It’s A Hard Knock Life: Labor In Women’s Sports

Who remembers the NHL lockout in 2012? Most people who read this blog, probably. I remember all the ducking and feinting, the inevitable delay to the start of the season, each side blaming each other, arguments being played out in actual press and blog-press, and so on and so forth. But what I also remember is the reaction to the NHLPA’s collective bargaining strategy – namely, I remember a lot of people blaming players for not taking the deals the NHL offered. They were, after all, making millions; why were they insisting on depriving fans of a season?

You might recognize this sort of attitude as being explicitly anti-labor in an old-timey robber baron way; if you’re a mindless servant to the causes of deregulated enterprise, you might not. (Kidding. Mostly.) But it’s true that how work stoppages are perceived often change over time, or relative to the inconvenience they cause people using the product no longer being produced. See, for example, the teacher’s union strike in Chicago , or any number of public transit or cab strikes. Often, our sympathy for workers – or in sports’ case, players – is commensurate to how inconvenienced we are by them deciding to withhold their work for a while.

Sports in general occupy an uneasy space in the world of work. People can beat each other up on the ice, even gravely injure one another and not face legal consequences. Team-adjacent employees can be exploited. Wives and girlfriends are put in tenuous situations, exposed to everything from locational instability to intimate partner violence, and are expected to sacrifice for the good of their husbands’ teams.

Making money from sports starts early on. The OHL, for example, employs kids as young as 16. Of course, they’re not technically employees – but they receive a stipend, and the OHL makes money from them. The NCAA works a similar system for colleges in the US: athletes get tuition and expenses paid, and the NCAA makes money from both their public personas and their work on the field, court, or rink. Various people in various mediums have questioned the morality and even the legality of these setups for years, but what often goes unacknowledged is that in the lower-cash world of women’s sports, labor becomes that much more valuable.

Let’s circle back around to the lockout. The CWHL was functioning that entire time, unpaid. I’ve written here before about the CWHL’s “love of the game” and “role model” narrative. Their commitment to the community can’t be questioned, nor can the heart-warming nature of the entertainment they provide. But because women’s hockey is continually called into question – its skill level, its competitiveness, its worthiness as entertainment and as work – a lot of media coverage of the CWHL comes across as condescending. It’s not work for these women, despite the fact that they’re contractually obligated to show up to practices and games. It’s something uncomfortably hovering on the line between hobby and work. They’re not amateur in expectations or skill, but the hours they put in, on and off the ice, are generally disregarded because they don’t hate what they’re doing. Love of the game is privileged over even using that work to put food on the table, much less making a profit from it as NHL players do.

Unfortunately for female athletes, devaluation of the work they put in isn’t commensurate to how risky it is. Girls and women are more prone to concussions than boys and men, and also just so happen to dominate a dangerous high-school sport in the United States – cheerleading, where participants are injured in under-supervised practices more than competitive events. It’s possible that my lady brain is more prone to injury than a strong man brain, but given the reality of women’s sports, it seems likely that concussions are a product of a paucity of care and coaching. Female athletes are far less likely to have access to elite anything: coaches, trainers, equipment, doctors. The line to more injuries is clear and stark. In hockey, Amanda Kessel is a recent example. Kessel was sidelined with a mysterious injury prior to the Olympics, came back just in time to play for the US, and has been off the ice since then with chronic concussion problems.

In women’s sports, even the most elite players experience the same kind of grind and disregard that fourth-liners do in the NHL. Those same fourth liners have made headlines in recent years by committing suicide. Let me be clear: those deaths are a tragedy and absolutely point to the NHL’s disregard for labor. But this disrespect is an issue at every level; with women’s sports being as devalued as they are, most female athletes have no chance of escaping the level where their health and autonomy is disregarded. Female players can wind up very sick or even disabled, with pretty much nothing monetary to show for it.

So, you’re a women’s hockey player. You can reasonably expect a grinding level of hard work, a high risk of injury, spotty access to new equipment and good doctors, and career prospects that are pretty much limited to college employment or a cobbled-together combination of endorsements and gigs with the IOC, hockey federations, and so on. There aren’t really millions to be made here. If you’re in charge of a fledgling women’s league, then, how do you behave? What lines do you draw?

Unfortunately, in the CWHL’s case, the answer to those questions appears to be, respectively, “poorly” and “almost none that don’t explicitly benefit us”.

