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A story ran in a Toronto newspaper this weekend with the headline “Why women’s hockey doesn’t belong in the Olympics.”
It was a nonsensical take. And that is part of the problem, by the way, the need for hot takes.
Like the de-platforming of women’s hockey from the Olympics. You might lament that more women’s games aren’t as competitive as you’d like at the tournament. You might lament that certain countries aren’t devoting the resources that are needed to grow the sport on the women’s side. But taking the women’s tournament off the largest stage entirely is hardly going to help it.
As many have pointed out, the take itself from a columnist at the Toronto Star is fraught with peril. Many sports have been dominated by a country or two over their histories. The Dutch and speed skating. Norway and cross country skiing. The Americans and Aussies in swimming.
Or… how about this? Canadian men and hockey.
Two countries have won women’s gold in the past 20 years. Three countries have won men’s. Oh, such variety. And the women’s game has seen a handful of different bronze medallists over that time as well. So the second tier is very competitive.
Here’s the inherent problem. The men’s game is hitting on all cylinders. It’s fully evolved in terms of logistics and resources. This not to say the on ice product won’t evolve further, but the “industry” is pretty much at its ceiling.
Unfortunately, the women’s game only became truly global about 25 years ago. So again, the pipelines from grassroots to pro are not ironclad like they are on the men’s side, not even here in North America, never mind elsewhere in the world. And what that means is, even Canada and the US are still accelerating, still innovating. So even if the Finland’s of the world are getting better, they’re chasing a moving target.
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Canada on the men’s side? Can’t be progressing as fast. They already have it all in place!
It’s why something like Canadian men’s soccer has been able to make strides so quickly all of a sudden. With a few big pieces and a new commitment to the sport, Canada was able to close the gap on the slower moving, if not static, target of world class men’s soccer.
Canada and the US are only getting better at women’s hockey. The Canadian women are training harder, and now with pro ranks back are training full time, year round, as their job. Something not available to the generations before. And unfortunately, there’s still room to grow. The pro leagues are there, but hardly lucrative, and don’t have the facilities of the NHL, or really even the AHL.
But again, all of this is not reason to abandon the project. Finland had its spike recently, and hopefully will get another. And maybe someone else too.
We don’t get to the point of other countries closing the gap, unless we keep going. You know the saying “soccer is a game of 20 men chasing a ball for 90 minutes, and at the end, the Germans win”? Well the Germans have now won just one of the last seven men’s World Cups.
Things evolve. Women’s hockey will get there too.
Today on Sekeres & Price…no mild Monday here!
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— Sekeres and Price (@sekeresandprice) February 8, 2022