by Kristen Lipscombe
Halifax is opening its doors to another world class sporting event and is once again breaking attendance records.
Tonight final preparations are underway at the Halifax Metro Centre and the Dartmouth Sportsplex for the 2004 IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship.
In a city that is crazy about Canada’s favourite winter sport, hockey fever is definitely in the air. As the event grows closer, the excitement is spreading across the East Coast.
Tomorrow evening the pay off for all the effort that has been put into the organization of this incredible event will officially begin. The World Women's Hockey Championship kicks off at the Halifax Metro Centre with Sweden facing off against USA at 4:00 p.m. China and Canada take to the ice at 8:00 p.m., while the puck drops at 6:00 p.m. when Japan confronts Sweden at the Dartmouth Sportsplex.
Following up the success of the record-breaking World Junior Championship that took Halifax by storm in December 2002, the World Women’s Championship has some big skates to fill. But considering the fact that over 80,000 tickets have already been sold, the hockey ladies should have no problem following up the boys. This year’s event has been deemed the biggest World Women's Hockey Championship to date.
Household hockey names like Hayley Wickenheiser, Cassie Campbell, Jayna Hefford and Vicky Sunohara include just some of the talented players that will wear the Maple Leaf on their chests this year. Karen Hughes, head coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, is Team Canada’s bench boss.
Canada has tasted gold at every World Women's Hockey Championship since the event’s inception in 1990. Not only are they reigning seven-time champions, but the canucks have done it with a clean sweep of 35 straight wins and no losses.
Although the red and white are hoping to take home the hardware for the eighth straight time, the battle for bragging rights is getting increasingly difficult. Team USA is an ever looming threat. In the last official international face-off between the rivals, the Americans beat out Canada 2-1. The final game of last November’s Four Nations cup in Sweden went to a sudden death shoot out - it took 22 shots to decide the outcome. Cammi Granato was the lone player to dent the twine, scoring twice for the American victory.
Team USA took home the first women’s hockey Olympic gold at Nagano in 1998. Canada’s lucky loonie and efforts against all odds earned them the Salt Lake City Olympic victory in 2002.
Finland and Sweden also continue to narrow the gap. Sweden took bronze at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, while the Finns are an experienced squad that will be gunning for a top two position at the tournament. Nine teams are competing in this year’s World Championship. Germany, Russia, China, Switzerland and Japan are continuously working to improve their games. While women’s hockey continues to expand on the international scene, Canada’s pedestal position becomes increasingly threatened.
The 2004 IIHF World Women's Hockey Championship runs from tomorrow until Tuesday, March 6, when the world title will be decided in front of what will be the biggest crowd to take in the event.