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At least they kept it under 20
February 18, 2010 12:58 PM   Subscribe

It started up once more following Canada's record-breaking 18-0 win over Slovakia -- that is, the debate over the validity of women's hockey as an Olympic event. Despite a riveting Canada-U.S. rivalry in the sport, there remains a wide gap between these two powers and the rest of the world. This all comes in the wake of the IOC's decision to delist baseball and softball as Olympic sports.

My opinion is that hockey is a signature Winter Olympic event, and so should have both men's and women's events. The IOC eliminated both baseball and softball, thereby doing away with men's and women's versions of (not quite the) same sport entirely.

And for those who read the Toronto Star, I apologize for citing a Rosie DiManno column.
posted by hiteleven (147 comments total)

 
Why not prohibit professionals from playing, as was the case until the 1992 Dream Team? The US won by ridiculous amounts until the 2000 Olympics, when "several elite players elected not to participate" and other teams improved their game remarkably.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2010


The rest of the world will catch up. There was a time in the mens game when the rest of the world would, literally, compete for the right to play Canada in the gold medal round. Dominance now is not dominance forever.
posted by mhoye at 1:07 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


And what problem would delisting women's hockey solve? Only by keeping it in the Olympics can we hope to grow the sport in non-traditional countries. If you delist it you turn a temporary problem into a permanent one (not for the Olympics, but for the sport and its athletes).
My guess is the only people pushing this are the broadcasters who aren't getting ratings for lopsided games.
posted by rocket88 at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


My opinion is that

This doesn't belong in a FPP. The blue isn't a megaphone.

That said, when men's hockey was first introduced as an Olympic sport, Canada would regularly demolish other teams by similar scores (20-0, etc). So it seems a bit strange to be critical of women's hockey teams simply because they are in the same position as men's hockey teams when men's hockey was first introduced.

And I say this as a guy who doesn't enjoy watching the women's hockey nearly as much. They gotta let those women hit people. It just ain't hockey.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


My opinion is that

This doesn't belong in a FPP. The blue isn't a megaphone.


I thought this was less redundant than making the post, then providing my own comment later on...nothing more.

mods, please delete this section if it broke the rules (but please keep the Rosie DiManno joke).
posted by hiteleven at 1:11 PM on February 18, 2010


And for those who read the Toronto Star, I apologize for citing a Rosie DiManno column

She made me scream in that column by failing to mention the fact that Sweden beat the U.S. to make it to the gold medal game against Canada in Turin in 2006, a fairly significant omission. Although clearly Canada's 13-1 win last night shows that Sweden's success in cracking the top two may have been temporary.
posted by Adam_S at 1:11 PM on February 18, 2010


And yet, the IOC won't allow women's ski jumping. [10m video overview]

Here we are, about a decade into this new millennium, and we still are having questions about whether women should be doing things that men can do, if the women are interested in doing it?

Sure, there's a wide gap between Canada / US women's hockey and the rest of the world. But it won't stand that way for long, and women all over the world will have their horizons widened by having this as an option for international competition.

The IOC is starting to show a dark underbelly which either is new, or is something which I had never noticed before the past 2-3 Olympic cycles. I hope they get it worked out before they poison the Olympic movement too much.

(I'm having reservations about the whole Olympics thing anyway, but am too happy to finally have curling on television to watch to get into my hippie rant about the corporatist collusion fest that the whole thing has evolved into. I mean... CURLING!!!)
posted by hippybear at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Frankly, Slovakia deserved to be humiliated after this inexcusable display of poor sports(wo)manship during qualifying.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2010


What I don't get is why they disallow body checks in women's hockey in the first place. Are they afraid the women will break? Are they saying it's unladylike? Either reason seems kinda misogynistic to me. It's not like Chris Pronger is going to suddenly appear on the ice and crush somebody.
posted by Justinian at 1:18 PM on February 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


What I don't get is why they disallow body checks in women's hockey in the first place. Are they afraid the women will break? Are they saying it's unladylike? Either reason seems kinda misogynistic to me. It's not like Chris Pronger is going to suddenly appear on the ice and crush somebody.

This is a good point (echoed by Justinian), and one that the Canadian press does tend to ignore.

My suspicion is that the earlier generation of women's players, who often defended the no-checking rule, were worried about keeping their own coveted positions on the national team should hitting be allowed. They had struggled enough to get the sport recognized in the first place.

Hopefully as the sport develops, there will be more demand from within to allow hitting. Only then will the rules change.
posted by hiteleven at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2010


Oh, I didn't notice it was Justinian who had authored the previous post...oops.
posted by hiteleven at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2010


Why not prohibit professionals from playing, as was the case until the 1992 Dream Team?

These are pro women hockey players?
posted by smackfu at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2010


I don't think prohibiting the best players (which is what would happen if you prohibited professionals) would do anybody any good in this situation. I'm far fully understanding all the ins and outs women's hockey beyond North America, but I feel like if there's any hope for the other teams to catch up, it would require definitely leaving the pros in.

1) All removing the pros would do would get rid of the best talent across the board, even if the top in North America is at a much higher skill level than those who play in European leagues.

2) Professional leagues at multiple levels encourage women with talent and drive to continue to strive to compete at a higher level. Presumably, the best strive to get to the best league, even if that involves moving abroad. Continuing to promote the sport on "the world's biggest stage" will get keep getting the word out, and the best players can end up in the biggest leagues (presumable in North America) but still play for their home countries every year (much like has happened for some in the NBA)


And I say this as a guy who doesn't enjoy watching the women's hockey nearly as much. They gotta let those women hit people. It just ain't hockey.


Speaking of parallels to basketball...
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2010


When the sport made its debut in 1920, the Canadian men out-scored their opposition 122-3
-from the National Post article.
posted by chococat at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2010


I don't believe that's a parallel. Some people criticize the level of play in women's basketball. I'm criticizing changes to the actual rules to remove one of the fundamental parts of the game made for dubious and probably sexist reasons.
posted by Justinian at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2010


Why not prohibit professionals from playing, as was the case until the 1992 Dream Team?

Because it was so much fun watching the professionals get their asses handed to them in 2004.
posted by three blind mice at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2010


I thought that 18 - 0 score was bullshit. Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.
posted by Flashman at 1:37 PM on February 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also it's extraordinarily difficult to enforce the no-professionals rule in a way that doesn't benefit certain nations. Remember the Soviets? Their players supposedly weren't professionals because they were actually employed in the Red Army. Except that their deployment was essentially permanently training or playing hockey or whatever.

China does the same thing.
posted by Justinian at 1:39 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


the debate over the validity of women's hockey as an Olympic event

To be fair, there's a difference between saying "this sport is not a valid Olympic event," and saying "there's not enough genuine worldwide interest in the sport for us to stage a competitive international event worth the effort." I assume that was also the case with softball.

The IOC is starting to show a dark underbelly which either is new, or is something which I had never noticed before the past 2-3 Olympic cycles.

it's not new. It was ironically lovely to see the IOC reject Chicago as a host because of concerns about political corruption.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:43 PM on February 18, 2010


Yeah, this is par for the course even for some longstanding Olympic sports, and it reeks of bias against women's hockey.

Remove competitors from northern Europe (a region similar in size and population to North America) from biathlon (or really almost any nordic skiing event), and the gold medal would be going to someone who finished tenth or twentieth or thirtieth among the current crop.

(Depends on how widely you define "northern Europe" - in the women's 15km individual earlier today, a Romanian came 11th and an Italian 18th. The top non-European was a Chinese woman who finished three and a half minutes after the gold medalist.)

In any case, given the general thrust of popular sport this century, I bet we'll see quantum leaps in the quality of women's hockey teams from Russia and Sweden and Finland long before anyone outside of northern Europe gives a significant shit about a sport that peaked in popularity as a nineteenth-century Scandinavian military training exercise.

And hiteleven, I'm sorry, but there's never a good excuse to link to Rosie DiManno. It'll be weeks before I've begun to bury the memory of the half-dozen cornball turns of phrase she employed in just the first three paragraphs. ("Swiss Misses"? "yodelling yahoo"? Whadda hoot!)
posted by gompa at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2010


Baseball and softball are summer sports, competing against lots and lots and lots of summer sports.

Women's hocky is a winter sport. If we excluded every sport that doesn't have international appeal, there wouldn't be any sports left. Start with Bobsled and work your way right on down to Nordic Combined.
posted by muddgirl at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2010


Man, it was a perfectly good bit of trolling until a metafilter broke out.
posted by LD Feral at 1:46 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.

