[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]After a ton of build-up, reports that hotels and infrastructure wasn’t ready, and protests for various human and animal rights violations, the Olympics have finally arrived and have had some special moments in their first week, ranging from the heartwarming image of Canadian freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau jumping up and down celebrating his gold medal win with his brother who suffers from cerebral palsy or the image of the Olympic ring that should have been during the opening ceremony.
However, as the games progress one thing stands out to me; the difference between the men’s and women’s hockey teams for almost every country. After a rule change in 1986, allowing all athletes, not just amateurs to compete in the Olympics, the NHL has been sending its top stars to the games to compete for their homeland. As a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, I was excited to see seven players going to compete for their homeland. Forwards Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby head to Sochi representing Canada with forward Jussi Jokinen and defenseman Olli Maatta fighting for gold for Finland and defenseman Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin suiting up for the U.S.A. In fact so many stars went to Sochi for the Olympics the NHL has been forced to schedule a two-week break to accommodate.
On the other side of the hockey spectrum are the women’s national teams. The rosters for the countries competing in women’s hockey are comprised of mostly all collegiate players or players who compete expressly for the country’s national team.
Looking around, the Olympics show that many players on the teams went to or are currently students at some of the top hockey schools in the United States. As with any generalizations, there are a few players competing who don’t fit the general description. One such athlete is Alina Muller, who is only 15, but is lacing up her skates for Switzerland and is taking on the best and toughest skaters each country’s women’s hockey program has to offer, although she may not remember much after getting steamrolled by U.S. forward Kendall Coyne in Team USA’s 9-0 rout of the Swiss, where the defense looked like the cheese; full of holes. However the scores of the games isn’t why I like women’s hockey more than men’s in the Olympics.
Prior to the 1986 rule change, all Olympic athletes had to be of amateur status to compete, leading to one of the greatest feats in sports history when an undersized and underdog American team beat the Soviets in the semi-finals in the famous “Miracle on Ice” game in Lake Placid, NY. The current edition of the Team USA is chock full of talented women who have all played on championship caliber teams. With talent that rivals or surpasses that of the men’s team, several women on the American team possess something the men do not, a willingness to interact with and communicate with fans. Players like defenseman Megan Bozek and goaltender Molly Schaus regularly take time to interact with fans who send well wishes and thank them for supporting them or the team via social media. As a fan of any and all hockey, it is satisfying knowing that most of the women playing for Team USA focus on being good players and great people instead of basking in the limelight and letting the fame go to their heads. In hockey, as in many sports, the old adage is, “Defense wins championships.”
To me, the players of the U.S. women’s national team take the saying a bit further. Their actions on and off the ice shows that “defense wins championship, but humility wins the undying adoration of fans.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_facebook type=”standard”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_tweetmeme type=”horizontal”][/vc_column][/vc_row]