Women’s hockey has never been in the spotlight like it was last Thursday.
A total of 13 million people watched some or all of the Canadian women’s Olympic hockey team’s dramatic overtime victory against the U.S., with former Stoney Creek Saber and Ancaster native Laura Fortino assisting on Marie-Philip Poulin’s golden goal.
It was a great moment and a galvanizing moment for all Canadians. But win or lose, it’s a level of interest generally seen only once every four years.
And why is that?
Were the women’s games any less exciting than the men’s? Was their style of play not as entertaining and athletic? Were you any less proud when you watched them receive their golds and sing Oh Canada than you were of the men?
And yet after these games the men’s fame will continue as they go back to their NHL teams to battle for Lord Stanley’s mug, while the women, even those who play in the professional Canadian Women’s Hockey League, will, for the most part, return to relative obscurity.
How fair is that?
Canada has come a long way when it comes to encouraging girls and women to participate in sports, and there is much to be proud of when it comes to female sports in Hamilton.
Many minor hockey associations, including Ancaster, Flamborough, Stoney Creek and Hamilton Mountain, have robust girls organizations. At the high school level girls sports are every bit as competitive and entertaining as the boys. Club teams in all sports compete and win tournaments at regional, provincial and national levels. Yet, with few exceptions, the stands are comparatively empty compared with boys games.
That’s why it’s time to start taking women’s sports as seriously as we do men’s.
It’s a commitment that can start at home.
In April, The Stoney Creek Sabres Midget AA team will host the 2014 Esso Cup, also known as the National Female Midget Championship. Fans will have a chance to see future Canadian Olympians compete at the highest level for their age group at the newly built Gateway Ice Centre.
Along with the host Sabres, the best teams from the Atlantic, Ontario, Pacific, Quebec and West divisions, will face off in a tournament that will culminate in a gold medal game that will be nationally televised on TSN.
So as Canada’s best midget female hockey players come to town will the 2014 Esso Cup capitalize on the heightened exposure the sport received from the Olympics, or will all the excitement and promise of Sochi leave women’s sport short once again?