Day 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn_CmH0-6yI
I’m all for athletes going in for the kill. Heck, I used to do a fair bit of spirit-crushing myself in my athletic heyday (read: high school track and field.) But ten minutes into Saturday’s game and with Canada already up 4-0 on the hapless, helpless Slovak team, I was covering my eyes more than I did during previews for “The Orphan”. There’s been plenty made about the place for women’s hockey in the Olympics, mostly because of results like yesterday’s Olympic record 18-0 romp (which, ironically, broke the previous set by Canada in 2006 when they devastated the host Italians to the tune of 16 goals to none.)
The question is then, how far should teams like the US and Canada run up the score on their obviously overmatched opponents? Some believe that athletes train to be the best, and to do anything less than your best in the game is cheating yourself. Others are of the camp called “Let’s institute a mercy rule” which preaches compassion and good sportsmanship above all. Which then, of course, leads to another unanswerable debate over whether running up the score is actually bad sportsmanship.
Some are calling it karma and saying the Slovaks deserved the rout after blasting Bulgaria – a country with 37 registered female players – 82-0 (that’s not a typo) in Olympic qualifying play. I just call it a clear representation of how much women’s hockey still has to grow outside of North America.
But I digress. What really matters is this: our women came out and played a helluva game in front of a packed home crowd. The fans, while raucous, were respectful and gave the Slovak players (especially goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova, who made 49 saves,) a standing ovation as they left the ice. And the Slovakian team, playing in their first ever Olympic Games, got a sense of what they need to work on to one day compete with the big girls.
“It was heartbreaking,” says Slovak forward Natalie Babonyova. “Canada has how many games under their belt… give us a little more time and we’ll get there.”