Women's Olympic hockey a yawn
MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

All this talk about women's hockey being in trouble in the Olympics is just that, talk.

From a television perspective, women's hockey this year produced one exciting game and that was Sweden's upset of the United States. That victory deprived the tournament of what might have been its showcase game, Canada against the United States.

Unless you are the hardest-core hockey fan there is, many of those games led to a quick channel change.

Canada outscored opposing teams 46-2 in the tournament. Even though the final was only 4-1, it was over early with the Swedes getting only 10 shots on net. The celebration was the best part of the broadcast, but we were left wondering whether the announcers had left for the day. There was almost four minutes of silence on television.

The domination of the North American teams in women's hockey has led to speculation the International Olympic Committee may discuss getting rid of the sport. It's what happened to baseball and softball in the Summer Olympics and those sports were far more competitive.

But women's hockey is safe, since the next Winter Olympics will be in Vancouver in 2010. The sport also has numbers on its side. The Summer Olympics has too many sports and many more nations who participate. The Winter Games doesn't have the same surpluses.

What the IOC needs to do so teams such as Canada don't run up the score on much weaker teams (meaning just about everyone else) because of goal differential, is find another way to break ties.

Mobits

Watching Don Cherry and Brian Williams is much more enjoyable than Cherry and Ron MacLean. With Williams doing less interrupting and a little more directing, Cherry seems to go about his business without being all over the board . . . Speaking of MacLean, it wouldn't be surprising to see him reach over and ask Wayne Gretzky for an autograph. MacLean was almost fawning in his interview with Gretzky after Canada's 3-2 win over the Czech Republic yesterday. It's obvious MacLean is thrilled Gretzky and family are there. But what of his comment following Gretzky's scrum the day before when Gretzky was explaining why Canada wasn't playing well. When it was over MacLean came up with this gem, "Any visit with Wayne Gretzky really is a gift, isn't it? I found that fascinating." Flight attendant, airsick bag please . . . IOC member Dick Pound presented the gold medals to Canada's women's team. Could he be on deck to present medals to the men's team if they win any? It would be interesting to see the players' reaction after Pound's continuing assertions many of them are on performance enhancing substances . . . It looked like it would be a great day on the slopes for Canadian skiers, especially with three Canadians in the top 10 of the men's giant slalom after the first run. When none of them finished in the medals, everyone was looking for excuses. Williams cut through all that: "With three in the top 10 you can't sugarcoat this. You have to have someone on the podium . . ." Williams and in-studio alpine skiing analyst Brian Stemmle do a great job of breaking down races. The use of comparison tape showing two skiers at the same time at the same place, helps us see why some skiers get down the hill more quickly. . . CBC's reliance on hockey is obvious. Television networks promise advertisers certain rating numbers. If they don't deliver, they have to make good with freebies or discounted ads. So far in these Olympics, the numbers aren't as promised, up during the day and well down at night. If the men's team gets eliminated they will get worse. If Canada sticks around, the numbers will go up. NBC estimates it will make between $50 and $70 million from these Olympics and their ratings are just high not to offer discounts to advertisers. NBC may be hurt in the women's figure skating because Michelle Kwan withdrew and she was a U.S. favourite . . . Boy, we can hardly wait until 2010 in Vancouver. Announcers say all these fourth-place finishes mean more medals in 2010 . . .