If you’re a fan of women’s hockey you already know how much the Olympic tournament means to the sport. There is no bigger stage. There are no games that matter more to the players, to fans, and to the growth of the game. This tournament comes just once every four years, and this will be just the sixth time we have seen women’s hockey as an Olympic event.
Today we thought we’d identify some of the key storylines for you to keep an eye on in PyeongChang. Remember, every game matters.
Remember, there is no Team Russia at the PyeongChang Olympic games, but there is team OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia). And they are playing underneath a microscope.
Due to violations of the IOC’s anti-doping policy at the Sochi Games, Team Russia has lost the right to wear its flag or its colors in Korea. Instead, the Russian women will wear a jersey with the Olympic rings on it. In addition, players from Russia’s Sochi team received lifetime bans that appear to have now been lifted after PyeongChang.
The drama, intrigue, and question marks off the ice will be a tremendous distraction to the Olympic Athletes from Russia. How could they not?
The O.A.R. women's team (Team Russia) had its practice "crashed" today by WADA officials for an unannounced inspection, according to the Moscow Times. 16 of the 23 women on the roster were summoned for testing. #PyeongChang2018 https://t.co/WpltVlR0yA— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) February 5, 2018
A united Korea
The IOC approved of the unified Korean team just weeks before the Games officially began. As a result, Team Korea’s Canadian-born head coach Sarah Murray has had four years of training and preparation dashed against the rocks of politics and propaganda. Her roster of 23 South Koreans has swelled in size, with 12 players from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea joining the fold.
Murray must play three North Korean players for each game in the tournament. In other words, she doesn’t have the control over her team that she has earned and deserves as a head coach. Needless to say, it’s a complicated issue and one that has a far greater impact than what happens on the ice in PyeongChang.
Finland’s bronze to lose
The Finns won bronze at the 2017 Women’s World Championship and the 2018 Four Nations Cup, so it is safe to say they are favorites to medal in PyeongChang.
Finland is hungry for an Olympic medal after finishing fifth in Sochi four years ago. Naisleijonat (Lady Lions) won bronze in Vancouver and in Nagano, so this would be their third Olympic medal.
The Finns have the star power, the scoring depth, the goaltending, and the momentum. The team is led by defensive superstar Jenni Hiirikoski, the consistently brilliant Linda Välimäki, and the iconic Noora Räty.
For more on Team Finland (and Team Sweden), be sure to follow the Ice Garden’s own Meredith Foster on twitter: @fosterwrites.
Hockey just doesn’t get any better than Team USA playing Team Canada. There are too many twists, turns, and storylines to hockey’s greatest rivalry to list them all, but let’s go ahead and point out a few of the big ones.
- For the first time in its history, the Canadian Olympic team will have a completely new group of captains.
- Team USA will be chasing gold without Alex Carpenter and Megan Bozek. Carpenter led USA in scoring and Bozek was one of two defenders recognized as a Media All-Star in Sochi.
- The last four times Canada and USA crossed sticks the Canadians emerged victorious, but all of those games were decided by two goals or less. It’s also worth pointing out that all three Olympic gold medal games between Team USA and Team Canada have been decided by two goals or less.
- The United States women’s national team has won three consecutive gold medals at both the Women’s World Championship and the Four Nations Cup. But the 23 women on Team USA aren’t thinking about those victories. They are thinking about losing the gold medal game in Sochi in overtime and making a statement against Canada in group play.