USWNT Coach Tom Sermanni Fired: What Happened

Oops, forgot to put a question mark in the title up there. My bad!

qmsb

As expected, today’s presser with U.S. Soccer head honcho Sunil Gulati was a master class in spin. (Full disclosure: I wasn’t in on the media call. I read parts of a transcript later). If you want to know more about what was said, check out Jeff Kassouf’s article for NBC Sports Soccer, and you definitely should read former USWNT captain Julie Foudy’s piece over at ESPNW. Both attempt to provide insight into a shocking situation only made murkier by Gulati’s evasive answers.

The only sure thing about this whole debacle is how badly mishandled it was by U.S. Soccer.

  • Gulati said the USA’s 7th-place finish at the Algarve Cup factored into the decision to let Sermanni go. He also said Sermanni’s firing wasn’t about Sunday night’s game vs. China PR. If that’s the case, why wait three and a half weeks? Why let Sermanni call in a new roster and coach a friendly? Why fire him on a night when the country was actually paying attention to women’s soccer? The timing, though they may have been trying to bury the news at 10pm on a Sunday night, was pitiful.
  • The gag order issued by U.S. Soccer on the players put the team itself squarely in the firing line once news broke. Social media’s barracudas immediately went after the players based on nothing more than rumor, “unnamed sources,” and fair or not, reputation. Meanwhile within hours Sermanni gave interviews to Grant Wahl at Sports Illustrated and Leander Schaerlaeckens at Fox Soccer. The USSF itself stayed mute for another 18 hours. Sermanni drove the narrative. The USSF had the opportunity to drop their press release and follow up with additional information, to own the story from the onset and take responsibility for their actions, but didn’t. They allowed the rumors and unnamed sources to run rampant, and for Sermanni’s grace to shine through. As a result, U.S. Soccer looks like a small-city school board trying to fire a popular teacher via text messages to parents on a Friday night before going out of town for the weekend.
  • Sermanni has said – repeatedly – he was blindsided by his dismissal. He had one post-Algarve Cup conversation with Gulati, but didn’t think that conversation was serious enough to lead to a firing. Now, let’s assume for the moment that Sermanni’s post-firing comments – which came just a scant hour or so after an unexpected, emotional event turned his life upside-down – are correct, that he did not have any indication that this was coming, that in a week or three he won’t  look back and say “ok, when management said X, I should have understood better what they meant.” Let’s trust he truly had no indication from management that his job was in jeopardy. What kind of lousy lines of communication do they have over at USSF? As Foudy said, “As a matter of good business (and leadership), [dismissal being a surprise] should not happen to any coach in any sport. This should have been addressed early and often. After repeated conversations, if it’s still not working, then you make a change.” There appears to be a severe lack of process and procedure in the U.S. Soccer HR department. Which leads me to…
  • Tom Sermanni, a successful, well-regarded coach, was unceremoniously kicked out the door with little to no warning. He’d posted an 18-2-4 record, including a draw against Japan and a win over Germany in last year’s Algarve. And he was fired before he could see the fruition of his work. Who in their right mind would want this job? Coaching the USWNT is already a challenging job full of egos and superstars and real pressure to win on the biggest stages like the WWC and Olympics. The USSF’s unprofessional actions morph what should be one of the prime soccer-coaching jobs in the world into perhaps more trouble than its worth. How can U.S. Soccer attract the best coaches when they treat a man like Sermanni with such disrespect?

If Gulati was so concerned about Sermanni’s ability to lead the USWNT after the Algarve Cup, he should have fired the coach as soon as that tournament was over. His media call could have gone something like this: “We just gave up five goals to Denmark and placed seventh in the bloody Algarve Cup. Seventh! Why am I even having this presser?” Mic drop. Flip phone slammed. The end.

Instead he left his players to bear the full force of fandom’s fury, gave his now-former coach free reign to charm his way to worldwide sympathy, and tarnished the very office he’s now tasked to fill. And he made himself look incompetent in the process.

Time will tell if this was a move that helps get the U.S. Women’s National Team back onto the podium at the World Cup. But right now, the USSF has a long way to go just to get back to solid ground.

The NHL’s Winnipeg Myth

winnipeg jets logoThe Winnipeg Jets’ third season since “returning” to Canada has ended up in the same place as the first two: out of the playoffs. Snarky Laura wants to (ok, did) tweet: “So having passionate, knowledgeable fans doesn’t magically turn a team with middling talent and a poor GM into winners? Who knew?”