The Olympics isn't about fun or getting participation medals, it's about straining with every ounce of muscle and energy and will to win. I'm sure the losing teams aren't whining about the fact that they didn't get to enjoy themselves as much as they might.
posted by fatbird at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.

a bit of fun? Go play in your backyard. If you don't want to be embarrassed, don't come to the olympics to compete against the world's best.
posted by mpbx at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


Besides which, it would be more humiliating for the losing teams if the winning team started slacking off in the third period. To do so presumes that the losing team has zero chance, while continuing to play at your best at least continues to take you seriously as an opponent.
posted by fatbird at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I thought that 18 - 0 score was bullshit. Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.

And bullshit to this too. It's the fucking Olympics. Does Shaun White do only his second-tier stunts on the halfpipe so as not to seal up the gold before the second round of competition? No, because it would be an insult to the sport, the event and the efforts of his fellow competitors to refuse to go all out at the sport's absolute pinnacle contest.
posted by gompa at 1:50 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


And yet, the IOC won't allow women's ski jumping. [10m video overview]

What's interesting about that is that it's a sport where apparently women are better then men. Why not make it co-ed?
posted by delmoi at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If we excluded every sport that doesn't have international appeal, there wouldn't be any sports left.

Although for the record the issue is not the appeal of the sport but the fact that it's only competitive at the highest level between two countries.

I do agree with gompa though. Let's compare the Russian women's performance this Olympics with four years from now in Sochi.
posted by Adam_S at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I don't get is why they disallow body checks in women's hockey in the first place.

Am I the only one who wants them to take body checks out of the men's game?
posted by mazola at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought that 18 - 0 score was bullshit. Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.

If I recall correctly, goal differential is a tie-breaker, so if Canada eases up but the U.S. doesn't, their mercy isn't going to do them much good.
posted by Hiker at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Remove competitors from northern Europe (a region similar in size and population to North America) from biathlon (or really almost any nordic skiing event), and the gold medal would be going to someone who finished tenth or twentieth or thirtieth among the current crop.

(Depends on how widely you define "northern Europe" - in the women's 15km individual earlier today, a Romanian came 11th and an Italian 18th. The top non-European was a Chinese woman who finished three and a half minutes after the gold medalist.)


I don't know what definition of northern Europe leads you to conclude it's similar in size to North America, considering all of Europe is similar in size to Canada.

The populations are more comparable, so point taken. I guess the theoretical biathlon fan is limited to following athletes from just a few countries. But it's mostly an individual sport, so they still get to see those athletes compete against each other. If two countries dominated swimming, people would still get to watch individual swimmers within those countries compete against each other. Team sports are different. In women's hockey right now, there really is just Canada and the U.S. at the top. You pretty much have two choices if you want to pick a winner (the 2006 Swedish upset, notwithstanding).
posted by aswego at 1:58 PM on February 18, 2010


Guys, I really don't think these women are professionals, at least in the sense that they play hockey for a living. Most of the profiles I've seen for the Canadian women show them to be moms and wives with regular jobs who take time out of their busy schedules to train for the Olympics and other international tournaments.
posted by mannequito at 1:59 PM on February 18, 2010


One more thing: poor Slovakia, humilated by mean old Canada 18-0, made it to the Olympics by defeating Bulgaria 82-0 in a qualifier. That's more than a goal a minute. Now maybe, once you hit 50 goals, you might say to yourself, you know, three solid passes in the offensive zone before a shot. Not the Slovaks, though, apparently. They wanted that Vancouver berth bad.

And on preview:

I don't know what definition of northern Europe leads you to conclude it's similar in size to North America, considering all of Europe is similar in size to Canada.

The one where Canada's empty north and Russia's empty east cancel each other out. (Yes, I know it's technically in Asia, but the significantly populated parts of the two continents are roughly comparable.)
posted by gompa at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can't kick sports out because they're uncompetitive some of the times and not do it the other times. What a shocker that the IOC is anti-american.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 2:02 PM on February 18, 2010


What I don't get is why they disallow body checks in women's hockey in the first place.

Am I the only one who wants them to take body checks out of the men's game?


Yes, clean checking is a fundamental aspect of the sport and shouldn't be legislated out. I say this as someone who strongly supports making the NHL rink match international sizes and feels that fighting has absolutely no place in the sport and that excuses for it given by the old hands are patent bullshit.

Regarding the actual post, I am personally in favor of scrapping women's hockey as an event until there is actually some international interest in the sport.
posted by BobbyDigital at 2:03 PM on February 18, 2010


When the sport made its debut in 1920, the Canadian men out-scored their opposition 122-3 -from the National Post article.

From what Wikipedia says, that seems plausible as a cumulative score.

Then again, this from the paper that isn't sure whether or not Gordon Lightfoot is dead.
posted by bicyclefish at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2010


"I thought that 18 - 0 score was bullshit. Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly."

If I recall correctly, goal differential is a tie-breaker, so if Canada eases up but the U.S. doesn't, their mercy isn't going to do them much good.


It's a tie-breaker if the U.S. and Canada are tied for the last spot to get into the next round. This will not happen because they are in different groups. Even if they were in the same group, two teams from each group advance. Goal differential will not be a factor when two teams in an eight-team field have a ~+60 goal advantage, and all the other teams are in the negatives.
posted by aswego at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2010


It's a tie-breaker if the U.S. and Canada are tied for the last spot to get into the next round. This will not happen because they are in different groups. Even if they were in the same group, two teams from each group advance. Goal differential will not be a factor when two teams in an eight-team field have a ~+60 goal advantage, and all the other teams are in the negatives.

Apologies, I am getting my men's and women's groups all mixed up.
posted by Hiker at 2:10 PM on February 18, 2010


What's interesting about that is that it's a sport where apparently women are better then men.

That would be interesting if it were true.
posted by Justinian at 2:15 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despite a riveting Canada-U.S. rivalry in the sport, there remains a wide gap between these two powers and the rest of the world.

I can only assume you're talking about ice hockey, because neither the US nor Canada rate at all in women's hockey.

Australia, Germany, Holland & Spain are the major powers in both men's & women's hockey, and in women's event, Australia has won three of the past six Olympic golds.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:15 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can only assume you're talking about ice hockey, because neither the US nor Canada rate at all in women's hockey.

I'm sure you're aware that "hockey" with no qualifier generally refers to "ice hockey" in North America. If you're talking about "field hockey" you have to say "field hockey".
posted by Justinian at 2:20 PM on February 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


I can only assume you're talking about ice hockey, because neither the US nor Canada rate at all in women's hockey.

You can also assume he's talking about ice hockey because it's currently the Winter Olympics. Also, all the links show people playing on a sheet of ice.
posted by ALongDecember at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2010 [19 favorites]


Guys, I really don't think these women are professionals, at least in the sense that they play hockey for a living. Most of the profiles I've seen for the Canadian women show them to be moms and wives with regular jobs who take time out of their busy schedules to train for the Olympics and other international tournaments.

Where there's enough interest, you can get a lot of dedicated people who still have other things in their lives besides the sport, and thus you have a much larger pool of potential team members. It reminds me of playing high school water polo against kids in Orange County. My school team was fairly good, by local standards. We went to a coastal California public high school, and our team had plenty of surfers and kids who had been in pools throughout their lives, and our school had won the local tourneys in past years. But something about Orange County drove kids to take the sport more seriously, so when we went a few hours south, the competition was drastically different. We got skunked. It was almost embarrassing, but it was also a great learning experience. We didn't stop playing, nor did we stop going to Orange County tourneys. But we knew we'd have to practice a LOT more to be on their level. Maybe some day we could compete on their level, maybe not. Until then, they were something to strive for.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:24 PM on February 18, 2010


the validity of women's hockey as an Olympic event.
ftfy.
posted by scruss at 2:25 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought that 18 - 0 score was bullshit. Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.

Absolutely not. Even completely leaving aside the "goal differential matters" factor. These aren't highschool kids, where a blowout might crush them emotionally. They know what they're up against, and, frankly it would be insulting to them to let up.

Goal differential will not be a factor when two teams in an eight-team field have a ~+60 goal advantage, and all the other teams are in the negatives.

I thought it still mattered for who got "home" ice in the final?
posted by juv3nal at 2:29 PM on February 18, 2010


Justinian: What I don't get is why they disallow body checks in women's hockey in the first place. Are they afraid the women will break?

At the first Women's World Championship in 1990, bodychecking was in fact allowed. I can recall video highlights of the Canadian and U.S. teams, already stronger in skating and playmaking skills, totally hammering their opponents. Ironically, it was the European squads who'd asked for bodychecking to be allowed, since they (and not the North Americans) had been using it in their leagues.
posted by hangashore at 2:33 PM on February 18, 2010


What I don't understand, and I've said this in the past, is why women continue to accept de-tuned, de-violenced versions of sports.

