Home Hockey Canada and the U.S. Still Dominate Women’s Hockey

Canada and the U.S. Still Dominate Women’s Hockey


BEIJING — Andrea Braendli, a Swiss goaltender, had no delusions of an Olympic gold medal.

“If we play for a gold medal,” she mentioned forward of the Beijing Video games, “it’s going to be a miracle on ice.”

Her evaluation was as cleareyed as any concerning the ladies’s hockey match. For the entire discuss, and hope for, parity in ladies’s hockey, the match will conclude like all however one different at an Olympics: with Canada and america dueling for gold, and two others — this time, Finland and Switzerland — looking for bronze.

Measured by the typical victory margins of the People and Canadians once they performed any staff in addition to each other, the match is probably the most lopsided at a Video games since 2010, when there was open speak over whether or not to maintain ladies’s hockey as an Olympic sport.

That dialogue is now extra confined to social media and newspaper columns, and the Worldwide Ice Hockey Federation is even speaking about increasing the ladies’s match, which this yr grew to incorporate 10 groups, to match the 12-nation males’s competitors.

It may in the end show one thing of a aggressive treatment, and provides extra nations new incentives to help ladies’s hockey packages. Within the meantime, although, one other Olympic cycle is yielding an final result that may really feel as preordained as any in worldwide sports activities.

It’s true that the People and Canadians didn’t win each recreation by double digits, and {that a} spirited squad from the Czech Republic, making its debut within the Olympic ladies’s match, had america veering towards a debacle final week. However Monday’s semifinal matchups pitted Canada and america in opposition to groups that they had already handily thwarted.

Monday introduced extra of the identical. Canada routed Switzerland, 10-3, whereas america topped Finland, 4-1.

The bronze medal will likely be settled on Wednesday in Beijing, whereas the perennial American-Canadian conflict for gold will likely be performed on Thursday (Wednesday evening in Canada and america).

North American gamers insist that ladies’s hockey is quickly nearing extra persistently engrossing competitors due to elevated spending and curiosity around the globe. Their recreation, like many different ladies’s sports activities, is in catch-up mode; males’s hockey made its Olympic debut 78 years earlier than ladies’s hockey.

“The gap is definitely shrinking, which is awesome from a 30,000-foot viewpoint,” mentioned Hilary Knight, an American in her fourth Olympics. “From a competitor standpoint, you always want to win, but it’s wonderful to see other countries investing more in women’s ice hockey and also allocating resources because that’s really what the different teams need to compete.”

Because the American captain, Kendall Coyne Schofield, put it: “If they don’t have the tools to be successful, you’re handing them a sentence that doesn’t allow them to be successful. That’s so often the case in women’s sports: Go out and be out as good as the men with half of the resources.”

Each ladies have sought to enhance pay and brighten the game’s highlight. The battle for public consideration, although, is relentless, and there are nonetheless entrenched inequities in participant improvement, even in a ladies’s hockey energy like america. In a report final yr, as an example, investigators mentioned that the N.C.A.A. had spent greater than $9,800 per pupil who participated in its nationwide males’s hockey match in 2019 — and $3,421 per participant within the ladies’s competitors.

The headwinds however, there have been indicators of potential pitfalls forward for the People and Canadians, proof that North American groups have seized upon to energise the general public — and themselves — that their opponents are drawing nearer.

European expectations have stayed tempered anyway.

“It’s gotten a lot better where other countries are giving the U.S. and Canada a hard game, but I don’t think we can say that they’re not the favorites,” mentioned Zuzana Tomcikova, the Slovak goalie in 2010 recreation that the Canadians received, 18-0. “Europe is coming. It’s getting there, and, if you look at it one way, slowly because it’s going to take years until other countries are going to be able to compete with the U.S. and Canada.”

Tomcikova, who predicted the Czech staff’s potential to induce some North American heartburn in Beijing, sees two creating, if removed from fast, methods to rising the sport.

One is the easy truth that ladies’s hockey, populated with elite gamers who keep in mind once they have been the one ladies at their hometown rinks, is extra seen than ever earlier than, with widening tv publicity encouraging the subsequent generations of gamers to begin coaching sooner. One other is the form of coaching accessible, with larger sophistication, extra frequency and simpler entry to high-quality teaching and competitors.

Monday, although, confirmed how far the sport has to go. In simply greater than three minutes, Canada scored 5 objectives. Switzerland had gotten off simply two pictures.

So Braendli and Switzerland will play for bronze.

“Playing for a medal, it doesn’t matter what kind of medal it is,” she mentioned. “It’s a huge deal.”

It was additionally, nearly everybody knew, the most effective anybody past North America may have aspired to this time.

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