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Swedish women boycotting hockey tournament over dispute

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Female hockey players in Sweden will go ahead with their boycott of an international tournament in Finland because of their unhappiness about pay and working conditions. Sweden was to play its first game of the Five Nations Tournament on Wednesday against Japan in Vierumaki, but the squad of 43 players will be absent. They refused to attend a five-day training camp in Sweden last week.

Anders Larsson, chairman of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, said the boycott is damaging the brand of the country's hockey team and is a failure for both the federation and the Swedish team. "That is why it's so important to try to find a solution," Larsson said in Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

The federation will meet with representatives of the players' union this week to discuss the issue. Larsson said the federation only received official documentation from the union on Monday highlighting the players' grievances.

Last week, the union released a statement detailing 10 of the issues the female players were complaining about. Among them was their unhappiness about the lack of compensation they receive while on duty with the national team. Many of Sweden's players have fulltime jobs away from the rink, so must fit games around work schedules and family needs.

The most recent agreement on compensation for lost work income expired in April. Other complaints were about things like travel conditions and schedules, the short and long-term vision for women's hockey in Sweden, and a perceived lack of respect. They also have complained about having to wear the same uniforms as the men's team, saying requests to have clothing adapted for women were ignored over the last five years.

Larsson said he felt men and women were treated equally by the federation. He also said he understood why the female players felt disappointed. "I am absolutely convinced that we will solve (these issues)," Larsson said.

Sweden has traditionally been one of the world's best women's hockey teams but it failed to qualify for the quarterfinals of the world championships in Finland in April after losing three of its four group matches. That meant the team was relegated for the first time in its history and will compete in Division IA of the 2020 women's world championship.

The Five Nations Tournament, which also involves Russia, Czech Republic and host Finland, started Tuesday.

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