year with an impressive season at just 15 years old. I usually have a rule of avoiding talking about players who are under 16, but Zielińska is one of the few exceptions to the rule, as she is impossible to ignore. The soon to be 16-years-old returned to Kiekko-Espoo for 2020-21.
Since her return to Finland, she has been one of the best two-way defensemen in the country. This included a recent four-goal game! She has splint her season between Kiekko-Espoo’s team in the Naisten Liiga and Mestis. In the Metsis, she has 17 points (8G-9A-17PTS) in 12 games. Her point total ranks 28th in the league and sixth among all U18 players in the league. It is also sixth among all defensemen and second among all U18 defensemen. This is excellent production for her. In the Naisten Liiga, she has managed two games, her first two regular-season games with Kiekko-Espoo. While Sikorksa has a few other forwards, who rival her success, no other polish defensemen rivals the heights that Zielińska has reached.
Iga Schramm is the last of the young polish core making a trip far from Poland this year. Schramm signed pretty close to the start of the season with Neuchâtel Hockey Academy Dames. The team plays in the top Swiss women’s league, the SWHL A. The 18-year-old forward has played 12 games so far with zero points yet. The team currently sits second-last in the league with 25 goals in 14 games, not the strongest team around her. Playing in a league of this caliber is extremely valuable for Schramm, though, who has shown extensive growth almost every year.
These three players are not the only ones who are taking on the challenge outside of Poland. Martyna Sass and Zuzanna Baran are both in the top Slovak league. At the same time, I have also recently talked to a young player’s parent, whose child will be looking to make the jump. Players inside Poland are also both making huge strides, whether in the EWHL or PLHK. The pandemic might have slowed their ascent up the IIHF rankings, but it has not slowed down the progress of women’s hockey in Poland.