The day of the Gold Medal Game for Women’s Hockey I laced my skates for my weekly game with a group of former college and NHL players in the Dallas area, naturally we were all talking about our predictions and thoughts for the game. During the conversation one of the guys talked about the competition between the two teams and said, “They (the USA and Canadian women) hate each other more than the NHL guys do.” Judging the intensity the girls play with I can see how some people when watching would get that impression and I shook my head in agreement. Anyone who is familiar with the match up knows that it is always a battle, exciting to watch and full of emotion. The day after the Canadians took home the gold; the USA Women were featured on the Today Show on NBC. During the interview, Matt Lauer, asked the players to talk a little bit about the rivalry between Canada and America. Remembering the conversation I was apart of the day before I figured there would be talk of how rough it is and how much hatred there is towards opposing team, but as the camera panned to the players donning the red, white, and blue, veteran Julie Chu spoke, she gave another perspective that once again made me proud to be involved in women’s hockey, she said, “It’s enabled us to grow the game.”
I had not thought about that before, and while I think some of the players (from both teams) may have thought to use the “h” word to describe the USA/Canada rivalry, it’s really not that at all. As women we have to fight just a little harder to gain respect, especially when it comes to sports. We have to continually prove that we have what it takes to train, dedicate our time, compete, and sacrifice just as much as men to be the best athletes we can and achieve our goals. In reality it has nothing to do with hate; it’s the love of the game that drives the rivalry from both sides. The love for the game that those teams share is shown in how hard they compete, and that level of competition raises the bar within our sport. Even though one team has to lose, I couldn’t help but think of the impact of the game itself. That game is now the driving motivation behind the strides of athletes across North America, some who are current national players with their sights already fixated on 2018, and on athletes who may have been watching the game thinking, “that could be me.”
So to the women on both benches, from youth hockey teams to the national competitors and every level in between, your drive and love of competition inspires more people than you’ll ever know, keep your eyes up and your feet moving.