Canada’s Women’s Team ‘Shocked’ by NHL Decision to Skip Winter Olympics
Women’s hockey was introduced to the Olympic program at the 1998 Games in Nagano, the same year NHL players began participating.
PLYMOUTH, MICH.—The NHL’s decision not to release players for next year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea comes as a surprise to some of the Canadian players at the women’s world hockey championship.
“We were kind of shocked. We thought they’d figure something out to get them there,” forward Natalie Spooner said Tuesday.
“What the Games are about really is showing the best of the best. We still look up to them as being phenomenal hockey players, so to not see them there, I think will be sad.” The women are facing a first Winter Olympics without NHL players there. Women’s hockey was introduced to the Olympic program in 1998, the same year NHL players began participating. Without the star power of names such as Crosby, McDavid, Matthews, Kopitar, Oshie and Eriksson, will the women’s tournament get more of the spotlight in Pyeongchang?
“That’s something we’ll get to see, I guess. It’s hard to say if it will get more attention or not,” defenceman Lauriane Rougeau said.
“We just want to showcase our game as much as possible. The Olympics is always the biggest stage for us every four years. It might become a little bit more attention on us.”
The women liked having the NHL players there and running into the Canadian men playing table tennis in the team lounge. “For me, it’s a great experience to be around NHLers,” Rougeau said. “They’re down to earth. They’re playing ping pong with us. It’s a great experience to have them at the Olympics.”
The women on Canada’s world championship roster — who will face Finland in Thursday’s semifinals, after the Finns shut out Sweden 4-0 in Tuesday’s quarter-final — are too young to recall Hockey Canada’s full time national men’s team program of the 1980s and early 1990s. Like other Canadian hockey fans, the women wonder which men will be their Olympic teammates next year.
“It’s a pretty cool experience for those players who wouldn’t have had the opportunity,” two-time Olympian Rebecca Johnston said. The women’s team in Pyeongchang will likely have far more previous Olympic experience than the men. For example, it would be the fourth Winter Games for forward Meghan Agosta. The Olympic environment is like no other for an athlete, so Johnston is ready to give the men the benefit of her experience. “If they ask me, sure, I’ll give them advice,” she said. “I’ll help them out if I can. Anything for a fellow Canadian athlete.”
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