It’s 8:30 in the morning. Instead of being snuggled under my warm blankets, I’m watching the US women’s hockey team play Sweden in the semifinals of their tournament. These women are amazing, as I witnessed when I watched them play Finland and Canada last week. But these women and their talent are incredibly disrespected.
This is evident in a statement made by Noora Raty, Finland’s goalie, over the weekend. She’d let it slip that she might retire, and that caused a kerfuffle. Then she issued a longer statement to clear up any confusion about what she’d said.
I was supposed to announce this after the tournament but “accidentally” told this to the Finnish press after today’s disappointing loss. But before the season started, I made a decision that my national team career will end here in Sochi. Also, I will hang up my skates for good if I can’t play professional hockey IN A COMPETITIVE LEAGUE next season. I said a competitive league because I could always go to play in the Russian women’s league, which is currently the only pro league for females. However, after hearing stories about the league and playing a few games there myself in January, I don’t think this league would challenge me enough (yes, sounds cocky and one could easily disagree with me after seeing me play not so well in Sochi). But I play hockey because I love to get challenged as it drives me to get better as an athlete and goalie. Thus, I would love to take on the challenge and try playing with men since I can’t play college hockey anymore and there’s no professional league for females in the North America. But I guess the time will show if some men’s pro team is willing to give me a chance.
In fact, I don’t feel that women’s hockey can grow or get any better in the future if the USA or Canada don’t get a professional league started soon. That is the next critical step that our sport needs to take our our sport will never be respected like it should be. Asking players to work full-time and then training like a pro athlete at the same time is just too much and unfair. For example, even if I absolutely love my job at MEGA Goaltending, working full-time and trying to train like a pro-athlete at the same time was extremely difficult for me prior to the Olympics. My body never got enough rest and I was close to getting burned out several times. And what did I do if it felt like I needed to get some extra rest? Skipped a workout/practice because I can’t skip work…
She’s right. I’ve watched these women play, and they’re every bit as talented as the men. There’s no real outlet for women who play hockey right now. Like Raty, Hilary Knight is going to try to join a men’s team in Sweden because she feels she can play at their level. During the women’s qualifying round, Germany placed lower than sixth place. That means that they won’t get any more funding for their program. Meanwhile, the men’s team didn’t even play in the men’s tournament. yet they’re more favorable in their home country.
It’s been 20 years since Manon Rheaume donned a Tampa Bay Lightning jersey and played in a preseason game, something that a lot of hockey fans have forgotten. It would be awesome if the NHL allowed women to play on a permanent basis. Can you imagine a team with the Lamoureaux twins or Megan Bozek on it? Who wouldn’t want to see Amanda Kessel play alongside (or even against) her brother Phil? Until that happens or we can expand the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, our ladies will have to play in the shadows, only coming into the light every four years, and that’s a shame.