It’s fairly common knowledge that last year’s canceled Blades games were related to a work stoppage. This summer, we’ve experienced near-continuous changes that relate to another league, the NWHL, starting up. The CWHL initially reacted to the NWHL’s existence with some language that hinted at litigiousness; since then, we’ve seen lower-profile players sign with the NWHL, while higher profile players like Duggan and Knight remain mostly mum about their intentions, attempted actions with the CWHL, and so on.

I’ve heard reports from various places, including sources of this blog’s writers, that the CWHL is blocking big name players. Their contracts allow for release with adequate notification. This is, according to a lawyer we spoke with, fairly common language for non-paying contracts. It basically opens the way for people to leave should a paying opportunity arise. It’s possible, I suppose, that the people who failed to notify the CWHL of their intentions in a timely manner are all big-name, valuable players. It’s possible that the CWHL fighting to retain people like Hilary Knight is only related to genuine respect for legality, and has nothing to do with Knight’s own reputation as someone who’s struggled with the CWHL, her high profile in the world of women’s hockey, or her presumed value in name recognition for any team she plays for. It’s possible – but not likely, because the CWHL hasn’t invented underhanded tactics to try to control players. They’re simply following in the footsteps of the big men’s leagues that have come before.

Again, the NHL is the most recent example of this. They had a work stoppage only 3 years ago. The negotiations that each side made during that work stoppage are largely the stuff of rumor, but each side made some negotiations public, and thus, a matter of public opinion. As previously mentioned, the NHL has its own problems with player health as well. They’re currently facing a class action lawsuit specifically citing mishandling of concussions.

But – and this is a big but – the NHL at least pays its players and has a union. They continue to react strongly to the possibility of competition, and that includes becoming combative with their employees – the players – when the time to renegotiate the CBA comes around. This behavior might be less than ideal, but it at least is accompanied by the players’ union having representation for their side. The CWHL, in contrast, appears to want the benefits of a competitive market without ever having to have substantive competition – for players or for fans.

In short, it’s wrong. Pressuring players to sign long-term, restrictive, non-paying contracts is wrong. Using those contracts to try and control big-name players is wrong. Obfuscating the role of labor representation – a union – is wrong. And the fact that the CWHL is a non-paying league, full of highly skilled Olympians who play in games resembling rec league matches more than professional bouts, only makes their refusal to treat their players fairly more cruel. I have long held that the CWHL doesn’t seem to think women’s hockey is a product that can be profitably sold; they’ve historically skimped on marketing and promotion. Seeing their reaction to a league that clearly disagrees with that business plan has been profoundly disappointing. Female athletes already encounter disrespect from various institutions and people. They shouldn’t get it from their own tiny leagues, as well.

Of course, this isn’t a non-fixable problem. The CWHL should be releasing players on equal footing if they’re not already. The CWHL has a players association (not a union, as the players are unpaid), and that PA should have a more visible voice. Information on player issues shouldn’t just come from the league, but also from the CWHLPA. And, of course, they should try to compete with what the NWHL has to offer players. There are signs that the CWHL is trying to do the latter, including increased front-of-office communication and better equipment supply for players, but they’ll need to sustain that momentum and build on it. As both a blogger and a fan, the single most exciting thing about the NWHL has been their willingness to sell their product: women’s hockey and the people who play it.

Promote the players. Promote the game. Make players feel valued and excited by what you have to offer them, and make fans feel respected and catered to. If you want to hold on to “role model” lingo, then by all means do, but go beyond being a charity league for little girls to cheer on. Women’s hockey is valuable because it’s fun to watch. Sell me on that idea, then sell me on the people I’ll be watching. And also, treat them like people whose work you value. It’s very, very possible to move beyond the current player-rights gridlock, and I’d be delighted to see the CWHL do so.

A Few Non-Predictions For The CWHL’s 2015-2016 Season

We here at Watch This will not be posting a draft recap/season preview of the CWHL this year, because season/team previews suck to write and we don’t want to do them†. Personally, I am perennially in awe of people who manage to write well-researched posts about moves, prospects, etc etc., or even really any post at all, because I hate predicting the future and generally refuse to learn rosters until the players are actually playing. Having a work ethic is for suckers.

