IOC's Rogge demands better women's hockey
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge warned women's ice hockey officials on Thursday to improve the parity in competition or risk having the sport dropped from the Games.
Hours before the gold medal final between the United States and Canada, dominant powers in a tournament where they routed outmatched rivals, Rogge said the Olympics can bear the lopsidedness for only so long.
"There is a discrepancy. Everyone agrees with that," Rogge said. "This may be the investment period for women's ice hockey. I would personally give them more time to grow but there must be a period of improvement.
"We cannot continue without improvement."
U.S. and Canadian women have played in every world championship and Olympic final with the exception of the 2006 Turin Games, when Sweden upset the Americans in a semi-final.
Canadian and U.S. "girls are on another planet," said Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
U.S. forward Monique Lamoureux compares the level of play by the two top teams to the superiority Canada and the Soviet Union enjoyed in men's hockey a generation ago.
"If you look back 30 to 40 years ago, Canada and Russia were blowing men's hockey out of the water, but other countries came around," she said. "It's just going to take time and hopefully people will be patient."
Sweden and Finland have battled for third place at most major global events, a notch below the U.S. and Canadian women but above the rest of their rivals.
The Finns beat Sweden 3-2 for Vancouver Winter Olympic bronze on Thursday, and both coaches defended the suitability of women's hockey for the Games.
"There are lots of sports on the Olympic agenda where you can say that," Swedish coach Peter Elander said. "The North American teams spent eight times the Swedish budget, spent twice as much time together."
His suggestion was parity in preparation time or more financial support for the nations where the sport is trying to grow, where hundreds of women play compared with the tens of thousands in North America.
"There would be a gap," Elander said. "If you want to close that, you will have to have all teams prepare the same way."
He also defended the honour of lesser teams, saying the women gave their best and sacrificed for the opportunity.
"Anyone who says the other teams did not prepare is misinformed," Elander said.
Finland coach Pekka Hamalainen said he hoped a new program aimed at improving Finnish fortunes in 2014 at Sochi, Russia, would move his women to challenge the elite U.S. and Canadian teams for gold.
"We can't compete with the number of players in North America and the resources," Hamalainen said. "But we're confident about the future."