There are only 306 days left until the 2010 Olympic Games kick-off in Vancouver and a likely preview of the women’s hockey gold medal game was played today between the US and Canada, with the States winning 4-1 with an empty netter. The game was a little bit closer than the score shows, although the US was clearly the dominant team from the first drop of the puck. It was still one of the best women’s hockey games I have seen this year and I wanted to share with you the 15 things I learned from watching today’s championship game.
1) I am officially old. The US women’s hockey team has 4 players that I used to teach in hockey school back when I was at Dartmouth. I am sure it was my on-ice instruction that got them to where they are today
2) US assistant captain Angela Ruggerio was great on “The Apprentice” but she is an amazing hockey player who will definitely be in Vancouver and could still be around for the 2014 games in Russia.
3) Jayna Hefford just keeps getting faster. Every single time I have seen Jayna play this season, she looks faster than ever. She always seems to pull out a new move and a new gear every time she is out there. In the two games that I saw her play in person this season, she has 10 points. Enough said.
4) The state of Minnesota has a monopoly on women’s hockey in the States. When I looked at the US roster the other day, I realized that nearly every player on their squad plays for a club or university team in Minnesota. The Mid-West has definitely taken over women’s college hockey in the last 10 years, due to the addition of terrific coaches like current US coach, Mark Johnson, who just won another NCAA championship with his team from Wisconsin just a few short weeks ago.
5) I do not miss playing against Gillian Apps. She plays like an inside linebacker out there. Trying to stand in her way when she is carrying the puck down the wing is just plain dangerous.
6) US player Kerri Weiland can do 29 pull-ups! I don’t care whether you are male or female, that is just darn impressive. I checked out the US National Teams fitness testing scores when I was in Minnesota in January and all I have to say is WOW.
7) Gina Kingbury is one of the most skilled female hockey players I have ever seen – and I think she is also one of the most under-rated players in the game. When she has the puck in the offensive zone, everyone else looks like they are going in slow-motion.
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and the Western Women’s Hockey League (WWHL) are the two best women’s hockey leagues in the world. Having played in both these leagues for years, and watching many of the games this season, I am starting to question whether I was ever really that fast or skilled. The majority of the players on both the US and Canadian teams play in those two great leagues.
9) Cheryl Pounder is a class act. She was a surprise cut from the National Team program just a few short weeks ago, and although I know there is nothing she would want more that to be out there on the ice playing in this huge game, she did a great job on TSN today as a analyst between periods. Both her and Cassie do a great job of adding insight about the game after playing at the elite level for years and years that the male commentators simply can’t provide.
10) If any parent or coach out there wants their players to see what focus and intensity is all about, have them watch Hayley Wickenheiser play. She is one of the most focused and intense people I have ever met in my life – which might have something to do with the fact that she has been on the national team for 15 years.
11) Erica Lawler is amazing. She must be about 4 foot 10 and she shows no fear at all out there going up against players like Caroline Ouelette and Gillian Apps who tower over her. I am glad I never had to play against her since her speed and quickness would have left me in her dust.
12) Watching this game on TV does not do the speed and intensity of the game justice. I have watched 95% of these women play in person this season and there’s nothing like actually being there to see the level of skill, speed and strength that these women play with.
13) Jennifer Botteril is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life and I am very proud of her for having such a great tournament after being told that she really had to prove herself to save her spot on the team – mission accomplished.
14) Marie-Phillipe Poulin might just become the best female hockey player anyone has ever seen period. She IS already the complete package and she is only 18.
15) US forward Jenny Potter and Canadian defenseman Becky Kellar are amazing role models for all women and should be celebrated for their ability to balance family and elite athletics. Each of them have had two kids and they are still both among the best women’s hockey players in the world. They are both a true inspiration to women everywhere.
There is no women’s world championship next year. These players have bigger fish to fry – they will all be fighting it out for the Olympic gold.
We won’t know who will win until their next big game on the world stage, but I can guarantee you that they will be ready.
I know I am – I could watch these teams play all day every day.
Work Hard. Dream BIG.
~ Coach Kim