Anyway, here are some thoughts:

  • Historically the Blades have been really good, but their team has been gutted and now consists of like, 2 Team Canada players and some dryer lint, and possibly a curse-controlled Hilary Knight, so maybe they’ll be bad? Maybe not though. Who knows.
  • Brampton will continue to be an also-ran. This is a prediction based on history. Please don’t tell me if they actually drafted someone team-changingly amazing. My pride can’t take it.
  • Speaking of drafting, Calgary drafted Hayley Wickenheiser: Canadian legend, multi-gold-medal-winning Olympian, member of the Canadian Walk of Fame…37-year-old? This one’s a bit baffling. Who knows how it’ll go! As we’ve established, not me. (Brianne Jenner, however, is someone to watch on Calgary.)
  • The Stars are still the Stars. They’ll be in the final (probably).

OK that’s enough. For actual, substantive info, here are some links:

Have a good Wednesday. Stay safe out there.

† There will be previews of the NWHL, due to us having some new writers covering those teams. New blood! Less lazy blood! Somewhere a vampire is very excited.

NWHL: I Guess We Need A Blog Post About This

Let’s begin this by getting people up to speed on the National Women’s Hockey League/NWHL if they aren’t already. Zoë Hayden has a roundup of links here, along with some valuable commentary.

My first reaction to the NWHL was suspicion. What can I say? I’ve been burned before, especially with women’s sports. Minor and women’s sports leagues are a magnent for hucksters – people who have a plan or a dream that may or may not have ideological purity, but definitely doesn’t have a solid financial plan beneath it. It want to say that upfront because I’m not in this to be a Debbie Downer; it’s just that I also have been through the cycle of elation and dissolution before, as a fan.

I’d like to see the NWHL succeed. I think they’re already outpacing the CWHL in terms of monetary plans and goals, in part because they seem to be approaching building a league from a model grounded more in minor-league business practices than collective-funding business practices, like the NWSL or the WNBA has utilized. The NWSL and WNBA, though their funding comes from different sources, are both under the auspices of larger organizations (national teams and the NBA, respectively), and that grants them the kind of geographic range that the CWHL has attempted, while having nowhere near the level of support from hockey organizations.

But as much as I hope the NWHL will create competition and force the CWHL to also be better, I have some concerns. Rylan’s five-year plan sounds interesting, but launching in the fall with 20% of funding secured now doesn’t seem that much different from the CWHL’s whole “we’ll pay players eventually” bit – though obviously in the US, rather than Canada-and-Boston. Additionally, the NWHL’s social media presence & media availability – both key to running a modern sports league at pretty much any level – does not yet look particularly good. The logos are good, but it remains to be seen if good logos and smart marketing can overcome the reality of a swamped region with tons of teams in varying sports at varying skill levels. X-Files style, I want to believe, but that doesn’t always translate into a league actually working.

Anyway, I’d like to see the NWHL go far, and hopefully eventually absorb or be absorbed by the CWHL. I think it’s easy for people to forget that tons of leagues in North America have started up and failed and merged with one another in the history of men’s sports. Major league sports was not always a “succeed right away or be forever jeered at” kind of venture, and the expectation that women’s leagues be out-of-the-gate on a level, funding- and publicity-wise, with men’s leagues, is wildly unrealistic. Starting small and regional is smart.

(An aside: I’ve seen a lot of “this is so discourteous and disrespectful!” stuff re: the NWHL forming with a team in Boston. The Blades’ relationship with the CWHL as a whole is less than rosy right now. They do not get even their equipment covered 100%, as far as anyone can tell. The CWHL has shown a distinct lack of interest in expanding in the US or even providing equitable funding and treatment for the Blades, so I don’t think the NWHL – or Blades players – owe them much of anything as far as respectfully abstaining from Boston competition. We’ll see what happens with the Blades, but either way, I don’t think women’s sports leagues need to be held to a different standard of competition and capitalism than the rest of the world.)

NOW, A WISH LIST:

  • Please, NWHL, market fun hockey. Market a good atmosphere. Do not do the CWHL’s route of charity-project, role-models, love-of-the-game stuff. There is nothing wrong with being role models, but emphasis on the games being a fun time would also be nice. Hockey is fun, watching it is fun, please approach selling your product from this angle.
  • I’d like to see some kind of minimum salary. If it’s not feasible right away, it should be part of the five-year plan. It’s massively unequitable to just say “players can negotiate their own salaries”, for obvious reasons; Hilary Knight’s agent is probably better at negotitation than a less well known player’s.
  • Please make merch readily available. Recruit people who know what The Youth want to wear & carry. Sell it on accessible websites with cheap shipping. Sports merch from lesser-known teams is absolutely a status symbol among young hockey fans. Take advantage of this.
  • SIGN MARIE-PHILIP POULIN TO PLAY IN BOSTON THIS IS A REASONABLE REQUEST
  • Poach Florence Schelling. Do it!
  • Don’t collapse in 5 years due to bad marketing and infighting and a general inability and unwillingness to be creative in business models and draw from other minor leagues’ experiences

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll think of others. In the meantime, I’m gonna slink back into my cube with my eyes to the sky. I WANT TO BELIEVE.

