Newspaper article International New York Times

Teams' Strength Shows a Weakness ; Dominance of Canada and U.S. Bodes Ill for Future of Women's Hockey

Newspaper article International New York Times

Teams' Strength Shows a Weakness ; Dominance of Canada and U.S. Bodes Ill for Future of Women's Hockey

Article excerpt

The United States and Canadian women's hockey teams are so strong that their fans have cause to wonder if they are rooting for them at the sport's peril.

Women's ice hockey is the snow leopard of the Sochi Games, its survival in the Olympics endangered by the success of the United States and Canada, which have dominated the sport since its Olympic debut in 1998.

In the past four Winter Games, only Sweden, in 2006, has been able to break the North American stranglehold on the top two podium spots. Finland, ranked third in the world, entered the Sochi Games confident it had closed the gap after pulling off an upset against the Americans in November at the Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Finland fell back on Saturday. It was only a preliminary game, but its 3-1 defeat to a resurgent United States team at Shayba Arena was worrisome. The Finns were outshot, 15-3 in the first period and 43-15 over all, and did not score until the final minutes.

The top two teams, the Americans and the defending champion Canada, are so strong that their fans have cause to wonder if they are rooting for them at the sport's peril. Hilary Knight, a forward whose unassisted goal off a turnover in the opening minute set the tone for the game, said she took it as a backhanded compliment when she heard people say, "Yeah, we don't want you to be one of the top two teams."

After Canada's scorched-ice run to victory in 2010, which included an 18-0 rout of Slovakia, Jacques Rogge, then the president of the International Olympic Committee, said ominously, "We cannot continue without improvement."

Since then, the International Ice Hockey Federation has introduced coaching symposiums and summer camps in which North American players work with women from other countries, including Japan, which is competing in Sochi and lost its first game Sunday against Sweden, 1-0.

The federation also modified the Olympic format, grouping the top four teams in the same division, with all guaranteed a spot in the medal round. The idea was for teams in both groups to find their level of competition in the preliminary rounds rather than finding themselves on either end of lopsided scores. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.