I knew. What I don’t know is where this fans-holding-the-team-accountable-will-make-them-champions myth came about. The fans don’t play the game or make decisions about the team and organization. If True North, the Jets’ owners, replace GM Kevin Cheveldayoff it won’t be due to the bile of a thousand bitching bloggers. It’ll be because they care about and understand hockey and they want to win.

That’s something the Thrashers never had. The Thrashers had comically litigious basketball-loving sycophants who were saddled with a hockey team they couldn’t wait to “sell or otherwise dispose of.” Atlanta Spirit Group was early-film Jimmy Dugan in “A League of their Own”:

NHL: Now, ASG, you have some pretty good athletes here. You ought to give them a little bit of your…

ASG: [interrupting] Athletes?! We don’t have athletes, we’ve got hockey players. Hockey players are what you watch to see people beat the crap out of each other, not, not what you watch when you want to see real sports!

[spits sues someone else]

NHL: If we ignore you a little bit more, ASG, do you think you could be just a little more apathetic?

ASG: [brightly] HEY LOOK, THE BASKETBALLERS!

Meanwhile, Jets players continue to play poorly, despite being surrounded by passionate, knowledgeable fans (and Winnipeggers truly are that). Players like Ondrej Pavelec:

“All goalies, not just me, are supposed to win. And we haven’t won enough games here. So the goalie is going to get blamed. That’s the way the NHL works in Canada. It’s that way for me in the Czech Republic, too,” said Pavelec. “The people care. That’s why the media is always here. That’s a good thing. In Atlanta, nobody cared. There was no media. That’s no good. We need people to care about what we do.”

Caring fans and swarming media haven’t improved your pathetic play Pavs, have they?

Then there’s the “we need fans/media to care about what we do [and by extension hold us accountable so we will try harder to win]” attitude wielded by so many Jets. Why do they need motivation from the fans? Shouldn’t they want to do their best every night no matter if there are 20,000 or 2,000 fans watching? Shouldn’t they want to win every game? To play hard for each other and take pride in their performances?

I work in radio. If I know I’m doing a bad show or if I make a mistake – say I give up a four-rating-point lead and fail to finish in the top eight shows in the market – I don’t wait around for an avalanche of fan (e)mail telling me how lousy I sound. I want to do better. I try harder. I take responsibility for my work. It doesn’t matter if I have one listener or one million. I want to do my best every. single. time. This concept of personal accountability seems foreign to Jets players.

“In Atlanta you didn’t really have to answer to anyone other than the coach or the guys in the room. Here the fans get on you, there’s people asking questions after every game. There’s a little more pressure.” – Bryan Little. Playing for your teammates isn’t enough? That Winnipeg’s number-one center needs external pressure in order to be inspired enough to play his best should be disconcerting to all Jets fans.

This nice little trollalicious piece from Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun blames the Thrashers for Winnipeg’s continued failures. And you know what? He’s right. The Thrashers finished out of the playoffs all but once. Why anyone ever bought into the myth that exporting a bad team to a hockey-mad market would suddenly make them a good team is beyond me. In fact, I postulate that myth is part of the reason the Jets’ woes continue. The players, the fans, the NHL all crowed that the team’s problems would be solved with a change of venue and the vocal, vociferous support of Canadians. Yet the team has not improved. That the players continue to hang their loser-hats on the shelf of fan (and media) participation is simply a symptom of the lack of accountability endemic in the Thrashers. Penton and others basically say the Thrashers were permitted to accept mediocrity for so long that it’s “been impossible to wash the stench of the Atlanta Thrashers off the Winnipeg Jets.” That’s spot on (though in three years True North has done little to launder out the smell, keeping the rotten core intact and making the same sort of poor personnel decisions). ASG’s modus operandi - do the minimum possible to put any product on the ice and blame the fans for failure – trickled down to the team, where it still lives today.

We Atlanta fans knew that all along. We were smart enough not to buy into the lie that we could ever impact owners who had nothing but disdain for us and our sport, and players who constantly looked outside the glass for a fall guy for their failures. Turns out we were pretty knowledgeable after all.

It’s a shame the NHL’s Winnipeg Myth played a part in the league’s decision to take away my team. Gary Bettman spun a tale of magical winter nights in Manitoba and used this fairy tale as justification to abandon Atlanta. Instead of doing the work to find us new owners, like he did in Dallas, New Jersey, Buffalo, Phoenix and Florida, he stirred up the frenzied fantasies of Winnipeg fans and used the billowing haze to make our disgust appear as apathy.

