Does women’s hockey have an Olympic future?

There was much debate earlier this year when the IOC decided to scrap the women’s ski jumping event from the Vancouver games, with the organizers claiming it was not competitive enough, and feminists claiming that removing it would eliminate more grassroots program for women, arguing that it is setting the women’s movement in sports backwards.

Now women’s hockey faces the same problems and issues.

The controversy started after Canada’s first game where the hosts decimated Slovakia 18-0 and the U.S. beat the Chinese by a whopping 12-1. At the end of the round-robin, Canada had amassed an amazing 41 goals and allowed just two, while the U.S. were at 31 and one, respectively. The third best team in the tournament were the Swedes, who Canada beat 13-1.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a sport was removed from the Olympics due to lack of competition, as was seen with women’s softball being taken off the schedule for the upcoming Olympics.

“Hopefully, in a couple of days there will be closer games and we won’t have to be talking about this,” said U.S. captain Natalie Darwitz in an interview with the Seattle Times. “But I’m sure it’s a concern. It would be very unfortunate if they took women’s hockey out of the Olympics because this is all we have.”

Other players feel that the blowouts are part of the sport, and speak of the long process it takes for a country to get a national team started up and up-to-speed.
“I hope you guys (the media) won’t ridicule the result or say this isn’t good for women’s hockey,” said Caroline Ouellette, a Canadian forward, at a press conference. “I would love to play tough and tight games, but you have to understand that’s women’s hockey. It’s not highly regarded in a lot of countries. The Czech Republic is a great hockey nation, but they don’t have a women’s team. We’re coming from a long way.”

For the Slovaks, they also stated that it would be a memory that would never forget, as they took centre ice after the game to a standing ovation from the Canadian crowd.

“The fans were great,” said Slovak goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova. “They supported us, too, not just Canada.”

The two sides of this argument are clearly in stark contrast to each other, leaving the future of women’s hockey in the Olympics up in the air. History has shown that, in other sports, lack of competition has been enough for the plug to be pulled, but hockey may be different.

Many of the women point to the World Juniors in Saskatchewan earlier this winter where Canada beat Latvia 16-0, noting how that wasn’t a big deal.

But, whether a future exists or not, fans should be prepared for Canada to blow out opponents for as long as they can.

“We don’t have the opportunity to play in this type of building in front of this type of crowd,” said Ouellette. “We only have five games to play. What do you want us to do? Stop playing?”

This is the pinnacle of women’s hockey. This is their Stanley Cup. Do we as a proud hockey nation really want that to be taken away from one of our Canada’s greatest sporting programs?

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