Canada sets record, 18-0, as women’s hockey faces criticism

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Canadian women’s hockey team set an Olympic record Saturday night, welcoming Slovakia to its first Winter Games tournament with an 18-0 demolition at Hockey Place. Before you shed a tear for the Slovaks, keep in mind they’re the nation that defeated Bulgaria by the score of 82-0 in an infamous game in 2008.

Here’s what the Canadian shellacking looked like, as the 18 goals set an Olympic mark for most goals scored in a women’s hockey game — a record the team previously set in 2006 in Turin, with a 16-0 drubbing of Italy in that nation’s first Winter Games appearance.

CTV hockey analyst Cassie Campbell called Slovakia’s inaugural beating in the Olympics a “great moment” for women’s hockey — much in the same way, we imagine, a flyweight getting his face punched in by Mike Tyson would be a great moment for boxing.

Other than some impressive stats for the Canadian women – including a hat trick for Meghan Agosta and a record-tying six points for winger Jayna Hefford – there’s nothing all that great about this moment for women’s Olympic hockey. In fact, the Canadian and U.S. players were facing heat over the preliminary-round disparity before the tournament started.

The blowout reinforces every criticism of the women’s tournament, such as the need for a mercy rule or the notion that the women’s tournament is “essentially an intramural competition between the same group of Canadian and U.S. women,” as Jeff Blair of The Globe and Mail opined.

The Canadian and American women have heard this criticism since the IOC officially sanctioned the event in 1998, and they have some canned answers to those critiques. Like the fact that when men’s ice hockey first appeared in the 1924 Winter Games, in  Chamonix, France, Canada outscored its foes 122-3.

The Canadian Press spoke with women’s ice hockey players and coaches about the sport’s disparity, and found all of them preaching patience:

“Unfortunately, in the world we live in with all the technology, patience is a word people don’t use very often,” U.S. head coach Mark Johnson says. “You look back at when women’s basketball started in the NCAA in the early days and the struggles they had to go through, and where they are today, it’s much different. Women’s hockey is still young in my eyes.”

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel told the CP that the IOC “does not have concerns” about the blowouts, partly because it’s a sport that sells tickets every Olympiad.

While it’s clearly dominated by two participants, it isn’t likely to suffer the same fate as softball in the Summer Games because participatory numbers are decent around the world. Non-North American games are competitive, such as Sweden’s 3-0 win over Switzerland in women’s preliminary hockey on Saturday.

No, it won’t suffer softball’s fate. The only suffering will be done by teams that have to face Canada in the first round. Some sort of mercy rule would certainly help decrease criticism of the tournament, even if it means sacrificing scoring records.

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