But now that the smoke has cleared the truth is laid bare: neither myth or multitudes, magic or media can turn a neglected bird into an supersonic airplane. As long as the Jets try to fly on the contrails of a myth, they’ll never get off the ground.

The U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team Cried on the Medal Stand. You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!

Photo credit: Andy Miah/Flickr

Photo credit: Andy Miah/Flickr

You probably can guess what happened next: a bunch of mouth-breathing cretins took to Facebook and Twitter and bashed the team for having the temerity to express their sad emotions in public where everyone could see.

I’m not going to waste one word defending the team; there’s nothing to defend. I’m going on offense instead. I’m going to say the things the team perhaps would like to say but won’t because they’re admirable, responsible USA Hockey ambassadors.

I have the luxury of not wearing the United States flag on my shoulder when I take the ice. I am not a public figure who represents my country on television. I’m a private citizen and I’ve got a few choice words for you keyboard cowboys who like to kick people when they’re down. So buckle up, Sparky.

How sad you are, you emotional coasters who have no idea what it’s like to sacrifice so much of yourself for an unknown. To love unconditionally something you have no control over. What a shallow existence you must have in this world, skimming through life’s experiences, one numb monochromatic day after another. How sad.

How small you are, tearing down strangers awash in their most agonizing moments. Do you feel better now? Stronger and smarter and more powerful than these women who have accomplished more than your pea brains can even conceive? You hold on to that illusion, pumpkin, ’cause it’s unlikely you’ll ever sniff competence in real life much less be celebrated for excellence.

How cowardly you are, hiding behind your aliases and avatars. Surely you’ll share your criticisms and helpful behavioral suggestions with the team when you go see them play? Oh, you didn’t know they play games other than at the Olympics? You weren’t aware they went on a pre-Olympic tour with stops in Burlington, Grand Forks and St. Paul? Oh. Well guess what, they play games other than at the Olympics. And they usually do a pre-Olympic tour and play in cities like Burlington, Grand Forks and St. Paul. Now that you know can I count on you to speak to the team in person so you can tell them how you feel? Right. Cowards.

How duplicitous you are. That means two-faced, Einstein. You’d prefer these weeping women hide their emotional hysterics behind closed doors so no one need suffer their tear-stained faces or classless displays of disappointment. Because this is the time for the winners to celebrate and OMG how selfish are these girls for stealing the spotlight from the Canadians, right? It’s their turn to be happy, eh! But then you’d just blast them for that, for not conforming to your vaporous, shifting expectations of how little ladies should act. How duplicitous.

How hypocritical you are: you’re certainly not grunting positive mouth-noises toward these women. You exemplify the very same negativity you claim they’re exhibiting. The crushing loss of their dream is a valid reason for tears. What’s your excuse for whining? You’ve lost nothing. Invested nothing. Are you mad because you wasted two hours watching a game you barely understand because that’s what was cool at the moment and now you don’t get to be cool too? I’m sorry pleased to inform you no amount of fist-pounding posturing can hide your hypocrisy.

The fact you fingerwaggers think any Olympian requires advice about how to feel about a medal is pathetic. Did you plumb the vast depths of your experience as an athletic champion for those pearls of wisdom? Yes, the second-place t-shirt you got for the President’s Day pub crawl during your junior year of college is absolutely comparable. Team USA doesn’t need your self-centered two cents. They’ll feel pride each time they remember their Olympic experience whether you approve or not.

Then while you’re skipping your workout because it’s cold or you have a hangnail or forgot your favorite socks, they’re lacing ‘em up and hitting the ice. And when the first session of their two-a-days is over they’re going to tack another 3:26 on as a reminder that 55 minutes is not 60. When they finish a cardio session they’ll sprint for an extra 55 seconds because there’s another gold medal at stake in four years and the journey down the road to Pyeongchang has already begun and champions don’t settle for second best.

Praise Granato for that. Team USA should never be satisfied with losing. This isn’t the Oscars; these women aren’t just happy to be nominated. They play to win, every game, every time. So you take your rec league participation medal and slither on down to the bar and drown your mediocre existence in cheap beer and pork rinds. And in 2018 when you jump back on the women’s hockey bandwagon on the day of the gold medal game, we’ll make ample room… and keep the exit route clear for when you turn the channel back to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team will succeed in spite of your fair-weather fandom. And when they earn that next Olympic gold medal, when they climb the podium while joyous tears splash down onto the ice, maybe then you’ll understand. Maybe then you’ll grasp the concepts of loyalty and sacrifice and team. Maybe.