Dear USA Hockey: What’s The Deal With Women’s Worlds?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but USA Hockey is run by a barrel of baby monkeys, right? Ha ha, jokes! It’s clearly a barrel of confused human babies.

No, but seriously. Why isn’t Women’s Worlds being televised? The IIHF’s everything with women’s hockey has been baffling for a long time, I’ll grant you that. Their website design is subpar and finding any info on syndication of women’s games and so on is incredibly difficult. But that’s a gripe that’s pretty common with most women’s sports; there’s not nearly the incentive to sink money and time into making information readily accessible. Women’s sports are undervalued, blah blah. That’s not new. USA Hockey waffling so thoroughly on women’s games might also not be exactly new, but the Women’s U-18 games were streamed by USA Hockey, and Canada is televising games – and has been advertising that they’re televising them, even! So again: what’s the deal?

I understand that sports in general and hockey in particular loves being closed-mouthed like nobody’s business, but boy would some communication be good on this. In no small part because right now I’m left with some questions, such as:

  • Is USA Hockey aware that Women’s World’s is one of the only plus-18 international competitions that Americans can be remotely relied upon to win? Sure, referring to a national team as being reliable in that context is kind of messed up, but let’s be honest: USA Hockey wants to be Hockey Canada, with all the almost-monopoly over gold medals that that implies. Lack of competition sucks for the losers, but it only hurts the winners in the very long run. So, with that being established, why wouldn’t you at least stream – if not televise – games? At the very least, you’re not then sending talented girls who might get into hockey the unequivocal message of “no one cares and you should probably play a sport more people care about, like soccer or basketball”.
  • Is investment in women’s hockey at all a priority for USA Hockey? I know we talk about the CWHL a lot, but that’s really only part of the development puzzle. Women’s Worlds has been streamed in the past; is this new lack of streaming an indication that USA Hockey is going to step away from supporting their fastest-growing segment of players? I’ve met basically no one who had any hand in the public side of a business who thought that decisions about when and how to publicize their product didn’t affect the business, so again, I have to ask: is this the first step in removing investment from the women’s game? I’d be honestly surprised if it were – I personally think someone just dropped the ball – but by not saying a word about why they’re not streaming the games, USA Hockey is almost guaranteeing people are going to be wondering if they’re moving in a different direction.
  • Who is pancaking on this, USA Hockey? Why did a blogger (thanks, @gabfun) announce that the games wouldn’t be streamed instead of, I don’t know, an intern posting to an official twitter? This is a gripe I have at my inglorious office job as well as in the blogging world, so I get that this isn’t a USA Hockey-specific problem, but it’s just not that hard to put a line of text on the internet, almost anywhere on the internet, saying whether or not games will be accessible and if so, where to stream them. Women’s sports fans are decent at Google, okay? We kind of have to be. So throw us a bone.

The only thing I can think of is that there’s some kind of dispute that has led to USA Hockey publicizing NCAA women’s hockey on their Twitter, but not a tournament they’re directly involved in. But if that’s the case, then again, where are the professionals communicating access to fans in a way that doesn’t signal that something’s up?

My impression of hockey culture in general is that the overall culture is very do-it-yourself, rah-rah-pond-hockey. That culture, when applied to women’s hockey – a subset of the sport that very much does need support without the guarantee of profit the considerably older NHL carries – can be difficult to navigate. I might disagree with the CWHL not openly calling for volunteers and organizing and utilizing the talent of their fans, but I at least understand some of the rationale behind it. But I do not understand, at all, USA Hockey being so totally close-mouthed about Women’s Worlds. I have a FastHockey account specifically because I wanted to watch the tournament two years ago. Not saying anything and acting like no one’s paying attention to the tournament, when players are talking about it on Twitter and people like me want to watch them play, comes across as flat-out disrespectful.

