When the Matildas – our national women’s soccer team – beat Brazil to advance through to the World Cup in soccer, it took an ungrateful nation a while for the news to filter through.
Our initial indifference sparked an important discussion about the lack of recognition for women’s sport, and ultimately a strike by the Matildas for better pay and conditions (which improved only marginally).
Yesterday – on the eve of International Women’s Day – the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey Team (yes, we play ice hockey in Australia) won gold at the World Championships in Spain.
Cue the tumbleweeds and sustained media silence.
The squad – known simply as NWT (National Women’s Team) – defeated home team Spain to collect the gold.
Granted, Australia doesn’t play in the top tier of the competition, where the great hockey nations like Canada, the US, Russia, Sweden and Finland reside. But a gold medal is still a gold medal.
The NWT tied with Mexico in regular time in the first game of the series, but lost the shoot out. They went on to thrash Turkey 12-0, and arch rivals New Zealand 21-1.
The NWT also defeated Iceland 3-2 in a come from behind win, before defeating Spain in their final match 4-1 (after losing a week earlier to Spain in a practice match 6-3).
As a result of their win, Australia will advance to ‘Division II Group A’ in 2017, pitting them against stronger hockey nations like Great Britain, South Korea, North Korea (yes, they play as well), Poland, Croatia and Slovenia.
Shona Powell, Sharna Godfrey, the unstoppable Rylie Padjen and Sari Lehmann each won Player of the Match awards, and Alivia Del Basso was named best Australian Player and Best Forward across the entire tournament.
There have been 16 Women’s Ice Hockey World Championships played – Canada has won 10 of them, plus 6 silver, and the United States has won 6 of them, plus 10 silver. In other words, Canada and the US are the only women’s teams to have ever played in a gold medal match. Everyone else has had to slug it out for bronze. And for the record, the US are the reigning champs.
Unlike in the NHL, fighting in women’s ice hockey at the international level is banned (as it is for men) and results in an immediate match penalty (ie. you get thrown out of the game).
Women’s hockey also doesn’t include checking… none of which explains this video from the 2014 Olympic trials, and the face-off between bitter rivals USA and Canada (skip to 5:10 for the brawl). For those not in the know, every time these two teams meet, this happens.
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