But I doubt it. Instead you’ll pull on your cloaks of anonymity and cry foul about something else. You sad, small, cowardly, duplicitous, hypocritical, self-important, pathetic Olympic Medalists in Nothing.

.

“Big Girl Soccer” and the Perils of USWNT Announcing

On February 13th the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team had a friendly against Russia here in Atlanta. Fans not in attendance could only watch the game via webcast.

The local NASL team, the Atlanta Silverbacks, was involved in production of the entire event, from the spotter to the stretcher-bearers. They also brought in their P.A. announcer, Justin Hanover, to do the webcast play-by-play.

Now before we go any further you should know Justin and I are pals and if you came here looking for some WoSo Rage you’re not going to find it. It’s also important to note that since I went to the game I didn’t hear the webcast live and only listened to parts of it later, and I thought Justin did a very good job.

About 25 minutes into the first half, Justin used the phrase “big girl soccer” to add color to an rare throw-in foul by Kelley O’Hara. Check it out (if it starts at the beginning, go to 39:30):

Now, if you know Justin you know he has two young daughters and has undoubtedly seen his share of actual little girl soccer. Obviously though, the vast majority of the 8,000 webcast viewers do not know him, and some were upset at his use of “big girl soccer,” deeming it as “patronizing” and suggesting it “torpedoed” the entire webcast.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what Justin said, what he likely meant, how some people interpreted it, and how they reacted to him. I contacted a couple people who objected to his use of the phrase to get an expanded view of their takes, and I had dinner with Justin to discuss the whole match, including some behind-the-scenes stuff. This is what I came away with:

1. Justin did not mean any harm with the phrase. He was genuinely confused why it upset some people. I attempted to explain to him how the use of “girls” to describe women is inherently infantilizing but fear I did a poor job. How do I describe to a white male who works for a sports-talk radio station – a poster job for male-dominated, testosterone-laden locker-room culture – what it’s like to live in a world where female athletic accomplishments are almost always seen as inferior to males’? Or how it feels to watch women’s soccer constantly treated as less-important than the men’s (hello, 2015 Women’s World Cup of Astroturf)? How frustrating and even hurtful things like a U.S. Soccer press release supporting Robbie Rogers but none for Abby Wambach can be? How that is the culture women’s sports fans live in?

Justin can never feel what it’s like to be part of this kind of minority. But we can have discussions about it. And that’s what I encourage people to do. Hurling tweets – something I certainly have done too – does not foster dialogue. Asking questions – “Justin, what did you mean by that?” does. That’s what’s needed to educate people about how and why to avoid language like “big girl soccer.” During our dinner Justin said he’d love to have a conversation with his Twitter detractors about this and I invite people to use the comments section for that purpose.

2. There’s an interesting multi-standard at play here. Not long after the soccer match I was watching the men’s Olympic cross-country relay. Finland unexpectedly won and the (male) announcer said it must be a big thrill for Finland because they rarely get to ski with the big boys (meaning the dominant cross-country teams of Germany, etc). I wonder if the Finns would be upset to know the announcer referred to them in that manner? I’ll never know, but I’m very curious.

The other piece is when women’s teams refer to themselves as girls. The Canadian Women’s Hockey Team, after being awarded the Olympic gold medal by the refs, left a note for their male counterparts before the latter took on the USA in the semi-finals. It was signed “Go get ‘em! From The Girls :)”

Hockey’s a bit different from other sports in that on men’s teams the players constantly refer to each other as “boys” rather than “guys”. I can’t say whether or not women’s teams do the same – I’m fairly certain I’ve never said “let’s go girls!”; here in the south we have “y’all”. Do other teams use “girls”? “Ladies”? “Yous guys”? Should the way female athletes refer to each other inform the people who speak about them? And if so, should women’s hockey announcers call the players “girls”?

