Those of you who read about my Today show experience know that my Monday morning started very early — but it didn’t end there. After getting back to our B&B around 8 a.m., we had a quick breakfast, then I got a little sleep before our first sporting event of the Games, a women’s ice hockey match. We were disappointed at first to find that we were watching from UBC Thunderbird Arena on the University of British Columbia’s campus as opposed to Canada Hockey Place, the signature hockey venue in Vancouver (also an easy walk from where we’re staying), but catching the bus there was easy, and the arena was cozy — there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
The match-up was between China and Slovakia, two teams not known for their women’s ice hockey prowess. In fact, China’s last victory at the Olympics was in Nagano in 1998, and Slovakia had never fielded an Olympic team in this sport until this year. Both came into the game without a win. It’s always more fun when you have some investment in the game, so my mom and I chose Slovakia as our team du jour (I’ve always liked underdogs), then fully committed to cheering them on.
The great thing about the match is that it wasn’t a blowout — China looked stronger early on, getting off more shots, but it was Slovakia with the first goal, which came in the first period. Most of the crowd was North American without a team affiliation, a marked difference from that much-hyped game the day before. Both teams worked hard, and in the end, China came out on top, 3–1.
In Canada, there are 80,000 girls playing ice hockey. In the U.S., there are 60,000. In Slovakia, 200-something. In China, just 67. While the game lacked some of the excitement that comes from seeing the world’s most elite athletes at their best, it would be sad to see women’s ice hockey eliminated from the Olympics, as some advocate given the dearth of competitive teams from countries outside of North America. But there is no equivalent of the NHL for women, and just as it was when softball was cut from the summer games, it would be unfortunate for ice hockey to also get the axe.
– Haley Shapley
Blog posts are written by Kitsap residents who have volunteered or purchased tickets to watch the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, B.C. and Kitsap Sun staff who are covering local athletes in the games.