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Women's game in good shape, Fasel says

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OTTAWA -- The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation believes the 2013 women's world hockey championship has been competitive enough to satisfy the International Olympic Committee.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said at the conclusion of the 2010 Winter Olympic women's hockey tournament that "we cannot continue without improvement."

Five women's games at those Olympics were won by nine goals or more.

Threat

Rogge's implied threat to boot women's hockey out of the Games if the scores didn't get closer galvanized the IIHF into putting more resources into the female game. IIHF president Rene Fasel doesn't believe women's hockey is at risk in the Winter Olympics.

"I don't think there will be a problem there," Fasel said at the women's world championship.

"I cannot imagine that an IOC president would kick women's hockey out of the program. I can't imagine that. But you never know. They get kicked wrestling out, so ..."

The IOC hasn't officially eliminated wrestling from the Summer Games menu, but the IOC's executive committee has recommended that sport be dropped in 2020.

Heading into Tuesday's medal games of the last women's world championship before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, only one game had a goal differential of more than nine goals. Canada beat Switzerland 13-0 in the preliminary round.

But fewer embarrassing scores is also due to a new tournament format in which the bottom two countries in the preliminary round never meet the top two countries in the tournament.

After not winning a single game at the 2012 women's world championship, Russia will play Finland for bronze Tuesday. The Swiss women won bronze in 2012 for its first medal.

Sweden, the 2006 Olympic silver medallist, dropped to seventh at this world championship, so there is movement now behind the U.S. and Canada.

Fasel doesn't expect the gap between the North Americans and the rest of the world to close in Sochi, but believe it could happen four years after that in Pyeonchang.

Competitive

"Our goal is to be more competitive in (South) Korea in 2018," he said. "We need that time to go there."

Coming out of 2010, the IIHF committed (C$2.1 million) two million Swiss francs to a plan to grow the female game worldwide.

"It was a little shot from Jacques to us but I am happy because it gave me the opportunity and the federation that we spend an extra two million Swiss francs for the women's program and it was good," Fasel said Monday.

One element of that plan was a mentorship program in which players and coaches from countries with more developed women's hockey programs are sounding boards and sources of information for their counterparts trying to close the gap on them.

 

--The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 C4

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