Canadian, Czech, Swiss Olympic team players to watch — Dr. Cheryl MacDonald talks ‘Hockey’s Agents of Change’ — Must-click women’s hockey links
The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, January 14, 2022
Throughout this week, several federations have taken to social media to announce their rosters for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Some of them involved fanfare — Hockey Canada relied on youth players to name each member of their roster, while Czechia introduced their squad in a snazzy video.
While I might normally take some time to complain about the disparities in fanfare between the men’s and women’s team announcements (and man, were there ever disparities), I’ve decided today to opt for a more productive route and will be talking a little bit about three of the teams that were announced this week: Canada, Czechia, and Switzerland. I’ll also throw in my picks for which players you should keep an eye on in Beijing.
Without further ado: Team Canada.
The defending Olympic silver medalists — and reigning World Champions — are headlined by thirteen returners from the 2018 Olympic roster, of whom six are returning from the gold medal-winning 2014 roster, and just two players from the 2010 squad that won gold on home soil in Vancouver.
My player to watch for Canada is Sarah Fillier, who proved at the World Championship in Calgary just how much she belongs on this squad. She finished the tournament in the top ten for scoring, which is pretty remarkable when you consider four of her veteran teammates make up the top four spots. Fillier dominated whenever she was on the ice, and if you think that’ll stop once she hits Beijing…well, you’ve got another thing coming.
On Thursday morning, Czechia introduced their Olympic roster. The roster features several current NCAA athletes and alumni, along with a few names PHF fans might be familiar with: former Metropolitan Riveters defender Sammy Kolowrat and former Boston Pride forward Tereza Vanišová.
I might be a little biased here, but my player to watch for the Czechs is Noemi Neubauerová, a stand-out at Colgate University and a player with a terrific shot. Neubauerová is young, playing in her first ever Olympic tournament, but has twice been named one of Czechia’s Top Three Players: once at the U18 level and once with the senior team. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and you’ll want to keep your eye on her when she hits the ice in Beijing.
The Swiss released their roster as well, announcing a squad with six current NCAA athletes and, of course, phenoms Lara Stalder and Phoebe Stänz. Unsurprisingly, active Northeastern legend Alina Müller will join the team as well after an injury sidelined her during the 2021 World Championship back in August and limited her participation to exuberant celebrations in the stands. Team Switzerland will be happy to have her back…even if their Group A opponents are less than thrilled about her return.
My player to watch for the Swiss is goaltender and University of St. Thomas freshman Saskia Maurer, who put on a clinic at the 2021 World Championship when she was called upon to relieve Andrea Brändli — and, naturally, in every game thereafter. While Switzerland has a lot of firepower in Stänz, Stalder, and Müller, I think it’ll be their goaltending that makes or breaks the tournament for them and determines just how far they advance.
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This Week in Women’s Hockey
Clarkson’s Caitrin Lonergan passes 200-point mark in NCAA (ClarksonUSports on Twitter)
5 Questions in 5 Minutes: Amy Budde (The Ice Garden)
Buffalo Beauts double presence at All-Star Showcase with fan vote (The Ice Garden)
Five at The IX: Dr. Cheryl MacDonald
The IX sat down with sport sociologist and Maritimer Dr. Cheryl MacDonald to chat about her experience in the field, the book she co-authored, and what women’s hockey in the Maritimes means to her.
Question: Tell us a little bit about your background — what got you into hockey in particular as opposed to other sports?
Dr. Cheryl MacDonald: I’m a sport sociologist with over ten years experience studying gender, sexuality, and ice hockey. I was a goaltender on the first girls hockey team at my high school and I come from a family where the men were highly involved in hockey. I decided to stop playing on account of injuries (and not having fun anymore), but I wanted a way to still be around the rink and my social circle, so I used my interest in conducting research as a meaningful way to stay involved. At the time, I was fascinated by the fact that my romantic partner had very different experiences in men’s hockey than I had in women’s hockey. Specifically, he felt like he had to act differently in a hockey context than the did outside of it—and I didn’t feel that way in women’s hockey and he told me I didn’t understand—so I began to research representations of masculinity within the sport.
