IOC issues women's hockey warning

By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency



VANCOUVER — IOC president Jacques Rogge said prior to Thursday’s gold-medal game that women’s hockey has to improve worldwide, or else.

“We cannot continue without improvement,” he said.

To which Canadian team star Hayley Wickenheiser responded: Stop issuing threats and help.

“When you just pay attention to the game every four years, that’s what you see,” a visibly heated Wickenheiser said when told of Rogge’s comments after Canada beat the U.S. 2-0 for the gold medal.

“It would be nice for people like that to really get involved in other countries and push for the game to develop.”

Women’s hockey at the Vancouver Olympics has played out basically the same way it did in the previous three Games. Canada and the U.S. dominated, and the rest of the teams were cannon fodder. Even before Rogge spoke out yesterday, there were whispers the IOC was going to look into the viability of the sport.

But Wickenheiser does not believe the answer is to just banish the sport from the Olympic program, pointing to Thursday night’s Canada-U.S. game as an example of just how exciting and skillful women’s hockey can be.

“I think that’s up to the rest of the world to put some resources into their federations,” said the four-time Olympian. “We’ve demonstrated that women can play hockey at a very high level and there’s no reason it should be taken out of the Games. We commit, we train, we have a lot of passion, we’re full-time athletes, so it’s up the rest of the world to catch up.

“I think we’re right at the edge of moving to the next level.”

Wickenhesier, 31, said she would like to work on behalf of the International Ice Hockey Federation after she finishes her career helping to develop the sport. As for when that will be, the Olympic Games all-time leading scorer hinted that she probably has one more Games left in her.

“But it’s very demanding and hard on my family. I have a young son (Noah),” she said. “We’ll see.”

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