Softball is baseball with the rough parts deliberately removed. Same thing with field hockey and women's rugby. Women's basketball plays with a smaller ball and various different rules.

It's not like there's a women's version of Scrabble with extra vowels. There's no women's chess with fewer rooks and knights.

It's nuts. Feminists fight for equality, rightly so. But the fight should be for equality, not the right to play something different that marks you as being different.

/me climbs on soap box

Women of earth -- why do you want to play this way? If these versions of popular sports were more fun, men would be playing them, too. Why are you accepting -- nay, demanding -- a pink ghetto?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:35 PM on February 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand, and I've said this in the past, is why women continue to accept de-tuned, de-violenced versions of sports.

...

It's nuts. Feminists fight for equality, rightly so. But the fight should be for equality, not the right to play something different that marks you as being different.


You think feminists are responsible for lower athletic expectations on women? You think we like, submitted fucking rulebooks when we successfully fought for Title IX? And now that Title IX is "implemented correctly" you think we're sitting back and patting ourselves on the back?

Fuck. Of all the tedious arguments to start, you picked a deuce.
posted by muddgirl at 2:38 PM on February 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


I thought that 18 - 0 score was bullshit. Why the heck did we have to keep hammering at them like that? It would have reflected so much better on the Canadian team if we'd eased off and let the other team have a bit of fun rather than just humiliate them so mercilessly.

I can only assume that most people saying stuff like this have never been in the position of receiving such "mercy." I am a terrible athlete, and have been since I was a wee kid. I have received this "mercy," or heard people ordered to deliver this "mercy" to me, on numerous occasions.

It burns like acid. It is deeply, fundamentally shaming, in a way that merely losing to someone who completely outclasses you isn't.

Shaming, infantilizing shit like that was among the final nails in the coffin of any remnant interest I had in sport.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:40 PM on February 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


The reason why baseball was dropped wasn't because the competition is dominated by one or two teams. It's because MLB has refused to shut down their season for two weeks and release their players for the Olympics.

What's off about this is that the IOC has never pressured FIFA into getting the European leagues into releasing their players for the Olympics, even though the summer games usually happen in late August or early September when the football season is barely underway and could easily be delayed for two weeks. In fact, the IOC agreed readily to rules that make the Olympic soccer tournament into a minor U21 championship so as to not have the tournament rival the World Cup.

So, while baseball gets bandied about as "not having enough countries playing it" (despite having over 50 national teams attempt to qualify for the 2008 games), football never sends the best players in the world and continues to remain in the games.

The IOC is a corrupt bunch of European lushes who are living high on the hog at the expense of taxpayers around the world. The scandals did little to truly wash out the problems within the IOC, unfortunately.
posted by dw at 2:41 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why not prohibit professionals from playing, as was the case until the 1992 Dream Team?

While it's certainly ironic that this didn't take effect until after the fall of the Warsaw Pact, the reason is because many amateurs aren't. It was common, especially in the Pact, for countries to field teams and athletes who were, in any realistic sense, professional athletes, but who had been given some nominal other occupation as a fig-leaf for the iOC.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2010


Ice Hockey is Hockey, UbuRoivas. That other thing is something else.
posted by notyou at 2:43 PM on February 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: It was common, especially in the Pact, for countries to field teams and athletes who were, in any realistic sense, professional athletes, but who had been given some nominal other occupation as a fig-leaf for the iOC.

Indeed. Remember that what made the 1980 Miracle on Ice so remarkable was that the Soviet team wasn't actually a group of Red Army grunts who just happened to enjoy chasing pucks on their evenings and weekends off.
posted by hangashore at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2010


That would be interesting if it were true.

I suspect delmoi is referring to Lindsey Van.
posted by GodricVT at 2:49 PM on February 18, 2010


Softball is baseball with the rough parts deliberately removed.

Really? They're throwing softballs 90mph over a distance that's just 75% of the distance between the rubber and plate in baseball. So you have less reaction time to decide whether to swing or not than an MLB player deciding whether to swing at a 95mph fastball. And unlike the "rising" fastball of baseball, softballs actually do rise... as well as slide, sink, and curve.

Mind you, the pitcher isn't on a mound, the ball is about twice as big, and the walls are shorter, but hitting in fast pitch is still pretty damn difficult. And don't think those women don't slide cleats up, either.
posted by dw at 2:52 PM on February 18, 2010


You think feminists are responsible for lower athletic expectations on women?

I'm actually on your side, believe it or not.

Tell me why you think the fight for Title IX was a fight for softball instead of baseball. Tell me why we don't see any push for equality, not just of opportunity, but of result. Tell me why it's ended up as a crazy version of "separate but equal?"

Why are there girls gymmastics teams in American high schools, but not girls football teams? And no boys gymnastics teams, for that matter? At this point, no one's (legally) holding anyone back. So, why is there a pink ghetto? Why is the pink ghetto glorified?

The sexist answer is that women are delicate creatures that ought not be harmed by "violent" sports. So, rah-rah softball and hockey-without-checking. I think this is foolish, as does nearly everyone else that takes a second to think about it.

So, why is this not only OK, but enforced? And enforced gladfully?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2010


I can only assume that most people saying stuff like this have never been in the position of receiving such "mercy."

I've been on the both ends of 15 or 16-0 soccer matches and the wrong end of 130-25 basketball games. Ideally, ADs shouldn't be scheduling these matches, but mistakes (and regional/district tournaments) happen.

On both sides, I believe that the winning team should lay off a bit in the spirit of sportmanship.

I've also been on the winning side of 9-0, 10-0 soccer matches as a coach, and, you know what, I've told my team to lay off and work on specific fundamentals and passing.

There are definitely good and bad ways to lay off an opponen

The good ways: have your goalie roll the ball to an outside defender, build your attack slowly from the back, occasionally intentionally turn the ball over in midfield, occasional intentionally knock the ball out of bounds. I have done all those things as a player.

A bad way to lay off a crushed opponent: dribble past the goalie, stop the ball on the goal line and do a little dance while yelling "coach says I can't score anymore!" Yes, that would be more cruel than simply scoring another 5 goals.

However, I can't fathom the mindset that a sporting team should never lay off an opponent because it's "elite competition." Sportsmanship should apply at all levels, and that includes treating your opponent with respect.

Running up the score is not respectful. It's cheap, and if you've ever really seen it happen live and in person, it's shameful.

Shaming, infantilizing shit like that was among the final nails in the coffin of any remnant interest I had in sport.

So you didn't really like athletics much in the first place. That figures.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:58 PM on February 18, 2010


Softball is baseball with the rough parts deliberately removed. Same thing with field hockey and women's rugby. Women's basketball plays with a smaller ball and various different rules.

These aren't all analogous. It's not like someone sat down in 1950, gathered up all sports rulebooks, redlined the violent stuff, then wrote "For Chicks" on all the covers. Sports evolve over time, and the differences between the men's and women's version of sports have evolved over the last century. Women's basketball rules have actually grown more similar to men's basketball rules over the years. And any new rule changes in the men's game are likely to be adopted in the women's game.

Softball (as-separate-from-baseball) developed for a long time before women's softball broke off and went in its own direction, and I'd bet it's less likely to adopt rule changes from baseball.

Ice hockey (and lacrosse for that matter) do suffer from the "limit violence" alterations made for the women's game. If we're lucky, they'll become more like basketball (or soccer) in the future, and less like baseball/softball. I don't think women's ice hockey has been on a big stage long enough for us to tell if it will continue diverging from the men's game.
posted by aswego at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is stupid. Clearly there is sufficient interest if several countries can put together teams. What they are concerned about is the lopsidedness of the skill level, which makes for a boring and predictable tournament, less spectator interest and thus less money. If it were all about 'We are the world' and the Kumbaya Olympic Spirit, they'd just institute a mercy rule like they have in Little League.
posted by emeiji at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mind you, the pitcher isn't on a mound, the ball is about twice as big, and the walls are shorter, but hitting in fast pitch is still pretty damn difficult.

It is difficult. Exceedingly so. That's the problem.

This is actually a point in favor of my argument. Women have great athletic prowess. In fact, they're so good, they've shown how unbalanced softball really is. It's like putting a really huge engine in a tiny car. Sure, you can go fast, but...