All of us are aware that women’s hockey is not the most profitable business venture in the world. But either USA Hockey should commit to their players, and their product, and give what fans there are info – or they should own up to their comprehensive lack of interest in female players. It’s ten kinds of annoying to be presented with such a fundamental lack of information about one of the biggest tournaments for women’s hockey in the world. To be blunt and slightly NSFW: quit dicking us around, USA Hockey.

The CWHL’s American Problem

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This picture is a joke. I don’t think the CWHL is magicJack levels of being close to collapse – though, honestly, we probably wouldn’t know if they were, and they’re not really significant enough for it to be a legitimate comparison. Still: jokes!]

So, this weekend, am I right?

I heard rumblings that something was going on with the Blades’ contracts – and American players in general – a little before the cancellations became public. My first reaction was worry, but it was followed very closely by irritation. We here at Watch This Hockey know a few things about the contract disputes:

  • American players are unsatisfied with the way labor and contracts are managed
  • American players may or may not play in the All Star Game
  • We had reached out to players for interviews, but they backed out, worried that speaking with bloggers would result in them being blackballed from the league
  • We contacted the CWHL for a statement regarding the rumors (and fact of game cancellations). We have not heard back.

Any statement I could make would be based on speculation. The safest speculation I can make is that American players in the CWHL are not satisfied with how the CWHL is treating their American contingent, so let’s go with that.

Obviously, most of the cities that were talked about as candidates for expansion are American. I think anyone with half a brain can see that the CWHL is very oriented towards Canada – and, you might say, why shouldn’t they be? They’re the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, after all. I’m an American and from North Carolina besides, which means I’ve done my fair share of mocking the “hockey is Canada’s game” stuff, but on some levels it’s true. Canada produces tons of hockey players, they fund their hockey programs extremely well, they have more rinks, they have a longer history with the game. So – why not? Why not focus on Canada?

A few reasons, actually. Minor things, such as: marketing, sustainability, visibility, sponsorships. Long-term success of the league. Long-term success of women’s hockey in general.

The United States is, as much as any country can make such a claim, a hotbed of activity for women’s sports. We have a functioning women’s basketball league, the WNBA, that is only partially owned by the NBA. We have a fledgling soccer league, the NWSL, that is largely the result of cooperation between Mexico, USA, and Canada’s soccer leagues. We have collegiate basketball, soccer, hockey, and other sports. The US Women’s National Team in soccer regularly sells out arenas on tours before or after international competition. Our bona fides are, well, bona fide. And that matters, because the CWHL is in the business of convincing a saturated sports market that women’s hockey is worth paying to see.

Hockey is undeniably more popular in Canada, but Canada still has only slightly more people than the state of Texas. The United States is home to both huge media markets and huge – comparatively speaking – women’s sports markets. And, perhaps most importantly, some of the biggest names in women’s hockey aren’t Canadian. Jincy Dunne will be playing for Team USA in a few years, Lord willing and the river don’t rise. Meghan Duggan is a huge name; the Lamoureux twins are well-known; Hilary Knight and Anne Schleper both suited up for NHL practices; Julie Chu’s narrative at the 2014 Olympics was both high-profile and landed her a Bounty endorsement. For sure, Shannon Szabados, Marie-Philip Poulin, Caroline Ouellette, Hayley Wickenheiser, and others are big names, and rightly so. They’re hugely talented. But the other major powerhouse in women’s hockey is the United States. And that’s leaving aside the fact that Noora Räty and Florence Schelling both were hugely visible in the Olympics, are both very talented – and are both not playing in the CWHL.

One of the best known facts about women’s sports at a high level is that the peak of competition is international; the Olympics is the biggest competition these women are likely to ever see. It’s not in the CWHL’s interest to embrace nationalism to the point of discouraging competition. The competitiveness of women’s hockey is regularly called into question; the way to fix that is not to deny regular practice and competition to everyone but Canadian players. Women’s hockey ebbs in visibility during Olympic years; the way to fix that is not to refuse to put teams in American markets. I’ve complained repeatedly about the CWHL’s lack of marketing smarts, Internet fluency, and so on, but I assumed that was them cleaving too closely to an outdated marketing model. This weekend’s events have made me wonder if the league is even being led by adults, much less business-savvy ones.

