The best minds in women's hockey will try to improve their status at World Hockey Summit

womenshockey.jpgWhile I didn’t get to see as many games as I would have liked, I came away with a few lasting impressions from watching women’s hockey during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The two biggest ones were:

  • “Despite following (and revering) Jaromir Jagr during his Flowing Mullet Years, it’s still an odd sight to witness a ponytail poking out from a hockey helmet.”
  • “Wow, Team Canada/USA is really blowing out [other over-matched women’s national team]. This is kind of like that time [high school girl X] pulverized my ego.”

Women’s hockey is somewhat like basketball and soccer; much could be done to enhance its big-picture exposure, but I wouldn’t suggest that many people consider it a long-term career path. (Apologies to Cammi Granato.)

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m rooting against the efforts of those who are trying to improve the standing of the “fairer sex” in the sport. The Hockey News has an interesting article regarding the efforts of Canadian Olympic team captain Hayley Wickeneheiser* and others who will state their gender’s case during next week’s World Hockey Summit in Toronto.

* – Who, by the way, earns numerous bonus points for doing the old double gunslinger salute in her photo for that article.

While that article is interesting as a whole, let’s first take a look at the sheer number of participants (something that I believe makes the argument for change in a nutshell).

Together, the U.S. and Canada have 145,000 registered female players. The natural competition in large player pools produces talented athletes. Those two countries have met in the final of every world championship and three out of four Olympic finals.

Sweden, the Olympic silver medallist in 2006, and Finland, this year’s bronze medallist, together have fewer than 10,000 women playing. The rest of the countries in the 2010 Olympic tournament were Russia, Switzerland, China and Slovakia, which combined have fewer than 2,000, according to IIHF statistics.

Even the gap between North Americans and Scandinavians becomes more pronounced in Olympic years.

To curtail the severe gap between North Americans and the rest of the hockey world, there are two contrasting schools of thought. Canadian national team head coach Melody Davidson argues one side of the discussion while Swedish Olympic team coach Peter Elander provides the counterpoint.

Elander suggests capping the number of days a country can centralize a team. He says Sweden won’t give its women as much preparation time together as Canada or the U.S. get, although he points out his country’s female cross-country and alpine ski teams do operate a centralized model.

“If the Olympic tournament should be close, we can’t have the two best teams with the most players with fully centralized teams and the others can’t afford to do that,” Elander said.

Davidson won’t agree with a cap.

“We’ve got to go after the highest standards,” she said. “I think instead of lowering the standards and lowering the expectations, we need to do everything we can to help other countries increase the number of days their players are together, the money that’s in their program, the competition level and all of those things.”

I have to say that I’m on Davidson’s side of the argument; you should never attempt to “improve” a sport’s standing by limiting the amount of talent one (or two) nations produce. Instead of hamstringing those North American programs, they should instead look into ways to bolster other countries’ programs. (Obviously that’s easier said than done, though.)

That being said, Davidson nails the discussion on the head when she says that the perceptible disinterest boil down to two problems: “Number one is social. Number two is financial.” When it comes to women’s hockey and other athletic endeavors, it really becomes an issue of supply and demand. Do women want to play hockey, especially worldwide … and will anyone pay for them to do it?

Wickenheiser, Davidson, Elander and many others certainly hope so.

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    Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

    Niklas Kronwall
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    When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

    (His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

    It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

    He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

    First, the Kronwalling:

    Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

    Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

    Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

    Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

    Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

    It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

    To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

    The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

    That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

    They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

    Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


    More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

    In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

    Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

    Jack Eichel
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    The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

    You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

    That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

    Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.

    Report: Likely no suspension for Matt Beleskey’s hit on Derek Stepan


    Alain Vigneault went there in comparing Matt Beleskey‘s hit on Derek Stepan to the notorious check Aaron Rome delivered on Nathan Horton many moons ago, but the league seems to disagree.

    While Rome sat through that memorable Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, it sounds like Beleskey won’t face any further discipline, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

    In the unlikely event that anything changes, PHT will make note.

    The next game between the Rangers and Bruins takes place at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 11. Will these bad feelings linger?