Here we are, in 2014, and we are witnesses the growth of women's hockey around the world. Women's sports have, traditionally, lagged behind their men's counterparts. The why is simple. No... it's not physical size or strength. It's the fact that some nations on the planet don't allow women to leave the house without a male escort, let alone play sports. Hell... even here in the US, the land of liberty, we didn't allow women to vote until 1920.
Figure in that men have been playing sports since the dawn of time, and women have to be given a bit of time to even the playing field. No?
Once again, we are at the Winter Olympic games, and the fact that the gold medal game will be (undoubtedly) the US vs Canada, has far too many people calling the sport non-competitive and some still calling for it to be eliminated by the IOC as an Olympic sport. You know, because we need to make room for more figure skating or something.
Do the facts support that the women's game is a joke on the international level? Bob McKenzie at TSN is furthering the myth that men's hockey is ultra-competitive:
Getting lots of "why not 2 CAN teams in men's hockey." Cuz there is no overwhelmingly dominant nation in men's game. Most games competitive.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 17, 2014
It's easy to think this way, since we don't really have a resource that we can turn to in order to determine if hockey is truly competitive on the men's side vs women's. If only someone were tracking this information somewhere.
Wait. I'm being handed a note that Al Gore's internet is a place we can go to find this information.
When we get there, we learn that, when it comes to the gold medal in Men's Hockey:
- Only 6 countries have ever won gold.
- Canada & Russia have won 8 each. 16 of 22 games to 2 countries.
- Until Sweden won in 1994, only 4 countries had won.
- One of those 4 was Great Britain, know hockey powerhouse, in 1936.
- Another winner, you may have heard of them, was a "Miracle" in 1980.
- Five of the first 6 Men's Hockey gold medals went to Canada.
- 8 of the next 10 went to Russia (or teams with other names that were Russia).
When it comes to silver:
- Six countries have won silver in Men's Hockey.
- The United States has seven.
- Canada has 4, meaning that two teams have won 50% of silver medals.
- The Czechs also have 4
- Russia, Finland, and Sweden make up the rest of the field.
On the women's side:
- Three countries have won the silver.
- They are the US, Canada, and Sweden
- This means three of five Olympis games have seen a different silver medalist.
The bronze medal is where things really go crazy, though, right? Not really.
- Nine countries have won the bronze in the men's game
- The Czechs have five
- Sweden has 4
- Four nations have 2 each
Three nations have won bronze in the women's game. The US, Finland, and Sweden.
Now, ask yourself this. Is the men's game ultra-competitive because more games end 3-2 than 7-1? Even if the same teams are winning 3-2?
There is an argument to be made that most of the Winter Olympic games are non-competitive. The Dutch rule speed skating. The Norwegians rule most cross-country skiing events. The luge and bobsled are dominated by Germanic nations (mostly Germany itself).
Is the fact that the Germans win the luge nearly every year tempered by the fact that it is by a hundredth of a second? Even if it is a hundredth of a second every time?
Let's not keep fooling ourselves about how ultra-competitive these games are. None of them really are. Eighty-eight countries are in this years games. How many are bringing home a medal of any kind, let alone gold? A fraction of them.
Women's hockey is just fine. Let's get over ourselves and stop pretending. If the IOC had eliminated men's hockey during Canadian and Russian dominance, would we have players like Mikko Koivu, Teemu Selanne, Nicklas Lidstrom, and so many more to cheer for? Likely not.
Give it time, people.