I think we're at the point where we don't need to protect anyone by enforcing a different standard of rules. Let 'em play. Don't lock them away in a completely different sport that's easily dismissed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:02 PM on February 18, 2010


Remember that what made the 1980 Miracle on Ice so remarkable was that the Soviet team wasn't actually a group of Red Army grunts who just happened to enjoy chasing pucks on their evenings and weekends off.

You mean Vladislav Tretiak didn't just sneak in practice between marching drills?

I suspect delmoi is referring to Lindsey Van.

I have no doubt that is true. What delmoi didn't mention is that women start the jump higher up the hill. So saying that women are better than men at ski jump is like saying that women are better than men at the 100m sprint. So long as they start at the 20 meter mark.
posted by Justinian at 3:02 PM on February 18, 2010


Really? They're throwing softballs 90mph over a distance that's just 75% of the distance between the rubber and plate in baseball.

Not only that, but the third baseman has to stand about 5 feet from the batter because of bunts.

And unlike the "rising" fastball of baseball, softballs actually do rise... as well as slide, sink, and curve.

Yeah, hitting a fast-pitch softball is pretty hard. Just ask anyone who tried to hit Eddie Feigner. He averaged 19 strikeouts per 21 batters.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:03 PM on February 18, 2010


Really? They're throwing softballs 90mph over a distance that's just 75% of the distance between the rubber and plate in baseball.

Are you just making up numbers? Try 60-65mph (the very fastest top out about 70) from 67% of the distance.
posted by aswego at 3:09 PM on February 18, 2010


And yet, the IOC won't allow women's ski jumping. [10m video overview]

Well, that's because ski jumping seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view, silly.
posted by homunculus at 3:09 PM on February 18, 2010


So, no women's hockey because there is too much international disparity. No women's ski jumping because their uterus might fall out.

What's next? No women's snowboarding because they might smoke weed and have sex with cute skater boys after a day on the half-pipe?

It can take /decades/ for disparity in some sport to even out, and the fact is that the Olympics are rarely /fair/ anyway. Many rich countries have the tech and resources to throw at an events that nearly ensures a medal.

Not to mention that many winter events have had a gender disparity for many years, even in the US and Canada. Folks, I remember when women's hockey was still a joke even in Canada, and many sports writers were aghast that we would allow women to compete at the international level. Hell, a Canadian newspaper published an article only last year that suggested women shouldn't even be colour commentators for an NHL game on the basis of one last-minute replacement by the CBC.

If Slovakia keeps coming out because Slovakian women want to keep coming out, why the hell not? Is it a challenge for Canada to keep sharp so they can compete against the US? Of course, but this is part of the challenge of being a "group A" team.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:10 PM on February 18, 2010


It's not like someone sat down in 1950, gathered up all sports rulebooks, redlined the violent stuff, then wrote "For Chicks" on all the covers.

You'd be surprised.

Softball was developed so men could play indoors. Because it wasn't as threatening (soft ball, underhand pitches, non-tapering bats, no stolen bases), and could be played indoors out of the weather, it was viewed as a fine game for girls. Hell, the damn thing was called "mush ball" for decades.

This pattern was repeated over and over again. Sports get de-tuned for alternate version of play for men, women get shuttled to de-tuned version. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Or, how about women's lacrosse? Specifically adopted with a set of alternative, less violent rules at a girls school in Scotland in 1890, after the headmistress traveled to Canada and viewed a men's game. It wasn't until after this version of the game caught on in the UK did it cross back over the pond to the U.S.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:11 PM on February 18, 2010


Am I the only one who wants them to take body checks out of the men's game?


No. My kids both play hockey, but neither of them want to continue past the point where body checks are allowed (which is next year for my oldest). So the whole sport basically closes down for them after that.

I enjoy watching NHL hockey as much as the next person but it sure was nice to watch the olympic hockey... no fights, hardly any penalties, and the game was about ten times faster.

My kids hate watching the fighting. "Dumb" is the word they use, and they're right.
posted by unSane at 3:11 PM on February 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, all the links show people playing on a sheet of ice.

Oh, and there I was thinking "boy, do those people have a problem with their dew freezing over - if they insist on playing in winter, they could at least use an indoor astroturf field..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:12 PM on February 18, 2010


My kids hate watching the fighting. "Dumb" is the word they use, and they're right.

I'd be perfectly fine with fights being virtually eliminated. Most of them are completely staged. By the players, I mean. But that's got nothing to do with body checks. Taking body checks out of hockey would change the entire dynamic of the game in an unfortunate way. There is a place in the game for both agility and strength.
posted by Justinian at 3:21 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You'd be surprised.

Well, I wouldn't. Because my point was that women's sports evolve in different ways, and you just listed two different ways that two different women's sports evolved. The pattern you speak of got "repeated" at many different times, by many different people, leading to many different results. So it wasn't much of a pattern. Also, I mentioned lacrosse.
posted by aswego at 3:21 PM on February 18, 2010


Tell me why you think the fight for Title IX was a fight for softball instead of baseball. Tell me why we don't see any push for equality, not just of opportunity, but of result. Tell me why it's ended up as a crazy version of "separate but equal?"

Because men and women are actually physically different. I mean, no one wonders why there isn't a male version of the balance beam or uneven parallel bars.
posted by three blind mice at 3:22 PM on February 18, 2010


I watched the Canada/Slovakia match when it aired. From where I was sitting, Team Canada wasn't out there aggressively beating down Slovakia as much as just playing good fundamentals hockey. And Slovakia? Well, IMO, they looked terrible. Believe me, Canada could have scored a lot more goals against a team that really looked pretty inept.

In that sense, I thought Team Canada was pretty classy about it. They didn't go for the jugular. They just continued to play good hockey. As others have pointed out, it's tough to find the line between humiliation through dominance and humiliation through placating. It would have been better all-around if there was a way to just concede the match after the first period, where the score was 7-0. There was no question that Slovakia was outmatched, and as such no reason to play any further.
posted by Brak at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2010


Because men and women are actually physically different.

eh wot. He's talking about baseball. What, exactly, about the physical differences between men and women lends itself to softball?

Softball is ridiculous to the point of being unwatchable. Because of the distance from the mound pitcher to the plate, I mean, not because of skill levels or anything. An excellent softball pitcher dominates the game in an absurd fashion.
posted by Justinian at 3:26 PM on February 18, 2010


The good ways: have your goalie roll the ball to an outside defender, build your attack slowly from the back, occasionally intentionally turn the ball over in midfield, occasional intentionally knock the ball out of bounds. I have done all those things as a player.

This is sportsmanship maybe when the people playing are kids, but as an adult it's just insulting. If you're on the losing side of a blowout, you set yourself diminishing goals like "we're going to not get scored on for the next 10/5/2 minutes" if the other side starts intentionally turning the puck/ball over then that demeans any remaining accomplishments you might have made. If your opponent is playing all out and you do manage to hold them off for 5 minutes, you can say to yourself "if we had played the whole game like that 5 minutes we could have gotten a draw/into overtime" If the opponent lets up, they deprive you of even that.
posted by juv3nal at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


However, I can't fathom the mindset that a sporting team should never lay off an opponent because it's "elite competition." Sportsmanship should apply at all levels, and that includes treating your opponent with respect.

Running up the score is not respectful. It's cheap, and if you've ever really seen it happen live and in person, it's shameful.


I'm relatively new to hockey, both as a player and a fan, so maybe I just don't understand the concept of sportsmanship? I know that I prefer to have good players play against me as if I were a player as good as they are, even if it means that the score is 18-0. At least I'd be able to walk away knowing how much I'd need to improve to really beat them. Which is what I think the Canadian did for the Slovakians. They didn't gloat (unless their goal celebrations were over the top? I didn't get to see all of them) or bully the Slovakians--they simply did their jobs and showed the Slovakians what one of the best teams in women's hockey can do if they refuse to let up.

And, for what it's worth, it seems like the Slovakian coach took the thumping in that spirit as well: "We joined this big hockey family to learn," Slovakia coach Miroslav Karafiat said. "The ideal for us would be to play games like this ... about 20 times (a year)."
posted by millions of peaches at 3:40 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, no one wonders why there isn't a male version of the balance beam or uneven parallel bars.

I was wondering exactly this during the Beijing Olympics, actually. Well, not so much the beam, as some of the moves the women do on that would be distinctly painful for men, but I don't recall any similar moves on the asymmetric bars. For that matter, why can't women do the high bar or parallel bars?
posted by ZsigE at 3:45 PM on February 18, 2010


Why are there girls gymmastics teams in American high schools, but not girls football teams? And no boys gymnastics teams, for that matter?

