Canada's former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson, says the head in the International Olympic Committee delivered "a slap in the face" to women when he suggested women's hockey needed to be more competitive if it wants to stay in the Games.
"Jacques Rogge's comment may have been a slip of the tongue, but it revealed a lot of attitude," Clarkson said as she watched over the final of the international Clarkson Cup among a crowd of about 1,000 at Elgin Barrow Arena. "Why do we [women]always have to be better?"
The sport drew large crowds at the Vancouver Olympics, but suffers from a stigma of not being competitive after Canada beat the United States for gold in what was a déjà vu final for the women's game. Other countries lag far behind in development.
"We cannot continue without improvement," IOC president Rogge said at the Vancouver Games, indicating the continuation of the women's sport at the Olympic level was under question. The International Ice Hockey Federation plans to meet with Hockey Canada officials next month to discuss international disparity, said Fran Rider, president of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. Canada has more than 50,000 female hockey players, and U.S. schools offer women sport scholarships in hockey. While depth and stars have developed in North America, in contrast, China has only a few hundred players.
"Our game's still really young," said Brampton Thunder's Jayne Hefford, a Canadian Olympic veteran. "It's still developing and we need other teams and countries to invest more in developing."
Clarkson said looking at "imbalance" and lopsided scores in the women's game risked cutting off a work in progress - and also denied women's hockey history and the potential of women's pro hockey in North America.
"Women have been playing hockey in Canada since the early 1900s, and they began playing in leagues at least 70 years ago. By 1975, with a lot of hard work and very little help (and virtually none financially), we had a network for women's hockey that worked toward a world tournament," Ms Clarkson said in an open letter to Rogge.
"I was mad. I wanted to immediately say to him 'did not men's hockey need to improve in the 1920s?'" she said.
She said that Canada, as world leaders in the game, is helping others. The Chinese Olympic team spent three months training in Canada because, culturally, the Chinese women's side didn't want to practice at home against men's teams. The Chinese women improved enormously with a 13-7-1 record. The Chinese women finished seventh at the Olympics, Ms. Clarkson said. They will return for more Canadian training, as will the Austrian women.
"We can do that with other countries. There's going to be a tournament here in April, with 450 teams playing, from novice through bantam. Eventually, we will have better challengers to play with. It has to be built. But I thought it was a real slap in the face for women that he should say we're not good enough and we many have to take it out...
"They can get better, but they can only get better with encouragement.... That means women need to know there will be future world championships and an Olympics every four years. We have to make sure we're at Sochi in four years and make enough noise."
The Clarkson Cup brings together the top teams of the Western Women's Hockey League and the Canadian Women's Hockey League. It has taken the place of a Canadian national championship. There was a national championship every year since 1981-82 prior to the international Clarkson Cup.
Minnesota, a finalist against Montreal last year, won the 2010 final 4-0 over the Brampton Canadette-Thunder, backstopped by the tournament's top goalie Megan Van Beusekom-Sweerin. Goals came from Chelsey Brodt-Rosenthal, Jenny Potter, Maggie Fisher and Brooke White-Lancette.