Canada blowout threatens to put game on ice

Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:42am EST
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By Steve Keating

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's women's ice hockey team got the Vancouver Winter Games party started with a record 18-0 win over Slovakia Saturday in a blowout that raised more questions about the sport's place in the Olympics.

After an opening day that failed to produce a gold medal for the host country, Canada's dominance over Slovakia served as the perfect tonic for a raucous flag-waving capacity crowd of 16,496 at Canada Hockey Place.

But it was not the result Olympic and International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) officials wanted to see with more and more people questioning whether women's ice hockey has developed enough to belong in the Games.

"I don't think it helps our sport, but at the same time we know moving forward every Olympics the competition gets better," Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser told Reuters. "You can't lose sight of that, it's just part of developing the game.

The one-sided game was predictable, with Canada the two-time defending Olympic gold medalists and Slovakia making its Olympic debut.

"I always remind people, on the men's side it was like this early on lopsided scores for sure," said Wickenheiser. "It's the Olympic Games, you don't come here to just dump the puck and sit back."

While Canada has over 85,000 women playing hockey, including four who have skated in four Olympics, Slovakia has just 263 and the difference in depth and quality was on full display.

Even before the entire crowd was in its seats the game had already been decided. Canada raced to a 3-0 lead a little after five minutes into the game and increased the margin to 7-0 by the end of the opening period.   Continued...

<p>Goalie Kim St-Pierre of Canada skates back to the net during their game against Slovakia in the women's hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 13, 2010. REUTERS/Bruce Bennett/Pool</p>