I guarantee you you'd see rapid parity achieved if there was money to be made. The problem is, there isn't. Men spend more to see certain sporting events than others, women as well. It's simple preference. Schools make more money with separate-and-unequal programs. And since resources are ever-dwindling for American public high schools, better they spend their money on a greater chance of R.O.I.

I think the argument from a Millsian greater good angle would be that it's better overall for everyone if the school is able to sustain itself in hard economic times than be forced to cut even more programs that will indirectly hurt far more people in the long run.

I think the big argument to counter is that, for the most part, even the best schools (the biggest, anyway) are just barely breaking-even. All the recruiting, training, hiring, etc. ain't cheap. You have to be in a huge market to start seeing big returns. Woman's basketball is a good example of this; does great in the big cities and crap in God's Land (roughly defined as the big, squishy middle of the country).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:46 PM on February 18, 2010


Am I the only one who wants them to take body checks out of the men's game?

Of course not. Hockey is a fun game, but hockey as it is currently played is a celebration of violence that puts players, including quite young players, at a significant risk of serious injury. Concussions are of particular concern as repeated concussions can have serious neurological consequences.

Isn't it sexist to assume that the women's game is somehow lesser than the men's because it is less violent? Shouldn't we be decrying the unequal treatment of men that leads to serious injury for them?
posted by ssg at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2010


Oh, please. Is this really a controversy in the case of hockey (we're talking Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland here, not exactly foreigners to hockey)? This isn't about international competitiveness in sumo. These countries absolutely have what it takes to develop women's hockey programs. Everything but time, if you take that away.

And count me in for the no-fights but definitely checking, please. It's a real issue in youth hockey according to the medical evidence but adult women? Come on.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:59 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


When blowout scores happen my son's hockey league (12 year olds), some of the classier coaches will swap their best forwards with defencemen late in the game and still encourage strong play. Nobody wants the other team to "take it easy on them". It's more insulting than the score.
posted by rocket88 at 4:08 PM on February 18, 2010


Yeah, I would have thought that a huge run-up would permit testing out other lines. Having only seen the Slovakia game, I'm not sure that wasn't done. There would be no shame in that for anybody.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:10 PM on February 18, 2010


(we were desperate, incidentally, for Slovakia to score a goal.)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:12 PM on February 18, 2010


The good ways: have your goalie roll the ball to an outside defender, build your attack slowly from the back, occasionally intentionally turn the ball over in midfield, occasional intentionally knock the ball out of bounds. I have done all those things as a player.

This is sportsmanship maybe when the people playing are kids, but as an adult it's just insulting.


I don't know, I'm more with mrgrimm there - maybe not the specific methods, but the main point at least. I play on an intramural ice hockey team (I'm a grad student), and even though we're way down in the D league, we're still pretty outclassed by the other teams we play. Once our...lack of experience becomes evident in a game, my team gets treated in different ways. Most teams don't let up on us, and we get blown out. That's okay. But one team handled the situation slightly differently; they put their subs and less experienced players in, and kept their better players back on defense. (On preview, kind of like what rocket88 described.) And when one of those better players did get the puck, they just passed it up to one of their teammates and stayed back. No intentional errors or anything, though. Anyway, we're all adults, and we could obviously see they weren't putting their best players forward on us. Did it sting? Sure, a little, but so does getting pounded 12-0, regardless of the "respect" you're getting from the team doing it. Even with our opponents holding back, we still didn't have a hope of winning, but we did have just enough wiggle room to work on things we don't usually get to do in a game situation, and we played the better for it in our next games.

Of course, we're just an IM league, where the point is pretty much to have fun. It's a different story when you get up to Olympic level. And yeah, in this case, I think it's a matter of time. The idea of serious female participation in sports is still relatively young everywhere. At the moment, Canada and the U.S. are far ahead of everyone else in women's hockey, but other countries should make up the gap eventually. And high-level international competition like the Olympics is the best driver for that.
posted by sigmagalator at 4:29 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as I can see, the most outrage should be directed at the rules of Beach Volleyball.
posted by Chuckles at 4:33 PM on February 18, 2010


"And what problem would delisting women's hockey solve? Only by keeping it in the Olympics can we hope to grow the sport in non-traditional countries."

The same argument in the linked article:
"Give us some time,'' U.S. Angela Ruggiero pleaded the other day, after her team's shellacking of the Chinese. "You can't expect a whole nation to adopt a sport overnight and have thousands of girls start playing. They're going to see these girls play in the Olympics, regardless of the score, and say, `Hey, maybe that's a sport I want to try.'''

Not very likely. Girls who watch their national hockey team lose 18-0 will certainly _not_ take up hockey. If anything they will choose other sports. The same goes for sponsors, media interest etc.

To grow a sport, it takes not just a small group of more experienced players, but also media interest, fan interest, money... Who will invest time, money - and hope - in teams who play unpopular sports (263 registered female hockey players in Slovakia) and lose games 18-0?

"If you don't want to be embarrassed, don't come to the olympics to compete against the world's best."

Exactly. Maybe just two or three teams should participate in Olympic women's hockey. Everybody else should not bother.
posted by iviken at 4:54 PM on February 18, 2010


Yeah, while I do love watching fit, beautiful women display their hard-earned bodies, I really think their uniform rules are ludicrously over-the-top, (ba-dum-dum). I mean, it's not like you really have to worry about them switching to baggie jeans and overcoats.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:55 PM on February 18, 2010


"
And yet, the IOC won't allow women's ski jumping. [10m video overview]
"What's interesting about that is that it's a sport where apparently women are better then men. Why not make it co-ed?"


Women and men aren't playing on the same field. The women start farther up the ramp and are therefor moving faster when they jump.

PS: anyone know the reasoning behind that? Is it some kind of misguided attempt at equalizing the two or maybe to reduce the length of the landing area?

"Well, that's because ski jumping seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view, silly."

While that was a stupid and ignorant thing to say, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear there are misogynistic IOC members, the fact is Women's ski jump didn't meet the requirement re: world championships, number of participants and number of events when it come time to schedule 2010.
posted by Mitheral at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2010


I really think their uniform rules are ludicrously over-the-top

I'm guessing that was in response to the comment about beach volleyball.

While I agree that those rules are ridiculous (they'd presumably be more comfy in shorts & tank tops, for example), it's interesting to note that sports like women's basketball & netball have deliberately moved towards more "feminine" uniforms (for want of a better word - think lycra one-piece suits, with or without little skirts) specifically to make sport more appealing to young women.

The thinking was that teenage girls drop out of sport at a huge rate, and that increasing the glamour & sexiness at the upper levels helps to remove an alleged stigma about women's sport being often frumpy & butch.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:25 PM on February 18, 2010


Guys, I really don't think these women are professionals, at least in the sense that they play hockey for a living. Most of the profiles I've seen for the Canadian women show them to be moms and wives with regular jobs who take time out of their busy schedules to train for the Olympics and other international tournaments.

Aaaaactually, a quick look at Team Canada's Women's Hockey roster shows that all of the players are either members of the WWHL/CWHL (Western Womens/Canadian Womens Hockey Leagues) or play on a university team.

I'm not sure what the WWHL/CWHL teams pay players, but be sure that while they may have families, these are women who eat, live and breathe hockey. Try not to condescend and call them just busy housewives with a hobby. These are the BEST players from a country that has over 85,000 registered female hockey players. Slovakia for example has less than THREE HUNDRED. Of course the scales are going to be mismatched.

While it's not uncommon for Canadian women my age (mid 20's) to have known at least a dozen or so female friends who played hockey while growing up, women from these other countries are the pioneers and heroes that this current generation of girls growing up will see and be inspired by. Give it time.
posted by darlingmagpie at 5:39 PM on February 18, 2010


Rene Fasel, president of the IIHF: “I just remember sometime in the 1930s, Canada, with just an ordinary [club] hockey team, played Switzerland and it was 22-0,” Fasel said Thursday, prior to the Canada-Switzerland men's game. "And on this day, four years ago, we beat Canada with the best team they could provide, 2-0. Around 70 years it took to have Swiss men's hockey on the level of the Canadians. The women will come, don't worry. But it will take time.”
posted by emeiji at 5:43 PM on February 18, 2010


>Or, how about women's lacrosse? Specifically adopted with a set of alternative, less violent rules at a girls school in Scotland in 1890, after the headmistress traveled to Canada and viewed a men's game.

Yeahhhhh, but... there are rule tweaks, sure, and it plays differently as a result. But just because something is less violent doesn't mean it's inferior. E.g., it's easier to dislodge the ball in the women's game, which is arguably an improvement.

