Don't Eliminate Women's Hockey From the Olympics

Just because Team Canada and Team USA dominate doesn't mean no one watches the sport.

Women's Olympic hockey.

Michelle Picard (3) and Megan Bozek (9) of the United States battle Hayley Wickenheiser (22) of Canada for control of the puck during the 2014 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. 

By + More

Title IX, which created equal opportunity for girls’ and women’s sports in schools and colleges, has been a boon for female development in the U.S. – not just in athleticism, but in instilling confidence, teamwork and a spirit of competitiveness that extends far beyond the sports arena. Girls who learn how to win honorably and lose graciously, who learn not to be afraid to compete against others, and who learn to cooperate with fellow athletes will become more assertive and productive in the workplace.

How unfortunate, then, that American women are being punished for Title IX at the very event that should be celebrating women’s athletic achievements.

U.S. women are racking up an impressive stack of medals at the Sochi Olympics, salvaging the nation’s overall performance amid some disappointing finishes by some of the premier male athletes. The American women’s hockey team is particularly exciting to watch. They are fast, aggressive and focused, scoring three goals in the space of less than a minute against the Swiss team, and coming impressively close to beating the Canadian women, who are formidable.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the 2014 Sochi Olympics.]

Ah, but that’s too much success for some in the International Olympic Committee, who are thinking about getting rid of women’s Olympic hockey because the medals platform is so often dominated by the American and Canadian teams. Why would anyone watch, the argument goes, if two teams so often dominate?

You could ask that question about men’s hockey, as well: For the first three decades of the Olympic sport, the Canadian team won the gold every time but one. That makes sense; Canadians are big skaters and huge hockey fans. It stands to reason they’d be the team to beat. You could ask that question as well about speed skating – how much fun was it (except for the Dutch) to see three orange-suited men from the Netherlands sweep the medals in the men’s 500?

But no one talks about eliminating men’s sports – only the women’s competitions. Already, women’s softball has been dropped from the summer Olympics because the American women were too successful.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Talk about a glass (or ice) ceiling: women fight to get more athletic opportunities for girls and young women, the females step up to the plate and become winning, well-trained athletes, and then get punished for it because other countries aren’t doing the same thing. Why do the U.S. women have to be dropped to the lowest common denominator? How far does that mentality go – should women around the world be limited to just one sport at the summer Olympics, because Afghanistan sent just one female to London in 2012 (in Taekwondo)? Or do the Olympic brass have such a low opinion of female athletes that they can’t imagine anyone watching unless one’s home nation is in contention?

The United States has set the standard for training girls and women as athletes. The rest of the world needs to be encouraged to rise to that standard. We shouldn’t limit opportunities for American women to accommodate the slackers.