The seventh ever women’s Olympic tournament is set to kick off this Thursday, with an anticipated showdown once again between Canada and the United States likely to highlight the Gold Medal Match for the sixth time.
Just like every previous Olympic tournament, the question is not as much around who will be in the final, but who will win the final, as short of another miraculous upset (like Sweden at the 2006 Games or Finland at the 2019 Worlds), will come down to the United States or Canada. Team USA are defending Olympic champions, and were winners of five straight World Championships between 2013-19, but Canada enters Beijing with the momentum swing, having captured the 2021 World Championships and winning the 2021 Rivalry Series by a 4-2 margin. However, once the puck drops in China this will likely all be irrelevant, with another nail-biter Gold Medal finish to add another thrilling chapter to this historic rivalry.
Short of an upset, the Bronze medal will likely be Finland’s to lose, with either Switzerland or the Russian Olympic Committee (designated as such thanks to their CAS doping scandal) looking to compete for a medal. Group B, comprised of Japan, qualifiers Sweden, Denmark and Czechia, and hosts China will look to gain some momentum in the IIHF World Ranking, with Sweden in particular trying to claw back into Group A after an epic fall from grace over the past few seasons, and Czechia looking to improve on their surprising Group B first-place finish at the 2021 Worlds, potentially playing spoiler in the early medal rounds.
From the perspective of the IHLC, a few interesting facts related to this year’s Olympics:
– Canada enters the Olympics as incumbent IHLC champions for the second straight time, and fourth overall
– Canada will open the tournament against Switzerland, who they are 10-0 all-time for the IHLC against (including the first ever pro women’s game in 1987), with a score differential of 81-2
– the United States are looking to become back-to-back Olympic champions for the first time, with their two wins coming two decades apart in 1998 and 2018
– interestingly, Team USA’s two Gold medal wins both came at Olympics held in Asia (Nagano, Japan and PyeongChang, South Korea)
– this marks the first Winter Olympic Games held in China, and mark the first IHLC matches in the country since the 2008 World Championships in Harbin
– these will mark the first ever IHLC games to be held in Beijing; the 2003 World Championships were scheduled here, but cancelled due to a global SARS outbreak
– of the returning rosters for the United States and Canada, both have thirteen players each returning from PyeongChang 2018
With all of the dramatics and uncertainty around international women’s hockey over the past three years, this should certainly make for an interesting tournament in Beijing, but so long as they are able to play, there will be no uncertainty around drama and excitement on the ice.
Photo Credit: PyeongChang 2018 – IIHF – HHOF – IOC