Vaguely related: what is with the "international" rules and field dimensions of North American sports being so different? Eurocentrism?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:51 PM on February 18, 2010


I was there at the 18-0 game. Did any of you actually watch the game? This was not a disrespectful rout, it was just a lopsided victory.

Every time the Slovakia team managed to cross the blue line, they left 2-3 skaters back on defence and never even tried to mount a full scale offense. A few times the Canadians did get into formation and start doing passing drills properly in the Slovakian zone, but even then there were open women on the ice and nice shots from the point. There was really nothing team Canada could do here.

The crowd was respectful too. There was a huge hand for the Slovakian team as they went off the ice, cheers for nice saves, etc. They interviewed the few Slovakian fans at intermission. They were happy, upbeat, moaned about the score and invited us all to go out to their house and drink beer afterwards. Crowd was certainly excited for the Canadian team, big cheers for every goal the entire game, but there was definitely respect for the opponents.

As a spectator I was happy to see team Canada play out the whole game and keep the fans on home ice entertained. It was a great game to see and I was happy to be there. It was my three year old daughter's first hockey game and it's great to get kids like her excited about hockey. Play on, ladies.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:13 PM on February 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


I always find the "running up the score" arguement here faintly baffling. The concept just doesn't exist here (in Australia). Sure in a lower grade club game it's possible that a side with a big lead might swap some players around or something, but it wouldn't be common, and it would be all but unheard off in top level competition. Perhaps because "goal difference" (or an equivalent) is used as a tie-breaker for which teams make play-offs and the like.

I was stunned when I heard about the Patriots (I think it was) being criticized for beating teams by too much in the NFL a few years back.
posted by markr at 6:15 PM on February 18, 2010


it's interesting to note that sports like women's basketball & netball have deliberately moved towards more "feminine" uniforms
I'd never heard of netball before this thread, but I'd like to see that in the Olympics.

Which to me is the point. I don't watch the Olympics to see things I can watch all year long (Men's hockey, baseball, etc.). I watch it to see people I've never heard of playing their heart out at sports I've never seen.
Good on Slovakia for sticking with it for the entire game. We need more of that and whole lot less Apolo Ohno.
posted by madajb at 6:53 PM on February 18, 2010


I admit that, by far, my favorite Olympic sports are hockey... and curling. Curling is awesome. Okay, it ain't exactly the most physically demanding of sports but it looks like a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by Justinian at 7:06 PM on February 18, 2010


Curling is awesome.

I'd say "oddly compelling," but same idea. I'm never going to tune in to watch it, but if I catch a couple minutes of it, I'm stuck.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's worth pointing out that even now, there are still quite a number of national men's hockey teams in the olympics that aren't competitive at this level.

Or maybe that's not worth pointing out, I'm not sure.
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:34 PM on February 18, 2010


Not quite relevant but I have to point out that Sidney Crosby quite possibly just saved Team Canada from a humiliating failure to advance out of their group by scoring a shootout goal after the game was tied 2-2 post overtime vs Switzerland. Hah hah, Canada!

If Switzerland had won, even in the shootout, Canada could have gone home real early.
posted by Justinian at 7:39 PM on February 18, 2010


Not very likely. Girls who watch their national hockey team lose 18-0 will certainly _not_ take up hockey.

Girls who watch their national hockey team lose 18-0 will go, "Wait, I can play hockey?"

One of the things that shocked me when I was living in the UK (late 90s) was how girls there accepted that football was not only a boy's sport but was most definitely NOT a girl's sport, to the point that most women I talked to could name probably as many UK football clubs as an average American. I could imagine girls in central/eastern Europe feeling the same way about hockey.

To grow a sport, it takes not just a small group of more experienced players, but also media interest, fan interest, money... Who will invest time, money - and hope - in teams who play unpopular sports (263 registered female hockey players in Slovakia) and lose games 18-0?

30 years ago a figure skater named Xu Zhaoxiao showed up in Lake Placid. He was 1/2 of the Chinese figure skating team, coming from a country that was just starting to return to the light after a generation of political darkness.

He sucked. How bad? The margin between him and the 15th place finisher was roughly the margin between gold medalist Robin Cousins and the 15th place finisher.

The Chinese were just about laughed off the ice. People were questioning why they were even bothering to field a team of two skaters when they were so terrible, so unpolished. Within the Communist Party there was debate over whether the resources they were putting into skating would be better spent on other sports.

But Xu kept trying. And over time, new Chinese skaters emerged. Xu coached some of them. They watched the Russians and the Americans and they learned.

14 years after Lake Placid, Chen Lu won the first Chinese figure skating medal at Lillehammer.

22 years after Lake Placid, Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the first of their three pairs medals in Salt Lake City.

30 years after Lake Placid, China won the gold and silver in pairs skating.

And while the singles skaters haven't been as successful as the pairs skaters, they're consistently among the top 10 in the world.

It took a generation, but the Chinese figure skating program is an international power. In another generation, maybe Slovakia will be in the same position.

Don't laugh at where a team is now, because their kids could be whipping your kids' butts some day soon.
posted by dw at 7:43 PM on February 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


If Switzerland had won, even in the shootout, Canada could have gone home real early.

Canada is home. But at least I'd get some peace and quiet. Bloody "Irish House"
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:48 PM on February 18, 2010


Also, a good friend of mine has been playing amateur women's hockey since at least junior high, and ringette before that. By all indications, even without checking, it can get as rough as any other sport with the "incidental contact" (winkwinkNUDGEFREAKINGNUDGE), and yes, fighting too. Hockey's no cakewalk even without body checks and fights. You're flying around a small, fenced-in rink with 11 other people at high speed with blades on your feet and sticks in hand.
posted by Kirk Grim at 8:06 PM on February 18, 2010


The IOC is starting to show a dark underbelly which either is new, or is something which I had never noticed before the past 2-3 Olympic cycles.

Ha ha ha.

Most international bodies of that order are corrupt, but the IOC sets the bar, and always have. Bribery is not just part of the process of selecting a site, it pretty much *is* the process.

The idea of the Olympics being devoted to "amateurism" is incredibly laughable. The Olympics are dedicated to make sure everyone makes huge piles of money- everyone except the athletes.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:11 PM on February 18, 2010


If Switzerland had won, even in the shootout, Canada could have gone home real early.

That isn't true at all. Let me preface this by saying that I'm a Team USA fan, but Canada is going to destroy the US if both teams play like they did today. If Switzerland won in OT/SO a Canada win on Sunday would give them an automatic berth in the quarters. The US team has not looked good at all so far, if they give up as many odd man rushes as they did today against a team with finishers they're toast.
posted by crashlanding at 8:46 PM on February 18, 2010


Also, most of the women's games that haven't involved the US or Canada have been great. The Switzerland-Slovakia game last night was extremely exciting.
posted by crashlanding at 8:47 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does Shaun White do only his second-tier stunts on the halfpipe so as not to seal up the gold before the second round of competition? No, because it would be an insult to the sport, the event and the efforts of his fellow competitors to refuse to go all out at the sport's absolute pinnacle contest.

Shaun White manages to be an insult to his sport, his event and the efforts of his fellow competitors just by being the smug, egotistical knob that he is. Talented young man but what an annoying presence ...
posted by philip-random at 8:53 PM on February 18, 2010


Shaun White manages to be an insult to his sport, his event and the efforts of his fellow competitors just by being the smug, egotistical knob that he is.

I watched 2 events with Shaun White and got no such impression
posted by Kirk Grim at 8:59 PM on February 18, 2010


When blowout scores happen my son's hockey league (12 year olds), some of the classier coaches will swap their best forwards with defencemen late in the game and still encourage strong play. Nobody wants the other team to "take it easy on them". It's more insulting than the score.

I played pretty serious rep-hockey from age 10-14, a few times on pretty strong teams. As I remember it, when we were up against a strong opponent, our coach gave them our best (maximum ice time for the top players etc) ... but when things got out of hand, say a five goal margin, he'd just relax things, give everybody equal ice time, play the back-up goalie, etc. We'd still win easily; we just wouldn't humiliate the opposition.

As for the blow-outs in women's hockey, the problem is (as stated) that, at some point, total goals can factor in as a tie breaker. Maybe what needs to be done is what they did recently in a tournament my nephew was playing in (11 + 12 year olds). The tiebreaker wasn't total goals or plus-minus. It was whichever team had the fewest penalty minutes.
posted by philip-random at 9:05 PM on February 18, 2010



I grew up in Minnesota and Hockey was my life 6 months out of the year. I used to pray for the first freeze and weep for warm temps. It wasn't just me - my sister played as well - in the same league, and it was co-ed until Bantam level anyway.

