Watching the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey games over the past few days made me think about car racing.
Hold on, stay with me. The women’s gold medal game was a fantastic nail-biter. Part amazing comeback by the Canadian women (after being down 3-0 in the third period) and part epic collapse by the U.S. women’s team.
Then the Team Canada men beat the U.S. 1-0. Good result for Canada but a bit of a boring game by comparison. (Then, speaking of an epic collapse, the U.S. team lost 5-0 to Finland on Saturday in the bronze medal game.)
But, when the Olympics are over, the Canadian men will go back to the NHL and resume their careers. The women will remain hockey players but won’t play in the NHL. But why can’t they? It’s not the Men’s National Hockey League, after all. And, one of the best aspects of the Olympic games has been the speed and the playmaking. No fighting, no unnecessary stops in play. Maybe that would continue if women and men played on the same teams.
There are few sports where men and women compete on an equal footing but auto racing is one of them, although the sport could benefit from more female racers at the sport’s top levels. It’s partly because in racing success depends in nearly equal parts on athlete and machine. The physical differences between the genders don’t matter as much as they might in hockey or other full-contact sports. But, if professional hockey evolves to become more about speed and skill those differences might not matter.
My guess is that as more girls take up hockey, they’ll eventually begin knocking on the NHL‘s door. And if they’re as good as Team Canada’s women’s team has been in Sochi, it’ll be tough to keep them out.