Road To The Olympic Games

Mercy rule possible for women's hockey: IIHF

Women's hockey will continue in future Olympics, although measures may be taken to modify the one-sided nature of the tournament, Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said Thursday during a news conference at Canada Hockey Place.

Women’s hockey will continue in future Olympics, although measures may be taken to modify the one-sided nature of the tournament, René Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, said Thursday during a news conference at Canada Hockey Place.

"We expanded from eight teams in 2006 to 12 teams now to push development of the women’s game," Fasel said. "Maybe it was too early."

But, he added, the women’s hockey competition "will definitely continue" at future Winter Games. He raised the possibility of imposing a "mercy rule" to keep scores down.

The women’s tournament at the Vancouver Games has been plagued by an unbroken series of double-digit victories by Canada and, to a slightly lesser extent, the United States, raising calls that the competition be dropped.

Canada and the U.S. have beaten their foes after a total of six games by a combined score of 72-3.

"The problem for women’s hockey is that you have Canada and the U.S. living on a different planet," Fasel said, adding that 80,000 women and girls play hockey in Canada and 60,000 in the United States. "In China you have 67. In Slovakia you have 267, and that’s how you get the 18-0," he said, referring to the score by which the Slovaks lost to Canada this week.

Canada will play Finland in the women's semifinals on Monday, with the U.S. battling Sweden. It marks the third consecutive Games they are the final four countries.

In the inaugural Olympics for women's hockey in 1998, China finished fourth ahead of Sweden.

Fasel said that women’s sports in most of Europe lag behind North America’s.

"It’s a cultural problem in Europe," he said. "We must concentrate on helping the national federations improve in Europe and in China."

The Olympic competition is important for the development of women’s hockey, he added. But when asked how a result like Slovakia’s 82-0 defeat of Bulgaria in an Olympic qualifying match last year could spur the game’s development, he said: "I have no answer for that. I just hope the Bulgarian girls haven’t given up their dream."

Fasel, who is Swiss, said that the Canadian men beat Switzerland 33-0 in the 1924 Olympics, but that the Swiss finally got their revenge with a 2-0 victory in 2006.

"It took more than 70 years for us to beat Canada," Fasel said. "It takes time to develop. The women will come, don’t worry."

By Jeff Z. Klein, New York Times