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Queens of the rink

Adam Proteau
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(Photo by Richard Lautens/Toronto Star) Author: The Hockey News

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Queens of the rink

Adam Proteau
By:

In our 2013 fall SIP, we profiled the greatest teams ever. At the time, Canada's Vancouver Olympics squad was deemed the best women's team in hockey history. Do the Canadians' 2014 golden girls trump their gold medal-winning sisters?

It might seem to easy to suggest the Canadian Women’s team that won gold at the 2010 Olympics is the best collection of female players ever. But when you examine how it won and the depth of skill it leaned on, it’s fitting to hang them with the No. 1 label.

In Vancouver, the 2010 Canadian team proved it could throttle you with offense – including an 18-0 steamrolling of Slovakia and 13-1 walloping of Sweden – just as easily as it could play the kind of controlled defensive game that beat its archrivals from America in the tournament’s final game.

The Swedes should consider themselves fortunate to have scored at all on the Canadians. Only one other team (Switzerland) managed to score a single goal. And both goals Canada allowed came in the preliminary round.

Team Canada’s skill was matched only by its depth: Shannon Szabados, the then- 23-year-old netminder who won Canada’s final game, was named best goalie of the Games, but coach Melody Davidson could’ve just as easily given the nod to veterans Kim St-Pierre or Charline Labonte, who were instrumental in past Canadian gold medal wins.

And if observers could see diminishing roles for some veteran Canadian players, it wasn’t due to a fall-off in their play. Rather, it was because the monster known as Meghan Agosta (the tournament’s top scorer and most valuable player) and then 19-year-old phenom Marie-Philip Poulin were making them share the spotlight.

It took a veteran such as Hayley Wickenheiser, Canada’s captain and someone who has skated in every Olympics since female players began participating in 1998, to put the Canadian 2010 team in perspective.

“The best team of all-time I think was (the 2010) team, in terms of top-to-bottom quality, overall skill level, fitness level and execution,” Wickenheiser said. “I don’t know that we had our strongest D-corps I’ve ever seen, but as a team, as an overall unit, this one was best.

“The competition is tougher now to make the team, the preparation is greater and we had more time to be together, so the performances are better.”

Prior to the Vancouver Games, Team USA cornerstone Angela Ruggiero spoke of the respect she held for the program Canada has put together for its female players.

“You can’t argue with success and two straight gold medals for (Canada) means you have to give them their due,” Ruggiero said in the fall of 2008, before the Canadians extended their Olympic run to three consecutive gold medal victories. “Don’t get me wrong, I believe in (the U.S.) program, but the time and effort that Canada invests in its female players is really great for the sport and it shows in the results that they’ve gotten up to this point.”

And after Canada’s domination in Vancouver with a team for the ages, one might assume those results are going to continue.

This is an excerpt from THN's special issue, Greatest Teams of All-Time.

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Queens of the rink