In most cases, parity and equal competitiveness make sports better. Olympic Women’s hockey, and international women’s hockey in general lacks parity.
Since its inception into the Olympic games in 1998, Canada and the United States have played in four of the five gold medal games, with the exception of 2006 in Turin when Canada played Sweden. Canada has won four of the five gold medals, with the United States winning the inaugural tournament. Only four nations have ever won a medal; Canada, United States, Finland and Sweden. And yet again, this year, Canada will meet the United States in the gold medal game in PyeongChang.
Olympic Women’s Hockey Should Not Change Formats
With such little parity, some people think that maybe it should be taken out of the Olympics and instead there should just be a Canada-United States Summit Series instead. TSN’s Gareth Wheeler put out this poll.
Should women's hockey be removed as an Olympic Sport, with a Canada-USA Summit Series as a replacement?
— Gareth Wheeler (@WheelerTSN) February 19, 2018
It was a relief to see most people seem to agree that the summit series is a bad idea. Former Canadian women’s captain and women’s hockey legend Cassie Campbell weighed in.
No and the sport will move to 10 teams next Olympics. Growing faster than the men's game did. One of the most sought after tickets at the Olympic games. It's a question worth asking, but the answer is NO! https://t.co/QrTR0yWSGy
— Cassie Campbell (@CassieCampbell) February 20, 2018
Cassie hit it the spot with her tweet. It is developing faster than the men’s game did. The growth doesn’t show as much at the Olympics as it does elsewhere in the women’s game. Here are five stories that prove women’s hockey isn’t far away from being competitive on the world’s biggest stage.
Russia Defeated Canada in Group Play at the World U18 for the First Time
In the group stage at the 2017 U18 World Championship Russia lost to Canada 4-2. A year later at the 2018 U18 World Championship this past January, Russian women’s team beat Canada 3-2. It was the first time ever at the World Under 18’s that Russia has beaten Canada, a huge step for their program and possibly a sign of things to come for the Russian Women National team.
Japan’s First and Second Olympic Win
This years Olympics in PyeonChang were the third Olympic games for the Japanese Women’s National team. The previous two appearances for Japan were Nagano is ’98 and Sochi in 2014. Japan failed to win a game in both of those Olympics but in PyeonChang, Japan got their first win AND their second. Their first win was a 4-0 win over Korea but their second win, which was a much bigger win, was in the 5 to 8 classification game. They beat Sweden 2-1 in overtime. It was a huge day for their program and country. Defensewoman Akane Hosoyamada said this after the win, “Being able to finish fifth or sixth place, that’s great for us moving forward for our upcoming generations, probably more respect for our Japanese team,” adding, “I think it was a great win for us.”. These kinds of milestones are proof the women’s game is coming along and just needs more time to get to a competitive playing field.
Japan Won the Division II Women’s World Championship for the First Time
In order to qualify for the Olympics, Japan needed to win the Division II World Championship. And they did. Japan went 5-0, conceding just 1 goal and scoring 21. With the win, they qualified for the Olympics and the rest is history.
The Top Two Scorers at the 2018 World Championship Were From Switzerland
At the 2018 World Championship, the top two scorers were Lisa Ruedi and Rahel Enzler. Both played for Switzerland. Although the team still finished last and had to fight to not be relegated, having the top two scorers from Switzerland shows that there is talent being developed in other countries.
Sweden Won Their First Silver Medal in a World Championship
The United States have won four straight Under-18 World Championships. They defeated the Candians in three of those finals. Before this year, no country other than Canada or the United States had won silver or gold at the Under-18s. This year that changed. Canada and the United States met in the semi-final, paving the way for Sweden to earn a berth in the finals. They lost to the United States, but earing a silver medal is still a major step for Sweden and women’s hockey as a whole.
Outside of the international level, North America has two professional women’s hockey leagues. The CWHL has seven teams throughout Canada, the northeast United States, and China. The NWHL has four teams, also in the northeast United States. The two leagues have only been around since 2007 and 2015, respectively, so for them to be growing at the pace they’re growing at speaks volumes about just how far the women’s game has come.
All we need to do is give Olympic Women’s hockey more time. Imagine if we had given up on the development of high-level men’s tournaments when the Soviet Union was unstoppable. The men’s game would have taken so much longer to get to where it is. Women’s hockey is getting there, and the summit series would only bring harm to what so many have spent years trying to build.
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