Friday, February 17, 2006

CANADA'S WOMEN'S HOCKEY TEAM IS, AHEM, GOOD

It has been a big week of controversy for the Canadian women's hockey team, which I've followed with some interest because of all the women's hockey stories I've covered over the years. I covered some National Women's Hockey League games on cable TV and actually worked on live broadcasts with Kylie Richardson, who is doing the color commentary for the Olympic Games on CBC.

Anyway the Canadian ice hockey women are all mad at Don Cherry who criticized the Canadian team for running up the score and disrespecting their opponents by doing so. They've outscored the opposition something like 44 to 1. Today they slaughtered Finland 6-0 in their game, which was actually the closest game all tournament for them. Richardson was on fire at the end of the telecast, blasting Don Cherry. She was saying "I wonder if Don Cherry has any more comments about the female coaching staff" in the tournament, because the female coach for Canada was doing a great job, or words to that effect. Richardson was FURIOUS! Cassie Campbell was on CBC at the end of the game saying how they respected their opponents and so on.

Anyway, I think the women are genuinely upset. Here they are playing hard for their country, and all they get in return is criticism for it! I don't blame the players for being angry and completely ticked off. Frankly, Team Canada is showing a lot of respect for the opposition and for the entire tournament. Heck they should be commended for taking this tournament seriously, as they ought to! If anyone should be criticized, it's these other teams for not showing up! Canada beat Italy 16-0 in the first game. If you're going to criticize anyone, blast away at the Italians, because they were TERRIBLE. THEY DIDN'T EVEN SHOW UP! But what do you expect from a country where the fans prefer to watch a sport that involves kicking a ball around a field. That's not Canada's fault! Canada's shown up, they've played hard! That's what you expect them to do, to play hard. They shouldn't slack off just to keep the score close.

And what the heck was the deal in the other semi-final today with Sweden and the USA? Sweden upset the Americans 3-2 in a shootout, a big embarrassment for the United States. They sure didn't show up at this tournament, either. So Canada's opposition for the Gold Medal will be a team they already slaughtered in the round robin 8-to-1, the Swedes, although the Swedish goalie is said to be pretty good and held Canada to only a 2-0 win with 40 shots on goal two weeks ago.

I will say, though, that these 16-0 and 8-to-1 blowouts pose a problem for women's hockey. It's this: you can't have a situation where the games are all blowouts all the time. You need some geniune competition at these games, or else these Olympic officials might be ruthless enough to pull the rug out from underneath the sport and kick it out of the Olympics! They did it with baseball, after all. They could easily do the same to women's hockey if the same teams keep winning all the time. I'm not saying this is right, but these officials have done this before.

But again, that's not Canada's fault; it's the fault of other nations for not developing their players! Canada's success at women's hockey is a double-edged sword; if they do too well, it could be bad for the sport. But on the other had, they can't lay off or slack off in games, that does nothing for the sport either! There are no easy solutions here. You just have to hope these other countries get their act together and start winning at the sport. It helps that Sweden got to the finals this year, but it won't help if they get slaughtered by Canada on Monday. Anyway, we'll see what will happen.

1 comment:

Mike Eisler said...

The Canadian men were blowing out the Europeans in the 1920s through the 1950s by similar scores. And it was a club team of guys in the Senior men's level of competition; not a national team. Not nearly the best Canada had.

Would you rather be demoralized by the Trail Smoke Eaters, or the best NHLers Canada can send? I'd feel honored to play the latter and lose big. I'd feel really down to lose big at the Olympics to the 1000th best team in Canada, which is what we did for decades at the Olympics. That was humiliating. That was a joke.

In the women's program, Canada is sending the best team. When a team manages to keep it even or close for just one period against Canada's best, they know it isn't hopeless, and they can build on that for the future. It is obvious women's hockey is reaching parity much faster than men's hockey did, and Canada is instrumental in this progress.