NBC hockey commentator Pierre McGuire used “ladies” throughout his Olympic broadcasts. I found this sort of stuck out like a big red goal light, but I appreciated what he was trying to do, which was to not refer to a group of adult world-class athletes as “girls,” because that inherently implies youth or a frilly, pink sort of femininity. Unfortunately, “ladies” is also an awkward word – you know how I feel about “Lady Silverbacks” – but if the alternative is to constantly call adult women “girls,” then I think “ladies” is better. We women don’t have a cool, multi-purpose, bland word like “guys.” I commend McGuire for trying to be aware of his words and encourage other sportscasters to do the same. Did Justin Hanover do something wrong by not being perfectly aware of that? No, and it’s an area he and countless other announcers can explore if they want to get better at their craft.

3. U.S. Soccer bears responsibility for the Atlanta webcast. Justin and I went back and forth on this and the simple fact is women’s voices make up such a small percentage of sports broadcasters that yes I think where it’s feasible, governing bodies should make a concentrated effort to get a female voice on the air for their women’s sports broadcasts. This may not be so simple in a smaller market but here in Atlanta I can think of four people who could have led or been a part of the webcast: former Silverbacks captain and current Kennesaw State assistant coach Rebecca Nolin, Emory University women’s soccer head coach Sue Patberg and associate coach Rachel Moreland, and in a pinch former Silverbacks and current Emory announcer, me. These four are well-known to the Silverbacks’ folks who put together the media crew (both Justin and Silverbacks PR guru Neal Malone do side work with Emory). But I don’t blame them one whit for not reaching out to a female announcer. What they did makes perfect sense: they called up the guy who works hard for them and offered him the opportunity to participate in a rare event. It rewards Justin for his loyalty to the club and ticks off one more thing on the to-do list. I believe many organizations would have acted in the exact same manner.

That’s why I say U.S. Soccer should advocate for (if not require) a female voice on its women’s soccer webcasts. No local group is going to go out of their way to find a qualified, experienced female announcer (talk about rare) if the easy move is to call the person they already know – male or female. It falls upon U.S. Soccer to set that guideline for local groups to follow. In Atlanta’s case (and presumably for others) they wanted only one person on the webcast. In my opinion, U.S. Soccer should aim higher and strive to provide their viewers/listeners with a voice that represents the audience. The people who are sitting at home on a Thursday night dialed into a webcast of a women’s soccer friendly against a vastly inferior opponent are not casual fans. They deserve more than an announcer with a casual understanding of women’s soccer.*

Do I think this will ever happen? No.

In conclusion, Justin’s use of “big girl soccer” hit the ears of a group of listeners used to being treated as inferior by male-dominated sports media and it struck a nerve in some. Is it reason to demonize him – or as was suggested on Twitter, fire him?** Of course not. It was three words out of an otherwise quite good two-hour webcast. I hope this experience allows us announcers to learn a bit more about how to talk about women’s sports, and for Twitter woso fans to learn how to be a bit less reactionary. Justin and I have already had discussion we otherwise would never have had and it was a good experience for both of us. I can only hope we all – including U.S. Soccer – use this as an opportunity to improve our communication skills, be it on the air or on Twitter.

—-

*To be clear, this is not a dig at Justin. I thought he was well prepared, did a great job in particular with the Russian surnames, and was able to relay relevant information about the USWNT and its players.

** Yeah, Justin was fired the second the match ended considering the chances are pretty much nil the USWNT will come back to Atlanta for a game that is only webcast and involves the NASL team he works for part time. Good call, people!

USA vs. Canada – Olympic Women’s Hockey Recap

(Photo credit: Julio Cortez/AP)

(Photo credit: Julio Cortez/AP)

Before the denizens of NHL writers could resume penning odes to Sidney Crosby, there was one more women’s game to play. The United States and Canada faced off for the fourth time with an Olympic gold medal at stake. With seemingly the entire U.S. alerted to existence of women’s hockey, #USAvsCanada was trending before the game even began.

Once the puck dropped, both teams battled with the determination of those who know they are the best in the world. There were no initial jitters or slow starts. It was foot-to-the-floor from the jump.

Megan Bozek earned the first power play of the game for the U.S. on a nice hip check by Tara Watchorn. Unfortunately checking is not allowed in the women’s game and Watchorn took her seat in the box. Shannon Szabados got into the game right away with a sweet glove save on a laser from Annie Schleper. Seconds later Hilary Knight won a battle behind the net and tried to tuck the puck in on a wrap around, with the rebound to trickling out to Schleper. Five shots on the power play yielded no goals.

Both teams were firing on all cylinders in the first 10 minutes. With speed, accuracy and thundering shots by both teams, this was truly an excellent display of the best of women’s hockey.

