Some people may recognize this title as the slogan for Virginia Slims, a cigarette that was marketed to women before cigarette advertising was banned on television in the early 1970’s. However, after watching the gold medal game in women’s hockey between the United States and Canada during the 2014 Winter Olympics, I believe this slogan can also apply to the gains that this sport has made, not only in the skills of the players, but also in the excitement and interest generated.
The sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1998 with these same two countries, the United States and Canada, playing for the gold medal and the Americans coming out victorious. Since then, the two countries have established themselves as the two best countries for developing the game, increasing interest in the game among females, and playing some exciting matches. While the Canadians now have an 11-5 advantage in matches between the two nations for either an Olympic gold medal or a world championship, there is no shortage of bad blood between the teams. The interviews shown on television with players on both sides showed that there is respect for the other squad, but an unbridled passion in which to win.
This year’s game proved to be no different. While the rules forbid checking in women’s hockey, there was no shortage of physical play. There was a lot of hitting, extracurricular activity after the whistle blew (especially in front of each net) and the usual jawing between players. In other words, it was much like any good game between two excellent teams.
As a hockey fan, this game sucked me in from the start and did not let up. The United States scored the first two goals and seemed to have the game in control until Team Canada scored on a beautiful shot late in the third period to make it a one goal game. As any fan knows, a one-goal difference late in the game will result in more pressure and chances taken by the team trailing, including pulling the goalie. That is just what Canada did, as they controlled the play and removed the goalie with a minute left. Then a series of activities brought out a roller coaster of emotions in both fans and players alike.
A clearing attempt by the United States team looked like it was going to be stopped by a Canadian defenseman, but the linesman inadvertently assisted the puck out of the offensive zone. The puck slowly slid toward the empty net, looking like the clinching goal for Team USA. But instead the puck hit the right post and just lay outside the net. A charging Canadian player picked up the puck, skated back down the other end, and on the ensuing rush, Team Canada scores the tying goal. In that entire sequence, I was so spent that the overtime in which Canada scored and won the game seemed anticlimactic. This was one of those games that I was glad to have witnessed, no matter the outcome.
This game is what the sport is all about – heart-stopping moments, thrilling stickhandling and skating, physical play and both teams leaving everything they have out on the ice. It doesn’t matter that these were not the male professional stars – this game had everything that makes hockey so great. These ladies deserve a lot of praise and credit for raising the level of women’s hockey to a new height. I can’t wait to see when this will be even better.