I'm a fan of women's college hockey, and try to catch the Lady Badgers whenever I can score tickets. (and it irks me that local stations won't carry the games)

That being said, women's hockey and men's hockey are different beasts. The women's hockey features more and better stickwork and passing, while men's hockey features bigger hits and faster shots. At least in my estimation. I prefer watching the womens games because they seem on the whole more skill based and closer. It's more fun, I think, but the differences exist.

Allowing men and women to compete together would be interesting, and I would like to see it tried. But of men and women of the same stature, men tend towards being more powerful and massive, and those things can matter a great deal in a sport like hockey. It might not turn out as I expect. But from what I can see, there is no reason women's hockey should not exist, particularly as an Olympic event.

Whoever said otherwise is a douche-fag and I hope his nuts shrivel up and fall off.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:46 PM on February 18, 2010


Shaun White manages to be an insult to his sport, his event and the efforts of his fellow competitors just by being the smug, egotistical knob that he is.

That's the wrongest thing I've read on Metafilter in months. I burn no particular candle for SW but the other night he made the other competitors look like freakin' amateurs, and in every interview I've ever seen with the guy he came across as an enthusiastic doofus, who's also known for hanging around for hours after events signing autographs.

Half-pipe was stagnating until SW came along and kicked its ass. He continues to kick its ass.
posted by unSane at 9:48 PM on February 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yep, another vote for enthusiastic (and insanely talented) doofus.

Gotta say though I love Kazuhiro Kokubo's style.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:15 PM on February 18, 2010


Does Shaun White do only his second-tier stunts on the halfpipe so as not to seal up the gold before the second round of competition? No, because it would be an insult to the sport, the event and the efforts of his fellow competitors to refuse to go all out at the sport's absolute pinnacle contest.

I thought he did *exactly* that.

He did his excellent-but-safer set of stunts, saw that he had the highest score & was guaranteed to win gold, and then voluntarily did a redundant second round, with the trickier stunts that he wasn't game to experiment with the first time around.

In other words, he *didn't* go all out. He kept the trickier stuff up his sleeve, in case he needed it. As it turned out, even his second-tier stunts were good enough to win gold.

And he seems like a nice young bloke, as far as I've seen in interviews. "Enthusiastic doofus" is a good description.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:18 PM on February 18, 2010


Allowing men and women to compete together would be interesting, and I would like to see it tried.

Um.

I don't know how to say what I'm trying to say here without sounding like a jerk, so I'll just go with one fact. The USA women's hockey team, the best (along with Canada) in the world by a long stretch, prepares for competition by practicing against male high school teams. And sometimes they lose.

Most people don't realize the gulf is that wide.
posted by Justinian at 10:38 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought he did *exactly* that.

Why? Because he held back the Double McTwist? The trick that he'd never attempted in competition and also almost took his face off the last time he tried it publicly?

He had two runs to do. Sure, he could have left it all out there in the first run... but it's possible he would have walked away with nothing. And you just don't know what your competitor is going to do with their two runs, either. Keeping something held back if there's a chance you still might need it makes perfect sense in a sport where your runs aren't cumulative but judged on best effort.

But that's the thing. White has transcendent athletic talent, on the level of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, where on an off day he's still more than likely going to beat you. White is also a transformative talent, along the lines of Dick Button and Johnny Unitas, people who literally changed their sports and how they were to be played.

He's so damn good that he can score a 46.8 -- tied for the highest run score in Olympics history (with himself in 2006) -- and still be accused of "holding back." I think the other 11 guys out there would love to be able to nail a 46.8 run in a major event final just once in their life.
posted by dw at 12:53 AM on February 19, 2010


Girls who watch their national hockey team lose 18-0 will certainly _not_ take up hockey.

I don't know. It could go the other way. If a young woman were really good at hockey and saw that her team sucked, she might think she actually had a shot at making the national team and improving it, maybe even becoming something of a national star if not an international star.
posted by pracowity at 2:37 AM on February 19, 2010


delmoi: What's interesting about that is that it's a sport where apparently women are better then men. Why not make it co-ed?

That's not true. Here's what Lindsey Van says about it:
Ski jumping shouldn't have that. Body types are different; everything is different. We do not want to compete with the men. We want something different. Take men's and women's downhill, for example. If they were combined, the men would kill the women. It would be no competition. In ski jumping, it's the same thing. We don't want to be compared with the guys. We want a separate division.
posted by pracowity at 2:57 AM on February 19, 2010


Not quite relevant but I have to point out that Sidney Crosby quite possibly just saved Team Canada from a humiliating failure to advance out of their group by scoring a shootout goal after the game was tied 2-2 post overtime vs Switzerland. Hah hah, Canada!

If Switzerland had won, even in the shootout, Canada could have gone home real early.


Incorrect. All twelve teams (three groups of four) "advance" to the next round. The preliminary round just sets up the seeding/byes. And it gives a chance for more teams to play more games, and more opportunity to watch hockey.
posted by aswego at 4:53 AM on February 19, 2010


What I don't understand, and I've said this in the past, is why women continue to accept de-tuned, de-violenced versions of sports.

Softball is baseball with the rough parts deliberately removed. Same thing with field hockey and women's rugby.


I may be a bit confused here, but are you arguing that field hockey is a women's version of ice hockey? Because it certainly isn't seen that way where I am (or in places like India, Pakistan, Australia, Holland, which have decent men's teams).

As far as I know women's rugby has the same rules as men's rugby, though I welcome correction on that one.

Softball is a strange one. Women's softball was basically in the Olympics, as I understand it, because baseball couldn't get into the Olympics as a male-only sport - it needed a women's equivalent. But men play softball too. So male softballers couldn't go to the Olympics, but female ones could. (Admittedly this probably only matters to me because New Zealand would have won lots of gold medals...)
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:34 AM on February 19, 2010


There's a Lindsey Van and a Lindsey Vonn? That's unlucky for the non-gold-medalist.
posted by smackfu at 6:21 AM on February 19, 2010


I think that the women's teams that are getting clobbered are probably glad to just get to play someone who is at the highest level like Canada or the US women. Why not test yourself against the best, even if you have no chance.

I remember a game with the original US Dream Team and I believe a team from South America. Jordan stole the ball and drove the length of the court. As he crossed the free throw line and went airborne for the slam, the entire bench of the opposing team stood and cheered. They got to see the best player in the world make his signature move.

I read that the Slovak goalie stopped an incredible number of shots and I am sure, that despite the score, she went to bed pleased that she did her best against the team that will probably win the goal medal.
posted by Ber at 6:37 AM on February 19, 2010



I don't know how to say what I'm trying to say here without sounding like a jerk, so I'll just go with one fact. The USA women's hockey team, the best (along with Canada) in the world by a long stretch, prepares for competition by practicing against male high school teams. And sometimes they lose.


I meant men and women on the same team. But yeah, I hear ya.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:58 AM on February 19, 2010


If that's the kind of difference in ability, I'm not sure that would lead any place productive. It would be like team athletic competitions where there are a required minimum number of women, on the team and on the field, which does nothing but highlight the negative aspect of women participating. Not positive.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:16 AM on February 19, 2010


I read that the Slovak goalie stopped an incredible number of shots and I am sure, that despite the score, she went to bed pleased that she did her best against the team that will probably win the goal medal.

The Slovak goalie was fantastic but overwhelmed. And I can't help thinking, under the circumstances -- this logic applies to the Slovaks as well in this lop-sided a game -- why they didn't put their relief goalie in, who got no practice and wouldn't have affected the outcome (and is probably sitting there thinking "if I only got a chance to show my stuff..." in the face of 18 goals).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:18 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The men's game against the Swiss last night was fantastic. Canada dominated in terms of shots on goal, but the Swiss goalie completely shut them out for the last half of the game, making the team look much stronger than it was (although the Swiss are by no means a poor team). Crosby finally nailed it in the second shoot-out, but it was exactly the kind of game that you hope for in the Olympics.
posted by unSane at 7:22 AM on February 19, 2010


Women's hockey is great to watch. They bring a different dynamic to the game - more finesse, less street brawl. I hope it stays in.

I would like to see my country (Canada) get off of its ass and create a world centre for the development of women's hockey, that provides training and experience for women players from around the world.

Male players from all over the world come to Canada and the US to play in the NHL system, including their farm clubs. Maybe a women's league, not necessarily professional, could be run in Canada (and northern US if they're interested) to provide the playing opportunities for the world's top female players.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:26 AM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would so love for the Slovakian women's hockey team to kick the collective asses of the American Men's Summer Olympics Basketball team in a friendly competition of Hungry Hungry Hippos.
posted by mazola at 8:44 AM on February 19, 2010


The men's game against the Swiss last night was fantastic.

