Sportspinion: Women’s hockey belongs in the Olympics

By Erin Shumlich

One Olympic competition after another, the women’s hockey podium looks exactly the same.

In 1992, the IOC voted to include women’s hockey in the list of events at the 1998 Olympics hosted in Nagano, Japan, in a rue to increase the number of female athletes at the Olympics. Some individuals opposed inclusion on the basis that there was a lack of competition in the sport. Indeed, before 1988, the Canadian women’s team had won every single World Championship until the United States began to give the Canadians a run for their money. By 1997, the American team was evenly matched with the Canadians — the first team to prove a challenge for the dominant Canadian women.

With the Canadian team blowing out their competition heftily, there has been some speculation in past years as to why such an unmatched competition should be included in the Olympics.

Women’s hockey has only been in the Olympics for four terms, with America winning the first and Canada winning the rest. At the 2006 Olympics, the host team Italy was outscored 32-1 in only three games. Women’s teams are improving and there has been less of a gap as years pass and the sport continues to grow.

In 2006, the event’s status in the competition became heavily discussed and scrutinized after 2010, when Canada and America outscored their competition 21-2 and 21-1 respectively. Members of the IOC said that the scores had to change in order for the sport to remain in the Olympics.

In the men’s tournament, the Canadians dominated the first three decades, receiving six of seven gold medals. This goes to show that, as time passes, competition becomes tighter. With higher funding around the world for women’s hockey, the sport can only gain popularity and eventually prove to be one of the most watched women’s sports worldwide. Taking the sport out of the Olympics will only push the sport into the stone age, with less of the younger generation eager to participate. Let’s face it, as much as the Canadian women dominate on the ice, watching them year after year coming out with gold medals inspires young women across the country to play with the hope of some day becoming an Olympian.

If anything, the Olympic committee should reduce the number of women’s teams for the next Olympics based on performances in world championships. In 2002, there were eight teams who competed and only about four had any kind of chance at gold. If people are so hesitant to spend time and money on a sport that has clear cut winners, then cut teams like Kazakhstan — who have just as much of a chance at winning as they do of ridding Borat from their radar.

Taking women’s hockey out of the Olympics is the last thing the IOC should do to improve competition in the sport. Reduce the number of teams, increase funding and in due time, many countries will give the Canadian and American women a run for the gold.

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