The International Olympic Committee has sent mixed signals on the future of women's hockey in the Winter Games.
According to IIHF president Rene Fasel, the IOC "does not have concerns" over early-round humiliations like Canada's 18-0 defeat of Slovakia in Vancouver, because the ticket sales are so strong. Yet IOC president Jacques Rogge made waves during the 2010 Games when he questioned the event's future in the Olympics if there isn't more parity internationally:
"There is a discrepancy there, everyone agrees with that," Rogge told reporters. "This is maybe the investment period in women's ice hockey. I would personally give them more time to grow, but there must be a period of improvement. We cannot continue without improvement."
Adrienne Clarkson, Canada's former Governor General, felt that despite Rogge's personal feelings on the sport he delivered "a slap in the face" to women with his questioning of the event's future. As she told the Globe & Mail:
"Women have been playing hockey in Canada since the early 1900s, and they began playing in leagues at least 70 years ago. By 1975, with a lot of hard work and very little help (and virtually none financially), we had a network for women's hockey that worked toward a world tournament," Clarkson said in an open letter to Rogge.
"I was mad. I wanted to immediately say to him ‘did not men's hockey need to improve in the 1920s?' " she said.
Unless you're a fan of tournaments in which Canada outscores opponents 122-3, like in the 1924 Winter Games ... yeah, men's hockey needed to improve just a tad.
Clarkson has a trophy named in her honor that's been given to the top Canadian women's team beginning in 2009. She told the Globe & Mail that participation — and the promise that commitment to the game can lead to the Olympics — is essential to growing the sport, whether it's in North America or other parts of the hockey world:
"I thought it was a real slap in the face for women that he should say we're not good enough and we many have to take it out. ... They can get better, but they can only get better with encouragement. ... That means women need to know there will be future World Championships and an Olympics every four years. We have to make sure we're at Sochi in four years and make enough noise."
She sounds pretty determined. Memo to Sochi: Start loading up on magnums of Molson and mild cigars now.