Friday, February 26, 2010

Vancouver Day 14: Women's Hockey

Both of the women's hockey games yesterday were pretty good games. It's also funny to realize that the same three countries could end up medaling on the men's side. We'll see if Slovakia can spoil the party.

There are many who argue against the viability of women's ice hockey as an Olympic sport. It's not a matter of thinking that women shouldn't play hockey, though there are undoubtedly some who feel that way. The real problem is the yawning gap between the powerful Canadian and American teams and everybody else. It's nearly always Canada/USA in the finals, and not just at the Olympics. The same is true at the World Championships. Sweden and Finland comprise a solid second tier but apart from the Swedes upset of the US in Torino, they're pretty much always playing for bronze.

The Olympics do have a history of supporting sports dominated by a small group of countries, or even just one. Basketball was in the Olympics for 40 years before anyone other than the United States won gold. The Olympics were essential to the growth of the sport in other parts of the world and there's no reason to believe that the same can't happen for women's ice hockey over time.

Girl's hockey in Vermont is growing. My daughter's future high school has a girl's team, though the town where I teach does not. Our Girl doesn't seem to have much interest in playing and we're just fine with that. It is not a cheap sport and traditionally, hockey parents have to get up pretty early on the weekends. Her best friend's dad is the Nordic ski coach so I suspect she might ultimately be encouraged in that direction instead. It's a much healthier sport anyway and better for your teeth.

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