3 Things We Can Learn From The Olympics - 3. Women’s Hockey

3 Things We Can Learn From The Olympics - 3. Women’s Hockey

05 Mar 2018Adrian J»
 

One week ago the Olympic Games finished for another four years with USA taking Gold, Canada the Silver and Finland the Bronze in the Women's competition. In the men's tournament it was OA Russia who took Gold, the Silver went to Germany and Canada the Bronze. In this final article we look at the need for investment in the Women's game so that reach it's full potential at international level.

 
 
 
 

One week ago the Olympic Games finished for another four years with USA taking Gold, Canada the Silver and Finland the Bronze in the Women's competition. In the men's tournament it was OA Russia who took Gold, the Silver went to Germany and Canada the Bronze.

In this final article we look at the need for investment in the Women's game so that reach it's full potential at international level.

North American Success

Anyone who saw the medal matches, especially the epic USA-Canada final, will appreciate that women's international hockey is great to watch. In the 20 years that the women's teams have participated in the Olympics, the final has almost always been between these two teams, who have also totally dominated the World Championships. This year both national federations took their squads out of the regular season in the autumn to give 100% concentrate on preparations for the Olympics. The investment clearly paid off and marks a clear difference from the men's game where league/ club have the priority over country.

The step down to Europe

There is also an enormous gulf between these two nations and all the others. For example, third placed Finland lost 3-1, 4-1 and 5-0 to the two finalists and OA Russia let in 15 goals and scored 0 in their three games against the North American duo. The other two traditional European hockey playing nations represented at the Games, Switzerland and Sweden, were another step down at the bottom of this group of six nations who have focused on the women's game since that first Olympics in 1998.

The Cost of Inequality

The difference between the nations is one sign that the women's sport, particularly outside North America, is in desperate need of investment - in terms of cash, time and marketing.

A year ago the US women's team won a significant battle against USA Hockey to compete on equal financial terms with the men who received a $68 000 salary when they play for their country. But in Sweden, a country often thought of at the forefront of gender and equality issues, the national team played with no financial compensation from the national hockey association, according to Swedish newspaper Expressen. That the Swedish Hockey Federation has not addressed the issue also has a negative impact on European women's hockey as a whole. That is because the Swedish league, the SDHL, is the continent's best league where at least 35 Olympic athletes play. On the attacking side, for example, Michelle Karvinen of Finland came fifth in the Total Points competition at the Olympics but leads the Swedish Women's Hockey League, the SDHL, with an incredible Points Per Game of 2.00. Or Switzerland's keeper Florence Schelling, who leads the SDHL with a save percentage of 0.948. Apart from these two the SDHL also contains the entire Swedish squad, a quarter of the Bronze medal team from Finland, one of Switzerland's top scorers and couple of the American and Canadian medal holders.

It is a marketing person's dream that few sports or leagues could match but the brutal reality is the average attendance at a SDHL game was just 148 people in the autumn, according to Swedish paper, Svenska Dagbladet. That compares to 5707 for the men's league in the 2016-7 season. So we really still have along way to go in terms of equality.

Elite level sport can be a multi-million dollar entertainment industry when talent and skill meet money and marketing. Just look at the English Premier League in football or the National Hockey League. The question is who is going to be willing to take the first steps towards that elusive Gold medal of bridging the gap between men and women in international hockey?

References:

http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/21/news/us-womens-hockey-olympics/index.html

https://www.expressen.se/sport/hockey/damkronornas-kritik-tycker-det-ar-markligt/

https://www.svd.se/linkoping-kan-krossa-publikrekordet

https://www.aftonbladet.se/sportbladet/hockey/a/Lzm94/shl-tappar-publik--samsta-pa-14-ar


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