The CWHL is not a church or a non-profit. Their job is to sell a product, not adhere to a certain ideology. Obviously there are limits on this, such as “don’t kill someone”, but embracing the American side of women’s hockey is hardly tantamount to murder. I’m disappointed in the CWHL for their handling of these disputes – the lack of transparency, combined with the fact that players are hesitant to talk to us for fear of immature retaliation, is incredibly concerning. I don’t know what their roadmap is, but I can’t see a world where shutting out American players makes business sense. It’s amazing to me that the CWHL continues to insist on this ridiculous “for love of the game” narrative – with heavily implied nationalistic overtones – when the NHL, and in fact every major hockey organization, values practicality and profitability over pond hockey ethos. I don’t have a suggested solution, aside from hiring someone who knows how to update websites, put out regular press releases, and not treating American players like also-rans. But there are some very obvious holes in their business practices that need filling.

I’ve watched plenty of women’s sports leagues collapse due to shortsightedness. I’d like for the CWHL not to be the most recent in a long line of failures. I have no idea if that’s coming or not, but American players being this dissatisfied with their only current option to play even semi-professionally is really not promising.

Get it together, CWHL. Love, an American.

You Give Love A Bad Name: The CWHL, Marketing, And Me

CWHL logo

 

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time trying to tease out my frustration with the CWHL. I am a supporter of the CWHL, both in the more nebulous blog-writing way and the more concrete “encourage people to contribute financially to it” way. But that doesn’t mean I think there’s no room for them to improve. They are, unfortunately, a league that has placed itself in the shadow of the NHL, without much actual support from said league.

Continue reading You Give Love A Bad Name: The CWHL, Marketing, And Me

Shannon Szabados Practices With Edmonton Oilers; Everyone’s Got An Opinion

Two days ago, the Edmonton Oilers traded for Fasth, and people immediately began speculating about whether he’d be able to make it from Anaheim to Edmonton in time. This isn’t the first time the Oilers have been in a situation like this, and last time, fans clamored for hometown player Shannon Szabados to get the call. That didn’t happen, and at the time, she voiced disappointment. Two nights ago, Oilers fans got #SzabadosForBackup trending – and yesterday, she practiced with the Oilers. Awesome? Probably! A stunt? Almost definitely. So we’re gonna break it down a bit.

Continue reading Shannon Szabados Practices With Edmonton Oilers; Everyone’s Got An Opinion

Olympic Hockey Recap: US Women Beat Sweden, 6-1

Kelli Stack playing in the CWHL, which according to NBC doesn't exist. (via Boston_CWHL on flickr)
Kelli Stack playing in the CWHL, which according to NBC doesn’t exist. (via Boston_CWHL on flickr)

Today USA whaled on Sweden, and if you follow any hockey writers on Twitter, you probably saw people talking about how uncompetitive and boring it is. Yes: Sweden got beat. After about 6 minutes of being clogged in the neutral zone, USA’s offense broke out and was rarely stifled after that. USA drew the Swedish defenders in, Sweden left passing lanes wide open, and the score ended 6-1. If Kelli Stack hadn’t lost a faceoff, it could’ve been a shutout for Vetter.

As always with women’s hockey (for me), the commentary for this game was somewhat maddening. Yo, did you know the Blackhawks are good at hockey? This apparently warrants discussion during one of a handful of Team USA games that will receive professional commentary in the course of 4 years. What doesn’t warrant professional commentary, apparently, is the fact that there is a North American women’s league – the CWHL – and they are hoping to pay their players within five years.

Continue reading Olympic Hockey Recap: US Women Beat Sweden, 6-1

Should Women’s Hockey Be An Olympic Sport?

We need more of this. (pennstatenews via flickr)
We need more of this. (pennstatenews via flickr)

Today an interesting article was posted in The Score about how women’s hockey isn’t competitive until the gold medal game and, if it shouldn’t be eliminated, then at least there are very good arguments for its elimination that might result in it no longer being an Olympic event. Shockingly, the writers of this blog disagree.

Let’s get one thing out of the way early: there is not parity in women’s hockey. In the 2010 Olympics, USA and Canadian women were dominant statistically (though there were a few players of other nationalities mixed in), and they’re likely to be dominant this year, too. Will they be as dominant? That remains to be seen. I’d like to say the gap is slowly closing; Canada-Finland was a tense game largely because Finland hung in it until late in the third period. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the closing of the gap has been so infinitesimal as to be nonexistent.

Continue reading Should Women’s Hockey Be An Olympic Sport?