International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #20

WW Top 25 Stories: #20

Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey

Published 16.03.2015 17:57 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #20
Then-IOC President Jacques Rogge – pictured giving the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal to Sweden’s Jimmie Ericsson – challenged women’s hockey at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. And women’s hockey responded the right way. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
25 February 2010. Morning is not usually a time of day one associates with hockey history. Usually.

However, during the breakfast hours of 25th February 2010, women’s hockey changed forever thanks to a kick in the pants it didn’t see coming.

Later that day the most anticipated women’s game of all time was slated to be played – Canada versus the United States, the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver at stake. Canada had been stunned by the U.S. in 1998, and then the Americans were upset by Canada in Salt Lake in 2002. In 2006, Sweden beat the Americans in the semi-finals, eliminating the U.S. from gold-medal contention. By 2010 the rivalry between the North Americans had reached its zenith.

But that wasn’t important on the morning of the 25th. IOC president Jacques Rogge was holding court with media, and when the question of quality of play in women’s hockey came up – in light of Canada’s 18-0 hammering of Slovakia on the first day of the tournament – he addressed the obvious fact that there were the North Americans on one level and the rest of the world far below. Parity was nowhere to be found.

“There is a discrepancy there. Everyone agrees with that,” Rogge said. “This is maybe the investment period in women’s ice hockey. I would personally give them more time to grow, but there must be a period of improvement. We cannot continue without improvement.”

The first comments were borne of patience, but the last sentence – starting “we cannot continue” – sent shock waves through the women’s hockey community. In truth, many sports have come and gone through the Olympics, and although women’s hockey started only in 1998, Rogge was already indicating the women were on the clock, so to speak.

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Rogge wanted to make clear that patience and complacency were two vastly different things. Patience in developing the game around the world? No problem. Accepting before the drop of the puck that every final was going to be Canada and the United States? Completely, totally unacceptable.

Everyone stepped up, though. At the hockey summit in Toronto in August 2010, during which a thorough de-briefing of all aspects of hockey were discussed, the IIHF announced a staggering CHF 2 million investment in the women’s game, starting with the hiring of a full-time employee dedicated to kick-starting worldwide efforts to improve skills and the competitive balance.

The North Americans engaged their players as mentors to various teams in Europe and Asia, and within Europe the national associations expanded their programs, reaching out at the grassroots levels to nurture and encourage kids to play and continuing with making their top athletes better.

To this end, the IIHF also established the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend, a hugely influential and successful initiative for girls around the world to get out onto the ice and skate. The IIHF changed the structure of the top women’s events and educated young athletes in High-Performance Camps to keep the scores more competitive.

The results will not show themselves today or tomorrow, but they are quantifiable measures that will assuage the IOC that complacency is not to be accepted. And, in time, the balance around the world will be improved so that one day in the foreseeable future Olympic gold will be competed for by Finland and Switzerland, or Russia and Sweden, or Germany and the Czech Republic.

That day is not here yet, but it’s closer than it is farther away thanks to the “cannot continue” breakfast of Jacques Rogge.

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of women's hockey in the IIHF, writer Andrew Podnieks is counting down the top 25 stories in women's international hockey history. One story each day will appear until the Number 1 story is unveiled the morning of the gold-medal game of the 2015 Women's Worlds in Malmo, Sweden, on April 4.

Earlier Top 25 Stories:
#21: IIHF goes to all-women officials
#22: Shannon Miller recruits Euros for NCAA
#23: IIHF introduces junior event for women
#24: Zorn a goalie and skater both
#25: Russia-Switzerland a dandy display in 2011


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