OTTAWA , Ont. – The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation believes the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship has been competitive enough to satisfy the International Olympic Committee.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said at the conclusion of the women’s hockey tournament at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., that ``we cannot continue without improvement.''
Five women's games at those Olympics were won by nine goals or more.
Rogge's implied threat to boot women's hockey out of the Games if the scores didn't get closer galvanized the IIHF into putting more resources into the female game. International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel doesn't believe women's hockey is at risk in the Winter Olympics.
“I don't think there will be a problem there,” Fasel said at the women's world championship.
“I cannot imagine that an IOC president would kick women's hockey out of the program. I can't imagine that.''
Heading into Tuesday's medal games of the last women's world championship before the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, only one game had a goal differential of more than nine goals. Canada beat Switzerland 13-0 in the preliminary round.
But fewer embarrassing scores are also due to a new tournament format, in which the bottom two countries in the preliminary round never meet the top two countries in the tournament.
After not winning a single game at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Burlington, Vt., Russia will play Finland for bronze Tuesday. The Swiss women won bronze last year for its first medal of the tournament, which was first introduced in 1990, also in Ottawa.
Sweden, the 2006 Olympic Winter Games silver medallist, dropped to seventh at this world championship, so there is movement now behind the U.S. and Canada.
Fasel doesn't expect the gap between the North Americans and the rest of the world to close in Sochi, but believes it could happen four years after that in, Pyeonchang, South Korea.
“Our goal is to be more competitive in (South) Korea in 2018,'' he said. ``We need that time to go there.''
Coming out of 2010, the IIHF committed two million Swiss francs, or $2.1 million in Canadian currency, to a plan to grow the female game worldwide.
“It was a little shot from Jacques to us, but I am happy because it gave me the opportunity and the federation that we spend an extra two million Swiss francs for the women's program and it was good,'' Fasel said Monday, April 8.
One element of that plan was a mentorship program in which players and coaches from countries with more developed women's hockey programs are sounding boards and sources of information for their counterparts trying to close the gap on them.
Coaching mentors and player ambassadors from the top four countries of Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Finland were assigned to assist coaches and players in nine other countries.
Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser and Hockey Canada's head female scout Melody Davidson are the lead player ambassador and coach mentor, respectively.
Fasel says he would like to see the field increase from eight to 10 women's teams at the Olympic Winter Games in the future.