Adrienne Clarkson still gets steamed when she thinks of the comments Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge made about women’s hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The former governor-general of Canada spoke passionately about the women’s game on CBC’s Fresh Air Saturday, hours before the championship game in Markham, Ont., where women were to contest the Clarkson Cup she donated. She says she remains very offended that Rogge has never responded to a letter she wrote him on official government letterhead, expressing her great disappointment with his comments that women’s hockey must improve its parity internationally, or it could be removed from the Olympics.
“It’s plain rude,” Clarkson said on the program. “As a courtesy, I thought I would have at least gotten a written reply saying ‘Thanks for your comments,’ but I got nothing. It was very offensive to me, and that’s why I tell people about it. I think women should be angry about it.”
But Clarkson acknowledged she doesn’t watch much women’s hockey. She said she typically sees one women’s hockey game each year, the championship game played annually for her Clarkson Cup. There was no mention of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which is an elite professionally run league that struggles to sell tickets and has yet to evolve to the point where it can pay its players.
Clarkson could also take in some women’s hockey during the first week of April, when the women’s world championships are played in Ottawa. It’s expected to be the largest-ever single gathering of female hockey players, as the Ontario Women’s Minor Hockey Association will also be holding its provincial championships in Ottawa for its women and girls teams.
Clarkson was known during her time in office as a passionate supporter of the arts. She expresses a similar fire when discussing women’s hockey, detailing the story of the cup she donated five years ago. She has routinely spoken about the Cup, which she had made by Inuit crafts people. She had it engraved with the likeness of the mythical goddess Sedna, who according to Inuit legend had been tossed overboard by a man, but clung to the boat until her fingers were cut off.
Earlier this month, she was there to see the Hockey Hall of Fame give the Cup a new home among its gallery of great hockey trophies. It’s one small step, but Clarkson wants to see more for women’s hockey.
“We need the money for it now, we need a professional women’s hockey league,” Clarkson said during the interview. “One of the ideas would be giving a certain amount of ticket sales from the NHL to a women’s league.”
Clarkson lamented that more countries don’t value women’s hockey as Canada and the U.S. do. She cited Russia, wondering why with its strong history of men’s hockey and women’s Olympic sports, women’s hockey hasn’t been a higher priority. “They don’t value it. Maybe because it’s considered to be macho.”
In fairness, Russia is making strong efforts with its women’s program before hosting the world next year at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. While they under-achieved greatly at last year’s women’s world hockey championships, they have made significant efforts recently, like taking on North American mentors and naming former Ottawa Senator Alexei Yashin the team’s general manager.