Too good? Too bad
Golden girls not about to apologize
PAT GRIER -- Toronto Sun
Team Canada celebrates defeating Sweden 4-1 to win the gold medal in womens ice hockey at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy Monday Feb. 20, 2006. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

TURIN -- Canadians are known for saying sorry, but don't expect members of the women's hockey team to apologize for the gold medals they are proudly wearing around their necks.

They earned it, they say.

"Why is women's hockey the only sport that sort of gets put down for excellence?" captain Cassie Campbell said following a 4-1 win over Sweden in the final yesterday. "Why should we stop and not get better?"

It's an unfortunate byproduct of this Olympic tournament that Canada's players had to defend winning their gold medal. But their dominating run in which they outscored the opposition 46-2 had some asking whether women's hockey deserved to be an Olympic sport.

Does Canada need to lose, like its American rival did to Sweden in the semi-finals, for the sport to truly be elevated?

"Well, maybe," the 32-year-old Campbell said. "You look at 1980 for the men's hockey (when the U.S. upset the powerhouse Russians in Lake Placid and went on to win gold) as the big turning point.

"I think what Sweden did is going to open the eyes of some of the other countries."

For now, though, the Canadians will enjoy their perch atop the women's hockey world, a place they have sat since beating the Americans to win the gold in Salt Lake City in 2002.

The victory yesterday came at the expense of Sweden and its 19-year-old goalie, Kim Martin, who stoned the Americans in the semis and who was voted the tournament's top goaltender.

But a weak backhand by Canada's Gillian Apps beat her just 3:15 into the first period, a sign of the jitters the Swedes -- bronze medallists in 2002 -- were feeling.

Caroline Ouellette made it 2-0 Canada nine minutes later, and when Cherie Piper and Jayna Hefford scored 89 seconds apart in the second period, the game essentially was over.

Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser, who picked up two assists yesterday to finish with five goals and 12 assists, was chosen most valuable player of the tournament. She, Apps and defenceman Carla McLeod were named to the all-star team.

"I hope that (Canadians) will be proud and understand how we had to go through this tournament to get to the end result," Wickenheiser said.

TOOK HEAT

"We took a little bit of heat for running up the score (early in the tournament) but we never wavered from our game and that was really important for us (in the final)."

Sweden seemed to find itself in the third period, sparked by Gunilla Anderson's power-play goal that cut the lead to 4-1. Outshot 22-5 by Canada in the first two periods, Sweden had a 4-3 edge in the third as the Canadians, trying to sit on their lead, appeared disorganized.

"We were down 4-0 and we said we should win the last period of the Olympics and we did that so (the players) were happy for the silver medal," Sweden coach Peter Elander said. "But they were bitter they didn't play so well in the beginning of the game."

Elander said he hopes his team gets a taste for revenge and sticks together to play in 2010 in Vancouver.

Revenge? Maybe this women's game is coming along after all.