International Ice Hockey Federation

WW Top 25 Stories: #6

WW Top 25 Stories: #6

Women’s hockey becomes an Olympic event

Published 30.03.2015 13:40 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
WW Top 25 Stories: #6
Finland's Petra Vaarakallio is stopped from scoring by Swedish goalie Annica Ahlen and defenceman Gunilla Andersson in the first ever women’s ice hockey game played at the Olympics in Nagano 1998. Photo: Reuters
21 July 1992. Timing, as they say, is everything, and for fans of women’s hockey, the timing in 1992 could not have been better.

The first IIHF Women’s Worlds had taken place two years earlier in Ottawa, and now the second incarnation was being staged in Tampere, Finland. The Finns defeated Sweden, 6-3, to win bronze in 1990, giving them symbolic preference for the first women’s event in Europe.

Canada had a pretty easy time making it to the gold-medal game, and the Americans were equally impressive with one important exception. On the final day of the preliminary round, the vaunted U.S. played the hosts.

Although the Americans scored first, the Finns came back with two quick goals and added a third midway through the second, taking a 3-1 lead in stunning fashion. The U.S. made it 3-2 soon after and pulled away with the only three goals of the third, but it was a dangerously close game for the Americans and a scintillatingly exciting game for the Tampere fans.

In the bronze-medal game, the Finns played arch-rivals Sweden in a thrilling contest. Teams went back and forth, and with one minute to play in the third, it was a 3-3 game. Camilla Kempe of Sweden scored with only 59 seconds to play, and the Finns looked out of it.

But, no! With goalie Katariina Ahonen on the bench, Hanna Teerijoki tied the game, forcing overtime. Ten scoreless minutes later, a shootout was required, and even that required extra time. Riikka Nieminen and Kristina Bergstrand exchanged goals, but finally, on the sixth shot, Nieminen scored again and Ahonen stopped Camilla Kempe. Finland won bronze.

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The importance of that game to women’s hockey history cannot be over-stated.

“Gilbert Felli and Pirjo Hagman were sent by the IOC to Finland to see if this sport should be in the Olympics,” Fran Rider explained. “The bronze-medal game went to a shootout, Finland beat Sweden. It was one of the best hockey games I’ve ever seen, to this day. That game did a lot to seal our place in the Olympics.”

After the success of the 1990 event, women players and executives hoped to get the sport into the 1994 Olympics, but time was just too tight. After the great successes of 1992, however, Rider and her colleagues were able to get the IIHF on board to make a presentation to the IOC for 1998 in Nagano.

On 21 July 1992, at the 99th IOC Session it was made official. Women’s hockey would be a full-medal sport in Nagano. It was a momentous day for the game, and five Olympics later the legacy of those early years lives on in the hopes and ambitions of millions of girls around the world who dream one day of winning Olympic gold in women’s ice hockey. In 1992, that dream did not yet exist except in the minds of a few ambitious people.

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:
#7: Rider organizes an international tournament
#8: 15-year-old Wickenheiser makes her debut
#9: USA finally wins WW gold in 2005
#10: Lightning strikes for Manon of the crease
#11: 15-year-old Martin leads Sweden to bronze
#12: Angela James cut prior to Nagano
#13: Amanda Kessel misses 2014/15 with concussion
#14: IIHF removes body-checking from women’s hockey
#15: Jenni Hiirikoski becomes first Euro two-timer
#16: Former NHLer Yashin leads Russian women to bronze
#17: Cammi Granato cut before Turin
#18: Visitors win twice in North American finals
#19: IIHF makes Women’s Worlds official for 1990
#20: Rogge issues challenge to women’s hockey
#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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