Another Winter Olympics has come and gone and we witnessed arguably one of the best events hockey has to offer. The women’s finals with Canada vs. U.S have been the staple event at the Olympics and has been the most popular event of the Winter Olympics for Canadians and Americans.
With both of the nation’s men’s teams knocked out in the quarterfinals, both nations were looking for much-needed success on the rink. With Canada’s 3-2 win against the United States, it was another story finished about the two nations duelling it out on their biggest stage every four years.
However, it looks like these two nations have pushed away further from the competition again this year. Their secret? What every woman who plays hockey will dream of, is a marketable women’s hockey game.
During the three years that didn’t offer a women’s Olympic hockey, there has been a huge change in the structure. In 2019, a little more than a year after the U.S beat the Canadian to win the 2018 Olympic Tournament, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League folded out of nowhere.
The league which housed some of the greatest women in four Canadian markets, one American market, and one Chinese market suddenly fell apart in an abrupt fashion and left many women without a place to compete.
They didn’t want to go to the other North American league the National Women’s Hockey League (Now the Premier Hockey Federation) because of payment issues and other working conditions that the women didn’t want to return to. They created the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association for the purpose in growing the sport in a different way than failed leagues of the past did.
But that wasn’t even the most impressive addition to women’s hockey in the last few years. Hockey Canada and USA Hockey noticed the newly-formed interest in the sport and decided to have the Rivalry Series for the two North American countries. The series started in the 2016-17 season but only consisted of two games played in Canada and the U.S.
Fast-forward to this year and there have been six games already with a few more this season after the Olympic break. These series have given both nations an opportunity to practice for the harder tournaments and also do it in front of a large crowd in hopes to boost interest in the sport.
That practice is probably why such a dominant game happened between the nations. But there is a difference between now and back a couple of years. Even though both nations continue to dominate smaller nations, this time those smaller nations are starting to find their footing in the sport while Canada and the U.S have confidently found theirs.
The other big women’s competition that isn’t the Winter Olympics or IIHF Women’s World Championship is the 4 nations cup. It’s a competition between the two giants and Finland and Sweden. Although it is a regular competition that has grown the sport for many women and has a further reach with it also having European nations in the mix, it still doesn’t have the popularity as when the U.S or Canada play against each other.
That in itself could be an issue because it will only allow the growth of women’s hockey in North America. However, there are even more nations that are taking steps into growing the sport. Russia has quadrupled their women’s hockey activity in the last ten years and also has a league of their own that is constantly growing. Switzerland is also remaining in the top groups and is developing the sport fast.
Finland, although will be the third powerhouse when it comes to women’s hockey. They had a huge win over Canada in 2019 and almost won their first IIHF World Championship. Although it does seem like they went back to normal in these Winter Olympics, give the nation eight to 10 years and we will see the effect that win has had on the nation.
Until then, this Rivalry Series may not develop hockey in nations that need to catch up, but it’s developing women’s hockey and that is always welcomed no matter who or where you are in women’s hockey.
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