Friday, February 17, 2006

2006 Turin Winter Olympics
Women's hockey: Sweden topples U.S.

I talked a little bit about upsets on the men's side of things yesterday, but I, like all other observers, wasn't even imagining any upset possibilities in the women's semi-final games this afternoon.

Shows what I know.

Sweden's women's side defeated the heavily favoured American team 3-2 in a shootout earlier today. The best part about the game is that a Swedish win should put to rest all of the griping lately over how uncompetitive the women's side is at the Olympics. (I myself had called it 'the Olympics' only two-country sport' in a headline earlier this week.)

In October, I had a Q&A with Sweden's backup goaltender, Cecilia Anderson, for a small story in The Globe, and she talked a bit about the state of women's hockey in her country. Growing up in her small hometown, she was encouraged to play so-called 'girls' sports' — not hockey — and always had to play for boy's teams. Only once she came to play in Canada, at Concordia University in Montreal, did the Swedish national team take notice and bring her into the program.

It's amazing, then, that the Swedish team can even compete with programs like Canada and the U.S., where the women's game has really flourished and women are often given scholarships to play. If this is how Sweden fares with such an anemic development system, imagine how well it can do once women are given more opportunities to play?

Canada and Finland play in the second semi-final later today, and I'll be watching intently to see if we can truly expand our definitions of women's hockey to a 'four-country sport.'

As of right now, we're up to three.


At 2:12 p.m., February 17, 2006, Blogger Jeff J said...

After all the stink about blowouts and possibly taking the womens' game out of the Olympics, the tournament really needed this. Canada better come out flying vs. the Finns (who are ranked #3 in the world - Sweden was ranked #4).

How does Can-USA for the bronze sound?

At 2:39 p.m., February 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad the Americans didn't run up the score on Sweden. (Insert evil laugh here.) When Angela Ruggiero decided to pipe up earlier in the week on this subject, I knew it would come back to bite the U.S., much as it did to the Seattle Seahawks when Jerramy Stevens decided to yap during Super Bowl week. Enjoy the bronze medal game, Angela.

At 2:47 p.m., February 17, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

How does Can-USA for the bronze sound?


At 6:50 p.m., February 17, 2006, Blogger Adam said...

OK, Sweden won, but I think it's *extemely* premature to suggest that parity has arrived (or is even close).

The Swedes got 2 flukey goals and their goalie stood on her head.

I suspect that if the Americans and Swedes were to play 10 games against each other, starting tomorrow, the Yanks would take them all.

Good for the Swedes, but let's not start talking about the Big 3 of women's hockey.....

At 7:13 p.m., February 17, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Before today, it was unfathomable anyone other than the U.S. and Canada would be playing in the final. That's not the case any more.

It's not a matter of having a 'Big Three' — it's a matter of other teams have a chance to compete in these tournaments. We saw that today, regardless of how this is spun.

At 11:43 p.m., February 17, 2006, Blogger Adam said...

I agree that it's no longer ridiculous to discuss seeing a non-N.American team in the final, but I still think it's exceptionally unlikely.

I'm still undecided if today's game represented a step forward for the Europeans or if it was simply a statistical inevitability.

From watching the game, it just seemed like one of those 'Any Given Sunday' situations where the Americans showed up with their worst performance and the Swedes, their best. In spite of that, the Swedes were lucky to escape with a regulation tie (IMO). They were outshot and outplayed, but took advantage of two defensive miscues.

It appears that the gap has closed somewhat between the Europeans and N. Americans, but I'm still skeptical on the meaning of 1 win in 16 years.

Heck, a bunch of college kids beat Tretiak, Mikhailov, and Kharlamov back in 1980. I wouldn't say that represented a 'closing of the gap' between NCAA hockey and the Central Red Army team......


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