You know, many spectators and hockey fans coming into the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi were a little skeptical of Women’s hockey. Many feel the sport is a two-horse race between the United States and Canada – and some even feel the sport doesn’t belong in the games at all – as those individuals feel the parity isn’t there.
Before the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver, I have to admit that I was leaning closer to the same ideology – and I am very glad that I was proven wrong.
Now, you’re probably wondering how I could possibly justify this, seeing as how Canada will in fact face the USA in the final once again. However, the improvement of the weaker nations and quality of the games I have seen over the last five years has been fun to watch.
For example, on day 10 of the Sochi 2014 games, Canada faced off against Finland. The end result was a 3-0 win for the Canadians, however for those who had the chance to watch this game knows that the result is not relevant to how both these teams played.
Sure, Canada threw an extreme amount of rubber at Finnish netminder Noora Raty, eventually breaking down the stiff, defensive wall that is Team Finland. Still, there were many signs throughout the game that showed growth. Finland were fast, they played hard and defended their zone well. It wasn’t until the first goal went in that we saw the Finnish team start to hang their heads a bit.
Another example of growth is Team Switzerland. Lead by Florence Schelling in net, the Swiss team is back in the bronze medal game to defend their third place spot on the podium. Again, another strong team that concentrates on limiting chances with the backbone of a solid goaltender.
All in all, there are still games that end with high scores. Whether this is because teams are deflated after two or three goal deficits, or it is simply a mismatch, I believe Women’s hockey is moving in the right direction. Needless to say, the Canadian and US squads have also improved their quality of skill, and a crop of young talent still awaits in the midst for both teams.
When you watch players like Kendell Coyne and Amanda Kessel of Team USA skate – and Brianne Jenner and Natalie Spooner of Team Canada razzle-dazzle – its hard to imagine that this sport will slow down with talent. The game is ever-changing and ever-evolving, and I am glad to see Women’s hockey grow and become a more universal sport.
I do believe that if nations like Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and even Japan can put the right people into the mix and have the right funding to properly compete – I do feel eventually we will see a different nation in the finals in the next decade.
Whether you agree with me or not, the final competition of Women’s hockey will be an exciting one. The final takes place at Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi at 12 p.m. EST - the bronze medal game between Switzerland and Sweden is at 7 a.m. EST. Both games will be played on Thursday.
Canada took the first one against the States 3-2 in the preliminary, however the final game will be the only one that is remembered.
Go Canada Go!
photo credit: www.nzz.ch (Florence Schelling)