By Graeme McNaughton
The president of the International Ice Hockey Federation says women’s hockey has become more competitive, as Canada and the United States face off for the 15th time to see who will win the world women’s hockey championship.
Today’s game at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa will mark the 15th straight time the Canadian and American squads will meet to decide the winner for the world women’s hockey championship.
Canada earned their finals berth after defeating Russia 8-1 in a semi-final match on Monday night. The American team beat Finland 3-0 in their semifinal match to make it to the finals.
The Canadian team is hoping to repeat last year’s championship win in Burlington, Vermont, which broke a three year winning streak for the American squad.
Russia will play Finland today in the bronze medal game.
The statement made by hockey federation president René Fasel was in response to comments made by International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge, who said at the end of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver that women’s hockey needed to become more competitive if it were to remain an Olympic sport.
“I cannot imagine that an IOC president would kick women’s hockey out of the program. I can’t imagine that,” said Fasel, according to the Globe and Mail, although stressed that the IOC has eliminated other sports, such as wrestling, before.
The criticism from the IOC came after the gold medal came featured Canada facing off against the United States, a final that has been seen in every major women’s hockey championship in which the two countries participate in since 1990.
This wasn’t always the case, with one former player saying women’s hockey being more competitive when it first gained international prominence.
“Maybe earlier, there was more parity in women’s hockey,” Cassie Campbell-Pascall, a former Canadian team captain and currently part of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, told Humber News, saying countries like Finland and China used to be in the mix of top countries.
“There were a lot more countries in the mix to get medals, when all of a sudden, Canada and the US got a ton of support and their programs simply took off and the rest of the countries didn’t, and we see where they are now.”
Campbell-Pascall said she believes the IIHF can help promote women’s hockey if it takes a similar stance to that of the National College Athletics Association, which requires schools to have their women’s program place in the national standings if it wants its often more lucrative men’s teams to also be in the national standings.
“I truly believe some of those severe rules are the only way that some of these male dominated federations will support their women’s programs, because there’s a lot of attitude that still exists in European countries that women shouldn’t really play hockey,” said Campbell-Pascall.
Campbell-Pascal said some countries have began to take their women’s hockey programs more seriously, including Russia, which hired former NHL player Alexi Yashin as the team’s general manager.
In all, Canada has won 10 of the 14 world women’s hockey championship tournaments, with the United States winning the other four, according to the IIHF.