It’s a rare for a country to take women’s hockey more seriously than men’s. Heck, it’s still a challenge to get some hockey-playing nations to take it seriously at all. But with its women’s team ranked a respectable 15th while its men’s team sits a distant 38th, China is getting serious about its national women’s program ahead of the next Winter Olympics and backing the team with some big-time money.
With the 2018 Games being held close to home in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Chinese are demanding a strong showing from their women’s team. The field is wide-open behind perennial powerhouses Canada and the United States, and China is eyeing a shot at a bronze medal. The women finished seventh in 2010 but failed to qualify in 2014, and the country is pouring money into the program to get the team back in the mix on the international scene.
“Their training center was like the Vatican,” said Daniel Noble, a Toronto-based strength and conditioning coach. “That’s their job – to train all day. So it was a very cool environment to be in. It all comes from government funding. The dining hall is like a five-star restaurant. It’s unbelievable how they are treated. They get treated very, very well.” Read more
Six months ago, Nicklas Backstrom was gearing up for the gold medal game at the Olympics. Sweden was about to take on Canada for all the marbles in Sochi. Heading into the final, Backstrom had four points – all assists – in five games.
But a few hours before the puck dropped, the IOC announced Backstrom was ineligible to play. They said the 26-year-old had tested positive for pseudoephedrine in a drug test he took a week earlier. The positive was believed to come from the allergy medication that Backstrom had been taking for seven years and prescribed by team doctors. Needless to say, the Swedes weren’t pleased with the way it was handled.
Canada won the game 3-0, but because of his suspension, Backstrom didn’t receive his silver medal with the rest of the Swedish team afterwards. It wasn’t until early March that the IOC decided the one-game suspension was punishment enough and that he could receive his medal.
Today, he finally got it. Backstrom received his medal prior to a Swedish League game between Brynas and Djurgarden. Read more
When Germany won the World Cup last weekend, it vaulted the country to the top of FIFA’s most recent world rankings. It also made Germany the best hockey-football playing country in the world.
Nothing defines a country’s athletic prowess more than its ability to excel in both soccer and hockey. (Why, you ask? Because we said so and it’s summer and in case you haven’t noticed, the hockey world is not exactly brimming with activity these days.) One is known as The Beautiful Game™ and the other one features corner kicks and lots of falling down and gnashing of teeth. Read more
When Bob Nicholson took over as president and CEO of Hockey Canada in 1998, few people outside the hockey industry knew who he was. Over the next 16 years, Nicholson went on to create a corporate monolith that generated millions of dollars in revenues and won countless gold medals on the international stage.
That will be an enormously difficult act to follow. That the board of Hockey Canada has reportedly handpicked Tom Renney to do it is, well, a little curious. Renney is a man of enormous integrity and has a coaching resume – particularly in the international game – that would rival that of anyone in the world. But this is the thing. Hockey Canada is not a hockey team. For the purposes of the president and CEO, Hockey Canada is far more a business than it is a hockey organization. Read more
When someone or some team melts down in sport, the ensuing range of emotions varies. Depending on the offence and where your allegiances lie, you may be utterly crushed, or elated. You may find a great deal of comedy in the action, or you may be offended. Either way, these moments become memorable talking points long after they’re seen live.
What were the biggest meltdowns from the 2013-14 hockey season? Here is our top five. Read more
1. TORTORELLA CHARGES FLAMES DRESSING ROOM
Every NHL team has its best-and-worst-case scenarios laid out before each season begins, but there’s no way the Vancouver Canucks could have envisioned the nightmare that was to unfold. The franchise stumbled and bumbled on and off the ice and fell from third in the Western Conference in 2012-13 to 12th in 2013-14. And it’s hard to say which mistake was worst.
If you go back to the summer of 2013, the trading of goalie Cory Schneider certainly qualifies as a contender. After years of grooming Schneider to be Vancouver’s starting goalie for the next decade or more, then-GM Mike Gillis shocked the hockey world when he shipped the 28-year-old to New Jersey for the ninth-overall pick in last year’s draft. Schneider and veteran Roberto Luongo, who had nearly been dealt at the 2012-13 trade deadline, were dumbfounded by the move. But that was only the beginning of the madness. Read more
NEW YORK – When Bob Nicholson stepped down as president and CEO of Hockey Canada in May, he made it clear he was looking for another challenge. Well, if that was his desire, he certainly found one. And while the Edmonton Oilers have had all kinds of trouble attracting big free agents for their on-ice product, they appear to have succeeded in landing the most prized free agent hockey executive in the world.
A TSN report has been confirmed by thn.com that the Oilers have a news conference scheduled for Friday in which they are expected to announce that Nicholson has been hired to be CEO of Rexall Sports, which owns the Edmonton Oilers. As first reported on Twitter by thn.com Wednesday night, Nicholson chose the Oilers over offers from the Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks. It’s believed the Capitals offered the most money, but the challenge of being a part of rebuilding the Oilers on the ice appealed to Nicholson. Read more
As someone who has regularly covered elite women’s hockey over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to hearing snide remarks about the sport from other journalists. If I wasn’t getting an arched eyebrow from some crusty old colleague who unfairly wanted to compare the quality of hockey to men’s hockey, I heard “jokes” about how all the women who succeeded at the highest level of their chosen sport were all lesbians, butchy, abrupt and unfeminine.
Of course, I knew how idiotic all that garbage was. I knew there were straight and gay female players from all walks of life, and I knew they were as friendly and multifaceted as any other group of people. I knew how that hateful mindset said everything about the anger and confusion a head and heart must be entangled in to arrive at those baseless conclusions, and said nothing about the targets of that hate.
But what bothered me most wasn’t each individual bonehead who was compelled to quietly reveal their bigotry to me. Rather, I was troubled to think female players would have to stay in the closet for the years and decades to come as irrational loathing was passed down from one homophobic generation of backward people to another. I could see how careful players on the Canadian or American women’s national team were when discussing their sexuality and I fully understood why. When you could leave a rink or a media scrum without having to worry about the very essence of your soul being judged and challenged by people who didn’t know you, why wouldn’t you do that? Keeping your private life to yourself was the best way to keep a semblance of order in your day-to-day existence.
However, as society has moved rapidly to accept gay people and give them the full spectrum of human rights to which they’re entitled, that sea change has extended into the hockey world. And it’s absolutely wonderful to see these incredibly accomplished women of hockey speak out with pride and confidence about who they really are.
To wit: Canadian national team goaltender Charline Labonte has written an inspirational first-person story in which she describes her life, her hockey journey and her girlfriend (Canadian Olympic speedskater Anastasia Buscis). The 31-year-old, who won three Olympic gold medals in a playing career that ended after the 2014 Sochi Games, made it clear that, although she was always open with her teammates, even the dressing room culture in the women’s game – which has been understanding and accepting even as the world around it failed to do the same – had room to evolve and improve. Read more