April 16th -17th -18th
We finally had our first games at the 2011 World Championship! We opened the tournament facing the host country, Switzerland. We did not know what to expect from their team and the fans here in Winterthur. To our great surprise, about 3,000 fans came out for the game to completely fill out the stands of the rink here. They were loud cheering on their home team and whistling when they were not happy.
Although we won the game 12-0, the Swiss had several good scoring chances and Charline Labonté had to make good saves. Unfortunately, their team does not match the depth that we have in Canada and as the game went on, we were able to keep our intensity at a high level because we used everyone on the team and we could sense that the fatigue level was increasing on their side. I give them credit for not giving up; they fought until the end and were very physical. They have improved over the last years, but so have we with our young players being incredibly talented and always better prepared through our development teams at the under 18 and under 22 levels. Cherie Piper had 3 goals in the game and was chosen Player of the Game. She received a giant Swiss chocolate bunny that she nicely shared with all of us. It was amazingly delicious! The goal of the game was scored by Marie-Philip Poulin on a great feed by Sarah Vaillancourt. She shot off the pass from high slot top corner… almost a replay from the 2010 Olympics final game!
We had a quick turnaround with our 2nd game of the tournament being the next day at 4pm against Kazakhstan. Our coaches decided that we would not skate that morning and opted for a nice outing in the nearby park. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and about 20 degree temperature. Girls played soccer, volleyball, ran and stretched. I have never experienced a world championship where we have had such amazing weather where we want to tan in the sun! Makes me wish I was in the NHL (I have always wished that) playing somewhere hot like Florida or Anaheim! Must be incredible to come out of the rink in shorts and t-shirts all year long. Lucky them! The Kazakhstan goalie was incredible and made 65 saves in a 7-0 loss. We had many great scoring chances created on nice plays where our players shared the puck beautifully. Meaghan Mikkelson scored 2 goals and was named player of the game. A great performance by a defense player. One of her goals was scored on the power play on a beautiful deceptive move.
True to be told, those games are disappointing to us. As proud competitors we want to be in close games with opponents at our level. Unfortunately, we have not reached that parity in women’s hockey yet. People tend to forget that it was not much different in men’s hockey in the history of world championships. In men’s hockey, Canada was the world championship tournament’s first dominant team, winning the tournament 12 times between 1930 and 1952. The Soviet Union first participated in 1954 and soon became rivals with Canada. From 1963 until the nation’s breakup in 1991, the Soviet Union was the dominant team, winning 20 championships. During that period, only three other nations won medals: Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden.
Women’s hockey first world championship was in 1990, only 21 years ago. We must give it time to grow. We also deeply need the leadership of the hockey federations to promote women’s hockey and invest in our sport and in the athletes. In many countries, unfortunately, the women hockey players are the society outcasts. Very few play hockey and according to many old macho stereotypes, hockey is not a sport made for girls. We still have so many barriers to work through. Some countries are where we were when I started playing hockey in 1989. I played with the boys from 9 to 17 and all those years I was the only girl on my team. I head every possible name-calling, the most popular being tomboy. Now it is normal for a young girl in Canada to play hockey and we, as a culture, are proud of it. Girls play with girls or with boys if they prefer. We have come so far! Be patient and let the world catch up!
After yesterday’s game, Charlie, Kim, Marie-Philip and I venture out to this fabulous Santa Lucia restaurant where we met the manager Eddie and the cook Merlot! We had an amazing meal: calamari, pizza and wonderfully hand-made gnocchis. We also received a nice surprise from the chef… our pizzas were made with a heart shape J It made us smile so much! Definitely a restaurant we want to go back to. Our host Eddie suggested that Marie-Philip looked Française; Charlie, Spanish; Kim; Swiss and Caro, Russian! We had a lot of fun with those guesses and today I am still Carolina the Russian! It was great for the four of us to be back together again and we brought back memories of the four of living together during the Vancouver Olympic centralization. Definitely, the best year in our careers! A wonderful night like that had to end with the infamous credit card game. There is a God because my card came out first! I really did not want to pay again because this bill was even higher than the first one! Remember who I said was famous for the highest bills!? Yes Charline Labonté is the winner this time! Marie-Philip Poulin’s mom credit card is safe for now!
We had a short practice today to prepare for Finland tomorrow. There was a huge upset yesterday in women’s hockey, proof of the ever evolving caliber of the women’s game: Switzerland beat Finland 2-1 in Overtime. Our coaches were at the game and Ryan said that this is a historic moment for our game. The crowd went crazy in support of their favorite team’s win. Countries are catching up! Tomorrow we will face a Finish team desperate for victory. I am very excited to play them. They have a good team and we must come out with our best effort every shift.