Columnists, Sports

The Blue Line: WNHL?

Did anybody else watch the Olympic hockey games last week between heated rivals United States and Canada? Just in case you missed them, Canada won both matchups by the same 3-2 score.

The men’s hockey semifinal contest was boring, as the Canadians controlled the game from puck drop to the final buzzer. The women’s game, however, was an instant classic, which included two goals in less than three minutes, a shot off the post of an empty net and controversial officiating in overtime that resulted in the gold medal going to the Canadian team.

Boston University forward Marie-Philip Poulin was the hero for Canada, scoring the game-tying goal with just 54.6 seconds left in regulation, and the game-winning goal on the power play with 8:10 remaining in the overtime period. At only 22 years old, Poulin already has two Olympic gold medals.

However, she does not have an NCAA Frozen Four championship, which she is determined to win when she returns to BU.

“I’m going back to Boston University,” Poulin said following the Olympic win. “I have one more year there. I want to be on this stage, and we always have to prove it.”

Additionally, Canada’s roster consisted of three former Terriers, Jenn Wakefield, Catherine Ward and Tara Watchorn, as well as three current Cornell University students, Lauriane Rougeau, Laura Fortino and Brianne Jenner.

The U.S. women’s hockey team, with its 11 college skaters, had a much different, much more bitter ending to the Sochi Olympic Games. Despite the defeat, though, the USA women should genuinely be honored of their performance as they dominated every opponent they faced except for the Canadians.

No matter which side you were rooting for, you had to enjoy the women’s gold medal game. It was fast paced, and featured barrages of offensive pressure, strong defensive efforts from both sides and flashy saves by goaltenders Shannon Szabados and Jessie Vetter. All in all, it was a good piece of hockey.

“I think you look at a product like tonight … if you’re watching that game, you probably got a little taste, and you’re saying, ‘You know what? I wouldn’t mind watching that again,’” said Canadian coach Kevin Dineen.
You’re right, Mr. Dineen. I would like to see some more of that. And I’m sure that after this year’s Olympic tournament, I’m not alone. But I am regretfully confident that there is far too little support to form a professional women’s league or “WNHL”.

A majority here at BU apparently would not want to see more women’s hockey. This weekend’s women’s hockey game at Agganis Arena against archrival Boston College recorded an attendance of a mere 478.

On Feb. 1, BU took on the University of Connecticut, in front of a not-so-roaring crowd of just 215 people. The Terriers won that game by a score of 5-2. The men played the University of Vermont at Agganis Arena the week before, in front of a crowd of nearly 5000, but fell 6-2.

Why do students here at BU show no support for the women’s hockey team? At a 21-12-1 record and a year removed from reaching the national championship game for the second time in three seasons, the team looks like a masterful work of art compared to the men’s team who sits at 8-20-4. Does anyone else not understand our thought processes?

I cannot discover a sound, whole argument as to why we do not show more support for the women’s hockey team. Across the country, women’s hockey, just like women’s soccer and women’s basketball, gets lower ratings than the male counterparts.

The key to obtaining a professional women’s hockey league is to acquire a sizable core fan base for women’s college hockey. The Olympic gold medal game, which included over a dozen current college players, and even more former players, attracted a viewing audience of nearly 18 million combined in the United States and Canada.

Eventually, women’s hockey supporters will be able to use the Olympics to springboard a movement toward a professional league, like women’s basketball supporters did after the U.S. team won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is an avid supporter of the women’s game. In fact, in a recent press conference with Rene Fasel, confirmed that women’s hockey will remain off the Olympic chopping block.

Even a women’s hockey advocate like Bettman, though, says this isn’t the time to be creating such a professional league.

“There doesn’t yet seem to be a framework that would justify from a business standpoint a women’s league in North America,” Bettman said in a Feb. 18 press conference in Sochi.

Though I would like to see a “WNHL” or something similar for the sake of collegiate women’s hockey players, I feel that we are still far away from its establishment.

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