Q: Your book, Overcoming the Neutral Zone Trap: Hockey’s Agents of Change heavily features the women’s game. Tell us a little bit about your research and how it relates not just to the game, but to the role of women and non-binary athletes in hockey?
Dr. MacDonald: My own work on women’s hockey is not featured in the anthology, but I do study public perceptions of the legitimacy of women’s professional hockey in North America. I have a co-authored chapter in a different book on the first and only Women’s Winter Classic in 2015 and am currently working on a team project that examines the sustainability and development of the CWHL, NWHL, and PWHPA. In Overcoming the Neutral Zone Trap, you’ll find a chapter on the US Women’s National Team boycott of the 2017 World Championships as well as a chapter on access to participation and resources in women’s university hockey in Canada. One of the book’s limitations is that it does not attend to the experience of trans and non-binary folks in hockey and this is largely because we included twelve essays that were submitted to us in an open call instead of curating a list of pre-determined subjects that we thought should be included.
What makes women’s hockey different from men’s with regard to its capacity for affecting social change?
Dr. MacDonald: Men’s hockey is often held up as the social standard, so women—by virtue of not being men—are always already fighting to be accepted and respected. Since they have been engaging in this battle since the inception of women’s hockey, it is less difficult for them to push other boundaries of diversity such as sexuality and gender non-conformity because they are always operating in a space where they have to justify their existence to begin with. In other words, they might recognize more than a lot of men in hockey what it’s like to somehow feel different or like you don’t fit in and this also understand why it’s important to not make others feel excluded or unwanted. This is not to say that women in hockey do not have to navigate other challenges, such as stereotypes associated with being a lesbian or identifying as ‘butch’ or ‘femme’, but overall, it is easier for women to be their authentic selves in a hockey setting without fear of judgment or exclusion. As such, it is also usually easier for them to advocate for change as well.
Q: You’ve been vocal with your support of hockey in the Maritimes, and were (understandably) disappointed when the IIHF and Hockey Canada relocated the 2021 World Championship from Halifax and Truro, NS, to Calgary, Alberta. What do you think hosting the tournament in Atlantic Canada could have done for women’s hockey?
Dr. MacDonald: For the most part, I am very proud of how Atlantic Canada has handled the COVID pandemic; for a long time, this was one of the safest places in the world. Because of that, I respect the decision to cancel the women’s IIHF tournament (although I was very sad) because I can understand that international sport is not essential when global safety and resources are in question. With that said, two members of our National Team—Blayre Turnbull and Jill Saulnier—hail from Nova Scotia and Hockey Nova Scotia is demonstrably committed to growing the girls and women’s game. I believe that it’s important to give a platform to the folks doing the work to be leaders and hosting Women’s Worlds in Nova Scotia would have helped accomplish that. I think evidence of this exists in the fact that the PWHPA chose to stop in Nova Scotia this past year as well.
Q: The PWHPA visited Truro in late 2021 as part of the Secret Dream Gap Tour. What kind of ideal future do you envision for women’s hockey — both in the Maritimes, in Canada, and across North America?
Dr. MacDonald: An ideal future for me is one where girls and women have the opportunity to play, no matter where they are located. Right now there are not always all-girl or all-women teams available or at least not at every level. There are no professional teams based in Atlantic Canada, which made the Truro stop of the PWHPA’s Dream Gap Tour so important for visibility because otherwise we wouldn’t see pro women’s hockey aside from the National Team stops. Many women are left without options to play at competitive levels whereas men almost overwhelmingly have options for Junior, interscholastic hockey, and professional and other semi-professional leagues, as well as senior recreational leagues. Some argue that this is because there aren’t enough girls and women who want to play. While this may be true, it does not negate the fact that more work could be done to expose girls and women to hockey, make them feel more welcome and valued within it, and then eventually make sure that the growing population has opportunities to compete in their general region.
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