Team USA got their third penalty of the period after Watchorn extended her arms into USA captain Megan Duggan. But the USA was forced to take a holding penalty when Haley Irwin stormed in on a mini-breakaway. It was a good penalty to take, though, and Kacey Bellamy headed the box.

The period ended scoreless and the USA leading in shots 11 to 9.

The second period brought more speedsters flying down the ice. Both teams continued to play smart and neither found much space. Canada was able to get sustained possession in the zone and forced a hooking penalty from tired Kelli Stack. Sensational penalty killing followed from Duggan and veteran Julie Chu after Vetter slashed out the pad to save a zipping shot from Meghan Agosta-Marciano. The U.S. followed up with a strong forecheck that killed the penalty. Canada created consistent possession in the zone and peppered Vetter with what seemed like many more than the five shots credited on goal.

And then the USA breakthrough against the strong momentum held by Canada. Jocelyne Lamoreaux collected a turnover from Catherine Ward just inside the blue line. Her drag-and-shot was denied by the Canadian defense only to see the puck careen out to Megan Duggan at the top of the left circle. There the captain had time and space to snipe a shot high glove that would make Ilya Kovalchuk proud.

Moments later Canada would go on its fifth power play when the U.S. was caught with too many men on the ice. Halfway through that penalty the Canadians would get a 2-man advantage due to a cross-checking penalty on Anne Schleper. Soon after the USA killed off the 20 seconds of 5-on-3, Jocelyne Lamoreaux was denied on a sneakily skilled shorty try; four blocks contributed to successful kills by the red, white and blue.

Through two periods shots were 17-16 in favor of the Canadians but the scoreboard showed the USA in the lead 1-0. It was an excellent result for an American team that was shorthanded for six minutes in the period and under the relentless pressure of the Canadians much longer than that.

The United States started the final regulation period almost immediately with a power play as Watchorn skated slowly to the penalty box for the third time, this time on a tripping call. The Americans found plenty of open shots but failed to create traffic until just five seconds were left on the man advantage. Knight threaded a a gorgeous frozen-rope pass through a sea of legs and Carpenter slammed the puck in off the post for a 2-0 lead.

The Canadians would cut the lead in half at 3:26 when Kacey Bellamy got in the way of a Jenner shot and redirected it into her own net. A 2-1 lead stoked up the the pressure as time ticked off the clock. The Canadians then got a bit of luck when, with the goalie pulled, Stack shot for the open net only to be denied by the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s old pal, the goalpost.

And that luck would serve the Canadians well: with just 55 seconds left and their goalie out they tied the game up. Vancouver 2010 heroine Marie-Philip Poulin scooped up a puck that careened off the post and deposited it behind Vetter. Four-on four sudden death overtime loomed next.

The teams traded dangerous chances to kick off the first six minutes of extra time, the USA trying to shove the puck in down low, the Canadians firing from the blue line. Canada’s Catherine Ward would head to the box for cross-checking at 13:51, a rare 4-on-3 power play to follow.

But the U.S. fell victim to an absolutely horrendous slashing call just five seconds in and suddenly it became a 3-on-3 game. After the restart, the Canadians should have been awarded a penalty shot when Hayley Wickenhesier was hauled down from behind by Knight but the referee somehow saw it as a cross-check. Two terrible calls would lead to a 4-on-3 power play for Canada and a 5-on-3 on deck.

The Canadians would capitalize during the 4-on-3. Small-area tape-to-tape passing gave Poulin yards of space on Vetter’s right and she once again led her teammates to the gold medal. Despite the United States holding a two-goal lead late in the third, Canada was victorious, 3-2.

And so another battle between hockey’s titans would come to its dramatic close. This extremely entertaining tilt was truly a showcase for the game, if not the wildly inconsistent referees. The skill and talent on display in both match-ups today proved women’s hockey will be just fine thank you very much, even without all the wringing of idle hands by scribes waiting around for the men’s games. Today’s excitement might not realize the same sorts of dividends as the historic U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s 1999 World Cup win, but as it is with every Olympics, a new generation of fans had the opportunity to fall in love with hockey and the passion and skill of its stars. It’s just a matter of time before that emotional investment pays off in the real currency of more players, fans and funds for the sport.

I for one look forward to reading a whole slew of women’s hockey post-Sochi-Olympics-parity-and-competitiveness follow-up articles in a year’s time.