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

Canada and the U.S. Nonetheless Dominate Girls'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 — searching for bronze.

Measured by the common victory margins of the People and Canadians once they performed any staff in addition to each other, the match is essentially 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 remedy, and provides extra international locations 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 they’d already handily thwarted.

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

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

North American gamers insist that girls’s hockey is quickly nearing extra constantly engrossing competitors due to elevated spending and curiosity world wide. 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 hole is unquestionably shrinking, which is superior from a 30,000-foot viewpoint,” mentioned Hilary Knight, an American in her fourth Olympics. “From a competitor standpoint, you at all times wish to win, nevertheless it’s great to see different international locations investing extra in ladies’s ice hockey and in addition allocating sources as a result of that’s actually what the totally different groups must compete.”

Because the American captain, Kendall Coyne Schofield, put it: “In the event that they don’t have the instruments to achieve success, you’re handing them a sentence that doesn’t permit them to achieve success. That’s so typically the case in ladies’s sports activities: Exit and be out pretty much as good as the lads with half of the sources.”

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, for example, investigators mentioned that the N.C.A.A. had spent greater than $9,800 per scholar 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 alerts of doable 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 rather a lot higher the place different international locations are giving the U.S. and Canada a tough recreation, however I do not suppose we are able to say that they’re not the favorites,” mentioned Zuzana Tomcikova, the Slovak goalie in 2010 recreation that the Canadians gained, 18-0. “Europe is coming. It’s getting there, and, in case you take a look at it a method, slowly as a result of it’s going to take years till different international locations are going to have the ability 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 growing, if removed from fast, methods to rising the sport.

One is the straightforward reality that girls’s hockey, populated with elite gamers who keep in mind once they had been the one women at their hometown rinks, is extra seen than ever earlier than, with widening tv publicity encouraging the subsequent generations of gamers to start out coaching sooner. One other is the type of coaching out there, 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 photographs.

So Braendli and Switzerland will play for bronze.

“Taking part in for a medal, it doesn’t matter what sort of medal it’s,” she mentioned. “It’s an enormous deal.”

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

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