Canada's whole Own The Podium rhetoric for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics is probably taking a gold medal in women's hockey for granted.
The U.S. beat Canada for the gold at the worlds last month in Harbin, China, but chances are, the average fan back home waved that off as one of those anything-can-happens. It should be on everyone's radar screen that USA Hockey is setting up a residency program for the national women's team in Blaine, Minn., starting in the fall. Much of that group will play with the Minnesota Whitecaps.
Canada might be heading toward the same state that the U.S. is for women's hoops. There's an expectation that only an Olympic gold medal will do, but the rest of the world is catching up and the athletes' economic reality works against having a national team which is together all the time. (This is being written without a full awareness of what the Canadian women go through, but it's not exactly unknown they make huge sacrifices to play.)
It's great for the sport, of course. The bottom line is there's no analog to Whitecaps president Jack Brodt, or to use the soccer example, Greg Kerfoot in Vancouver, among the old boys club that runs hockey in Canada. (If there's a patron on par with the businesswomen who run a couple of WNBA teams, they're remarkably shy.) Please keep that in mind in February 2010 if you're wondering why we didn't win in women's hockey while you were second knuckle deep in a big bowl of popcorn. That's not an excuse and it's doubtful Canada would use it as one, but it bears acknowledging.
Meantime, it's Sweden vs. Canada in the World Hockey Championship semi-final this afternoon in Quebec City. Any True North strong and full of self-loathing Canadian is probably tempted to root for the Swedes, who the equivalent of an entire NHL roster -- 21 players -- pass on playing. Henrik Lundqvist could be this tournament's answer to what Martin Gerber was in 2006 and won't the garment-rending be fun to observe.