Whilst the final may have been contested between two old enemies; this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi demonstrated both how far the women’s game has come in many other nations, and how the standard of goaltending has risen across the board.
It was, essentially, a ‘given’ that either Canada or Team USA would take home gold in the women’s hockey tournament – but where Amanda Kessel et al were the focus before the tournament, it was two European netminders who ultimately stole the show.
The 2014 Winter Paralympics begin on Friday, with sledge hockey set to be a popular event in Sochi.
Interest in sledge hockey has grown in Great Britain over the past few years; with the national side aiming to qualify for the next Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, and the British Sledge Hockey League set to expand to 9 teams this season, when Sheffield SteelKings join the league.
I caught up with British Sledge Hockey Association Chairman Matt Lloyd to learn more about the sport, and its expansion in the UK.
I stopped by for some Olympic chat on this weeks A View From The Bridge podcast – the official podcast of the Belfast Giants.
Along with regular hosts Patrick and Davy, and guest presenter Joel Neil, we talked about the tournament as a whole, the success of smaller nations like Latvia and Slovenia and whether Great Britain could ever emulate it, as well as sharing some thoughts on Nicklas Backstrom’s failed drug test and give a stick tap to Mikael Granlund for his efforts in Sochi.
The guys also cover Belfast’s games against Coventry last weekend, the Championship banner raising ceremony and look ahead to the Challenge Cup Final clash with Nottingham.
The NHL returns to action tonight, as Buffalo hosts Carolina.
It’s hardly the most ground breaking fixture with which to welcome ‘The Show’ back in to our lives (not that it ever went away…); but none the less there are plenty of people who are delighted to see things fired up again in North America.
The debate over player participation in 2018 has already begun (I fired off my take on it yesterday), but the wider impact of the NHLPA’s finest heading to Sochi may not truly be realised for several months.
Here I look at some of the potential stories the 22nd Winter Olympics will have played their part in:
With Sochi already something of a distant memory, as teams gear up for the return to NHL action this week, the debate has already begun of whether the NHL, and its players, will participate in the 2018 games in Pyeongchang.
The obstacles to participation are not new; if anything there is now the additional ‘con’ that fewer players will be interested in going to Korea than they were Russia. But in my view the NHL should, nay must, let its players travel in four years time.
Simply put – it’s their responsibility to do so.
Today’s gold medal clash between Canada and Sweden marks the end of a fortnight’s worth of international hockey on our TV screens.
The BBC has shown every game, or as damned near as, on one format or another. That’s EVERY game from the men’s and women’s tournament.
Apparently showing 52 games isn’t good enough for some though.
Bob Ballard, who has been working for the Olympic Broadcast Service in Sochi, joins me to look back at the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 2014 Olympics.
As well as talking about today’s bronze medal game and previewing the gold showdown tomorrow between Canada and Sweden, we also talked about:
- Russia’s meltdown
- The decline of Czech and Slovak hockey
- Slovenia and Latvia’s success in Sochi
- Disappointment with the Swiss
- The women’s tournament
- Emerging stars in the women’s game
- And whether Team GB’s womens team could qualify for future Olympics
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Thanks to Bob for joining me. You can follow him on Twitter @BobBallardSport.