China won 6–1 in a friendly hockey game against the Leaside Wildcats at the Scarborough Centennial Arena on Dec. 7. The game was in support of international women’s hockey with proceeds supporting the Leaside’s junior hockey program.
The Ontario Women’s Hockey Association had set up the game with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to put women’s hockey on an international platform.
After the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Jacques Rogge, former International Olympic Committee president, challenged women’s hockey status in the Olympics.
“[Rogge] issued a declaration and said if this sport doesn’t get better internationally, we can’t keep it in the Olympics,” said Jennifer Smith, president of the Toronto Leaside Girls’ Hockey Association (TLGHA). “That comment struck fears in the hearts of everyone who loves female hockey and … this exhibition game with team China is a part of us expanding the reach.”
It’s the third year for the exhibition game.
The TLGHA has also just welcomed two players from New Zealand’s national team with two more on their way to train with the team, in order to elevate the level of competition in the game.
“All this action we are doing is our commitment to developing the game internationally so that it stays in the Olympics and that other nations can elevate their programs,” Smith said.
Yu Tiande, team leader for team China, echoes this sentiments.
“In China, there is not a great number of girls playing hockey, so there is not enough teams to play against. And also the level of the games is not so high, so this program helps the team to prepare for high level competition,” he said.
For Team China, this game is practice to prepare for the IIHF World Championships in Latvia in April 2014.
During the March Break, the Leaside team will be going to Spain to play its national team.