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Women's ice hockey

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Modern women's ice hockeyEdit

Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with the number of participants increasing 350 percent in the last 10 years. In 2011, Canada has 85,827 women players,United States has 65,609, Finland 4,760, Sweden 3,075 and Switzerland 1,172. While there are not as many organized leagues for women as there are for men, there exist leagues of all levels, including the Canadian Women's Hockey LeagueWestern Women's Hockey LeagueMid-Atlantic Women's Hockey League, and various European leagues; as well as university teams, national and Olympic teams, and recreational teams. By the end of 2011 there had been thirteen IIHF World Women's Championships.

The USHL welcomed the first female professional hockey player in 1969–70, when the Marquette Iron Rangers signed Karen Koch.

Women's ice hockey was added as a medal sport at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The United States won gold, Canada won silver and Finland won bronze.

The chief difference between women's and men's ice hockey is that body checking is not allowed in women's ice hockey. After the 1990 Women's World Championship, body checking was eliminated in women's ice hockey. In current IIHF women's competition, body checking is either a minor or major penalty, decided at the referee's discretion.

In addition, players in women's competition are required to wear protective full-face masks.

One woman, Manon Rhéaume, appeared as a goaltender for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in pre-season games against the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, and in 2003 Hayley Wickenheiser played with the Kirkkonummi Salamat in the Finnish men's Suomi-sarja league. Several women have competed in North American minor leagues, including goaltenders Kelly Dyer, Erin Whitten, Manon Rhéaume, and defenceman Angela Ruggiero.

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