Definitely.

Can someone help me out? I'm used to the olympics ice surfaces looking noticeably bigger than I'm used to, but it doesn't seem that way here. Are they using NHL standard size ice or am I just used to it? Because it looks NHL sized to me.
posted by Justinian at 10:18 AM on February 19, 2010


Can someone help me out? I'm used to the olympics ice surfaces looking noticeably bigger than I'm used to, but it doesn't seem that way here. Are they using NHL standard size ice or am I just used to it? Because it looks NHL sized to me.

Yes, they are using North American-sized rinks instead of IIHF ones. Vancouver already had an NHL rink that seated more spectators than any IIHF rink, so it would have been silly (and costly) to build a new one. They also have a local university's rink that doesn't hold as many people, but it is only being used for some of the women's games (which don't draw as many fans).
posted by aswego at 10:33 AM on February 19, 2010


Yup, they're playing on NHL-sized arenas at GM Canada Hockey Place and at the UBC rink (wiki). Some excuses about saving construction costs in retrofitting the Canucks' building plus being able to squeeze more people into the barn.

(On preview: beaten by aswego.)

I also miss the big ice surface, and wish the NHL had adopted it years ago. Calgary's Saddledome was opened in '83, but built with the '88 WInter Olympics in mind, so they were able to easily convert from NHL to international rink size and back again. In the last 20 years, almost every NHL team has moved into a new rink; why couldn't these have been built with at least the capacity to expand the ice surface? A little extra piping under the floor surface wouldn't have cost that much more during construction. A number of older buildings still in use (Madison Square Garden, Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum Skyreach Centre Rexall Place) have also undergone extensive renovations during the same time period, so could conceivably been retrofitted for the big sheet.
posted by hangashore at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2010


That being said, women's hockey and men's hockey are different beasts. The women's hockey features more and better stickwork and passing, while men's hockey features bigger hits and faster shots. At least in my estimation. I prefer watching the womens games because they seem on the whole more skill based and closer. It's more fun, I think, but the differences exist.

Pogo,

With all due respect have you seen the Capitals play this season at all? Alexander Semin and Nikolas Backstrom in particular (both Olympians btw, Russia and Sweden respectively) are absolutely sublime passers and stick handlers and are in a completely different class then any woman on the planet. They also have some other guy who has some skill with the puck.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:25 AM on February 19, 2010


I tend to agree with BobbyDigital. The more physical play in men's hockey is in addition to wonderful stickwork and passing, not instead of it. That's why I prefer it, it's a more complete game.
posted by Justinian at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2010


I also miss the big ice surface, and wish the NHL had adopted it years ago. Calgary's Saddledome was opened in '83, but built with the '88 WInter Olympics in mind, so they were able to easily convert from NHL to international rink size and back again. In the last 20 years, almost every NHL team has moved into a new rink; why couldn't these have been built with at least the capacity to expand the ice surface? A little extra piping under the floor surface wouldn't have cost that much more during construction. A number of older buildings still in use (Madison Square Garden, Edmonton's Northlands Coliseum Skyreach Centre Rexall Place) have also undergone extensive renovations during the same time period, so could conceivably been retrofitted for the big sheet.

The different ice sizes lead to theoretical differences in game-play (a wider sheet of ice intuitively will lead to a more "open" and offensive style, in the same vain as 4X4 overtime in the NHL regular season), but I can't see why one should be necessarily preferred. More to the point, why should every new arena in North America spend extra (and the costs are more than nominal) if they're not planning on hosting the Olympics or an IIHF tournament anytime soon? Look at the list of hockey arenas by capacity on Wikipedia. Do you see how many are in North America?

Anyway, I think the effect in ice size might be a bit overblown. NCAA hockey rinks aren't standardized in size, and thus run the gamut. And there's talk about teams' difficulties adjusting from a smaller ice sheet to a larger one (and vice versa), but nobody's found any actual effect in scoring, etc.
posted by aswego at 11:46 AM on February 19, 2010


My point wasn't that body checking doesn't make for a great game, but that it shuts out a large number of players who might continue with the game otherwise. Olympic hockey is always a revelation to watch because it's such a different game (and also because the event isn't constantly held up to go to an ad break, resulting in a much more flowing and exciting game).
posted by unSane at 11:49 AM on February 19, 2010


That being said, women's hockey and men's hockey are different beasts. The women's hockey features more and better stickwork and passing, while men's hockey features bigger hits and faster shots.

This is not at all true. And it's for the same reason women's college basketball players don't actually have better "fundamentals" than men's college basketball players. The infrastructure just isn't there to support talented female athletes as much when they're growing up. That being said, it's something we can actually change, so it's much more likely women will close the gap in stickhandling and passing (than hits and hard shots).
posted by aswego at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2010


semi-related since it involves skating: Yevgeny Plushenko can suck it. Ass.
posted by Justinian at 12:29 PM on February 19, 2010


We were highly amused by both his haircut and the incredibly creepy people sitting next to him as he waited for the scores to come in.
posted by unSane at 2:45 PM on February 19, 2010


He just said that Lysacek wasn't a real champion since he didn't do a quad. To which I reply: cry more, whiny baby.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on February 19, 2010


(and also because the event isn't constantly held up to go to an ad break, resulting in a much more flowing and exciting game)

It makes a huge difference. And, as frustrating as that Swiss game was, it was pretty damn fun to watch. Even the Norway game was pretty good.

And since we are talking about all sports on ice now.. The American Men's Curling Team has mutinied against their skip!!! Wow :)
posted by Chuckles at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2010


Anybody who thinks the men's game lacks brilliant puck handling should go watch Switzerland's third goal against Norway. It was sheer craziness.
posted by Justinian at 1:49 PM on February 20, 2010


My point wasn't that body checking doesn't make for a great game, but that it shuts out a large number of players who might continue with the game otherwise.

I find sometimes in these debates (and particularly those involoving fighting) there's an implicit assumption that hockey is a game of finesse and skill which has over time begun to incorporate aggressive physical play and violence. I don't think this is right; hockey is both a game of finesse and physicality and that's what makes it so great. Checking and hard hits aren't separate from the game, they *are* the game.

This is not to suggest that because hockey is aggressive, all violence is therefore fair game. But the above quote is somewhat like saying that there's a great injustice with, say, a pip-squeak quarterback with an amazing arm who just can't play football anymore because of the aggressiveness. Footbal isn't football without size and strength, and neither is hockey.
posted by Adam_S at 4:49 PM on February 20, 2010


It was just a statement of fact. I said nothing about it being 'a great injustice' or the game having changed over time. I know from personal experience that a bunch of kids will stop playing this year because they don't want to play full contact hockey.

I didn't imply, you inferred.
posted by unSane at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2010


I'm sure that's true, unSane. I don't think that's a problem with hockey, though. Lots of kids stop playing lots of sports for lots of reasons. Which is fine. Not everybody has to want to play every sport, not should every sport be for everybody.
posted by Justinian at 7:22 PM on February 20, 2010


hockey is both a game of finesse and physicality and that's what makes it so great. Checking and hard hits aren't separate from the game, they *are* the game.

I played a lot of organized hockey as a kid (age 7-19) and loved it (sort of), but as time went on it just grew increasingly STUPIDLY violent (kind of like boys of that age, I guess). Yes, it's inherently a physical game; something to do with the limited size of the ice surface, the pure speed, and the BOARDS. But physicality in pursuit of the basic intent of the game (putting the puck in other teams net) is vastly different from physicality for the purposes of intimidation (certain kinds of hits, fighting, stickwork etc)

This second kind of physicality is already limited by various penalties (for boarding, fighting, slashing, elbowing etc) but, in my opinion, not enough. I'd like to see an outright ban on hipchecks for instance, and open-ice hits that are simply too fucking violent (ie: the kind of sometimes legal stuff that is causing way too many concussions).

I don't think this kind of thing would hamper my enjoyment of the game at all.
posted by philip-random at 11:33 AM on February 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


USA >>> Canada

eat it, Brodeur.
posted by Justinian at 10:36 AM on February 22, 2010


Eat it yourself.
posted by chococat at 3:23 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, I too am returning here to gloat.
posted by unSane at 3:36 PM on February 28, 2010


Now that was legendary. An entire country is hung over today.
posted by emeiji at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2010


Update: for those interested in news about real hockey, Australia just defeated Germany 2-1 to win the World Cup.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:55 AM on March 15, 2010


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