The easy way out for Canadian women's hockey would be to keep the status quo -- continue battling the U.S. for titles and beating up on the rest of the world.
But instead of allowing women's hockey to stagnate in other parts of the world, Calgary's Oval X-Treme and other Western Women's Hockey League teams have taken a bold step to share their knowledge with developing teams.
These days that's with the Chinese national squad.
"This is exactly what women's hockey needs," said Mario Amantea, who yesterday was announced as the new head coach of the X-Treme. "The knock on women's hockey has been that it's a two-horse race. Everybody knows it's gonna be Canada and the U.S.
"We shouldn't be apologetic about Canada being a great hockey country, and neither should the U.S. But I think anything we can do to develop other countries to get to a point where when we go to the Olympics or World Championships, those teams are a test more than just in games against each other."
China, which will host the 2008 IIHF World Championships, sent its top players to Calgary this summer to train with the Olympic Oval High Performance Female Hockey Program. Six players will join the three Alberta-based WWHL teams -- the X-Treme, Edmonton Chimos and expansion Strathmore Rockies -- for the upcoming season. As well, the entire Chinese team will relocate to Calgary until the new year to play 30 games vs. WWHL teams in preparation for the worlds.
Amantea, an X-Treme assistant coach when the team won the 2003 national title, has worked with the Chinese players for a month. He said they have plenty of skill but lack game sense and experience.
"Everything from a fundamental perspective is outstanding," Amantea said. "The big challenge is how they respond to game situations."
The Chinese team will be coached by Steve Carlyle, who was the X-Treme assistant coach the last two years.