Should women's hockey be in Games?

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency


Canada's Gina Kingsbury and her teammates have blown out the teams of three nations thus far in the Olympic Games. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

VANCOUVER — There is a growing faction that believes it may be time to put the sport of women’s ice hockey on ice. At least at the Olympic level.

Perhaps more than ever before, women’s hockey is proving to be strictly a two-team affair and there are suggestions that it’s high time to take drastic action to balance the field or dump the discipline from the Winter Olympics program.

In fact, the words “embarrassing” and “ridiculous” and frequently being bandied about in describing the balance in play at the UBC Thunderbird Arena.

The Canadian team is off to a 3-0 start, which is not surprising, but have outscored the opposition 41-2. One victory was 18-0 over Slovakia, supposedly an ice hockey nation, and against Sweden, the fourth-ranked nation in the world, Canada won 13-1. In the Slovakia game, the Canadian women outshot their opponents, 67-9.

There’s also growing concern that the Canadians are celebrating too much after breaking into double digits on the scoreboard against weaker teams.

The Americans are also breezing through the event and it’s almost certain, barring a red-hot goaltender, the two teams will meet for the gold once again.

Chris Rudge, the CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, acknowledged that the women’s hockey tournament is one-sided but believes there is still a chance to improve it.

“I think the IOC would be disappointed to move it from the program,” he said, when asked if it may be time to do just that. “I think keeping it as an Olympic sport will help develop it.”

That’s what hockey people have been saying since the sport made its debut at the 1998 Nagano Games. But if the scores here are any indication, the balance may in fact be getting more one-sided.

Rudge said the IOC and IIHF have to take steps to improve the level of play outside of North America, adding that Canadian women’s sports tend to do well internationally because many nations do not invest equal funds in female sports, and that’s one of the reasons why the Canadian women’s soccer team is so highly ranked and the men’s team isn’t.

“I don’t think there’s a country in the world that has gender equity in terms of athlete representation and support the way we do in Canada,” said Rudge. “We support the best athletes, period, whether they’re men or women. That’s not always case in a lot of countries.”

The Canadian players say they don’t enjoy the imbalance either, but aren’t apologizing for the lop-sided scores.

“We’re not going to go and get four goals and let up. If we’re getting criticism for that, it’s too bad,” said Canadian defenceman Meaghan Mikkelson. “(But) we want the games to be as close as they can be. It’s not fun for us either. I hope fans don’t look at these Games and generalize women’s hockey.”

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

POLL