Marta Zawadzka is one of the most recognized faces in Polish hockey. If there is a major IIHF event going on there is a good chance that Zawadzka will be there. She has served as an international referee, on Poland’s women’s hockey committee, a General Manager for Poland’s national team across multiple events, PHL Commissioner, an IIHF Council Member, among many titles at various sporting events.
Polish Puck: First, on your career as an official how did you get into reffing?
Marta Zawadzka: My father was an international referee and as I am the only child I took over the tradition. My cousin as well was an international official so it is like a kind of tradition in the family. I started working from 2000 and suspended my license in 2016 due to another responsibilities. I had for four years as well international license. At the moment I am part of Officiating department by PIHF and co-chairperson of IIHF officiating committee.
PP: You are one of the only two female IIHF council members. How did you get appointed to the position and what exactly do IIHF council members do?
MZ: I was elected to the PIHF board in 2012. Since 2013 I was attending IIHF Congress as a delegate. When the election was announced PIHF decided to appoint me as a candidate from Poland. I was and still am person who is recognizable and devoted to promote female hockey and female officiating. I was also already cooperating with other countries regarding international affairs. I have managed to get second result as become IIHF council member. I am at present co-chair of Female committee and Officiating. Trying to combine those two subjects to create new career path for officials and develop women’s game. As a committee recently we managed to get the top women’s event within 10 teams as well as the Olympic tournament. At present the number of female national teams increased as well as the number of players. We have managed to establish unofficial European championships for women’s u16 teams. And it is still growing. Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer from Hungary who is running the female committee with me is a great role model and perfect co-worker so it is a pleasure to grow the game with her. Sergei Gontcharov as well is very open and eager to increase the number and quality of female officials. Besides that the board is a group of people very cooperative and open for even the toughest discussions to create better environment for the game.
PP: It has been amazing to see the growth in women hockey. Poland’s women’s team is really doing well lately development wise. How far has Poland come since you started work with Women’s hockey in Poland?
MZ: I was the first team leader and the first world championship participation. The first game we have won 23:0 against Ireland. At present we are after three gold medals and one bronze. This year it has been historical result in group Ib. I was the one who decided and convinced the board to establish u18 team and most probably next year we will be having u16 team. At present 5 female officials were on ice on tournaments this season. On Friday I am going on a meeting t Budapest for Europeans Women’s Hockey League meeting as one polish team might participate in that league. I am very proud of the players who are devoting their lives to hockey dealing it with school, job, families. As long as they will want to play I will try to organize for them best conditions to do so. I think that there is still lots of chances for female hockey to grow in Poland. We can see that how many players this season were playing abroad. We can see that by only female team run in Katowice by Kojotki Team. We can see that more girls wants to be officials, coaches and managers.
PP: Speaking of players going aboard. On the men’s side, it has been a bit of controversial topic, but it seems on the women side players seem more willing to go aboard. Why do you think that is?
MZ: Ladies are very ambitious and if they are doing something they do it 100%. I think that they wanted to learn more,develope themselves, try something new. And it happened this season possible. As well their job was appreciated and teams wanted them. This year with EWHL project they might grab opportunity to play against top teams (While) playing in Poland. But guys will go abroad more often this season. I think they should it is a great asset for them to learn something new and try their strengths among stronger teams.
PP: This EWHL project sounds really interesting would it start in 2019-20?
MZ: Yes from September this year but I will confirm that on Friday. Such project could help to get better results next WWC
PP: And the world championship will be in Poland! How much will that help promote the game?
MZ: We had such projects in 2017 to held two WWC in Poland and it was a great promotional and attendance success. We want to use both events to grow the game promote the EWHL project and bring more girls into the game. For them to become new Martyna Sass, Karolina Pozniewska. As a developing country we need to stimulate the prospects all the time showing them what they can achieve. We want to use it to promote the game among also new spectators as the game is easier to watch and learn about the game. And then come to Spodek for men’s event.
PP: And final question what would you say is the biggest hurdle for women’s hockey right now?
MZ: First and it is not a secret is of course money. Secondly, I think that being treated as a serious athlete. Being treated fair in the men’s world.not like feminist just like athletes with passion goals and dreams.
At Polish Puck, we are very thankful to Marta Zawadzka for her time and answering our questions. We wish her the best of luck for the next hockey season! \