Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Growing women's hockey internationally

Like girls' participation in wrestling, women's hockey is growing. And though young girls often start playing on co-ed teams--or boys' teams that a few girls join--the growth of the women's game has meant the growth of all-female teams; at least in the United States and Canada.
And that's the subject of this blog post on Hockey.com out of Canada that discusses the first ever women's under-18 world championships.
Unfortunately the author finds a way to spin the success of the US and Canadian programs by basically disparaging all the other teams that will come to the tournament this week in Calgary.
And while it's true that the US and Canada are way ahead of the other national teams participating in international competition (though we must remember that the US did place third in the Turino Olympics after losing to Sweden), the author fails to consider why this is. Hockey is basically Canada's national sport so it's no surprise that they--more often than not--find themselves at the top of the podium. I still find it curious that the US women's team has been so successful given 1) the sport's lack of popularity here and 2) the lack of support given to girls and women who want to play the historically masculine sport.
And yet we do have a successful program. Unfortunately other countries lag behind. And the blog post linked above only seems to take a condescending tone towards countries like Germany and Switzerland that will come to Calgary this week and likely fall victim to either (or both) the US or Canada.
But why are other countries' development programs so far behind? Is there a lack of support for girls' sports generally or ice hockey in particular? So many other European countries have thriving development programs for boys but the same attention has not been paid to girls' ice hockey.
So what it looks like--and what the blogger reinforces by failing to address the larger issues--is that women's ice hockey is a minor sport; that girls are not interested in playing; that it will never be as competitive as the men's game.

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