Let's get physical

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

So you think women's hockey should allow hitting?

It might surprise you to know some of the players feel the same way.

Team Canada forward Sarah Vaillancourt, for instance -- a 21-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que. -- would love to be able to throw her weight around in this world championship.

"That would be great," Vaillancourt was saying yesterday. "I think all the girls that play here have had full contact with the boys at some time in their life."

Vaillancourt, 5-foot-6, 140 pounds, was captain of her pee wee boys team in Quebec.

But since moving on to Pomfret Prep School in Connecticut, then Harvard University, it's been women's hockey rules: body contact, but no outright hitting.

"Right now it's more of a finesse and well-skilled game," she said.

Not that it's always been this way.

Back in 1990, at the first World Women's Championship, body-checking was allowed.

Vaillancourt and her teammates watched a tape of that gold-medal game during their training camp in Dauphin last week, and you get the impression they were a tad green with envy, watching the Canadians taking runs at the Red, White and Blue.

"It was great to see that -- you could tell they really hated each other," Vaillancourt said. "It was really quite interesting to watch. I'm sure some girls would like body contact, at times, for sure."

One of the better grinders on Team Canada is 5-foot-2 Katie Weatherston, who says she'd like nothing better than to throw her limited frame into opponents, no matter their size.

Weatherston played boys AA hockey in Quebec until she was 13, the last two years with full hitting.

"I loved it," she said. "I loved getting in the corners, getting hits, giving hits. It didn't change my game. It just taught you to keep your head up a bit more. To tell you the truth, I really wouldn't mind it, even being one of the smaller players."

Team Canada boss Melody Davidson didn't seem surprised, given Weatherston's determined approach to every shift.

The head coach says the soon-to-be 24-year-old could handle it, too.

"Probably, until after about four or five games in eight nights," Davidson said. "Then she might want a break."

It was after the 1990 world championship that body-checking was removed from the women's game.

Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser, female hockey's version of Mark Messier, has changed her mind on the issue.

"I was a big believer in hitting. But right now with the women's game, I wouldn't put it in," Wickenheiser said. "Down the road, we could look to put it back in. But we have to really focus on the skill level, first."

The way Wickenheiser sees it, there's just too much of a gap between Canada and the U.S. and everyone else. Allow hitting, too, and the scores get even more lopsided.

And some teams might go all Neanderthal.

"I'd be a little concerned some countries would go towards big thugs on the ice, versus the skillful hockey most people enjoy seeing," Wickenheiser said.

Besides, anyone watching the worlds so far will have noticed there's plenty of body contact as it is.

"Hitting, no hitting, we're still going to bump and grind," Vaillancourt said.


Videos

Photos