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Women's Hockey in Canada at a Crossroads

The post below is regarding the 2010 Winter Olympics, during which Canadian women hockey players took the gold. The post below was originally written in 2010, but has since been reposted here.

See also our 2nd post on this topic: Canadian women's hockey - why is it not televised more often???

Not a lot of women around the world play hockey. Heck, not a lot of men do either. As a sport its really only popular in Canada, the USA, northern Europe and Russia. There are other countries who send women's hockey teams to the Olympics, but its really only a token effort because they don't really spend much on their teams beyond buying all the women on the team a custom hockey jersey and paying for their transportation to the Olympics. Just a hunch, but the women on the poorer country teams probably have to pay for their hockey equipment.

The future of women's hockey has become problematic as far as the Olympics is concerned. Since becoming an Olympic sport Canada has won 3 of the 4 Olympic golds and the USA has won the other 1 remaining. No other nation has either come close. (In 2014 Canada won gold again, bringing the total to 4 golds for Canada, 1 for the USA.)

The problem doesn't end there however. There is no professional Women's Hockey League televised on TV or broadcast on the internet. Women hockey players are basically unpaid amateurs.

The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is thinking of dumping women's hockey as a sport because nobody else has been able to beat Canada or the USA in hockey. Not even the Russians or the Swedes, or any other Scandinavian country which is usually pretty good at hockey.

This lack of competition has the IOC thinking about dropping the puck on women's hockey and ditching it altogether.

At the IIHF World Championships Canada won 9 of the 12 available gold medals. Team USA won the other 3. At the Olympics Sweden is the only one to get a silver (by beating Team USA in 2006) and Sweden and Finland have managed to take home bronzes during other years and at the World Championships Sweden, Finland and Russia have gained medals, but likewise have been shut out of the gold.

Part of the problem is that Canada has a lot more minor/amateur hockey competitions for women to do / join. Other countries don't have the teams and tournaments available for young women to join, strengthen their skill in the sport and get better at it.

Its a bit like those poor North Korean soccer players who sucked so bad at the World Cup because they had diddly squat for experience.

Just look at the scores: The Canadian women's hockey team has scored an astonishing 140 times and only been scored on 9 times. The USA trails with 107-12. When our teams are that good it becomes evident the other teams are just amateurs trying as best as they can.

The good news is that many people in North America take hockey as a sport seriously. There is a market and support for a professional women's hockey league, but the question of getting it started is the real issue. Canada has 77,000+ women's hockey players. The USA has 60,000+. Import the best players from Russia and northern Europe (just like we do for the NHL) and while the games are hosted in North America it really becomes an international sport.

In theory it doesn't have to be hosted/limited to North America. An International Women's Hockey League (IWHL) would work just as well.

The hope then is that women's hockey will become a permanent thing with other countries gaining more experienced players... but at the same time women's hockey will finally be getting the respect it deserves.

In the photos above Team Canada celebrates the gold with beer and cigars. The behaviour caused a bit of an uproar at the time but it was all in good fun. (Six years later it seems ridiculous as most people probably don't even remember that incident.)

It should be noted that one of the objections to women's hockey is the fistfights that sometimes happen. Its considered normal for hockey, but not normal for women (hence why women's boxing has had troubles being accepted in the past).

"Its not a sport until a fight breaks out."

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