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IIHF: Dropping women's hockey 'will never happen'

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 18, 2014 at 7:14 am •  Published: February 18, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Women's hockey isn't in danger of being kicked out of the Winter Olympics because of a lack of competition, the head of the sport's international governing body said at the Sochi Games on Tuesday.

"That will never happen," IIHF President Rene Fasel told a news conference. "I can guarantee that will never happen."

Women's hockey has long been dominated by the United States and Canada, who will play for the gold medal on Thursday night for the fourth time in five Winter Games. Between them, the North American rivals have won every Olympics and every world championship, and only once has another team even reached the championship game.

The lack of competition at Vancouver in 2010 prompted then-IOC President Jacques Rogge to say, "We cannot continue without improvement."

But an IOC spokesman said last week that Rogge was misunderstood and Olympic officials would only be concerned if the problem persisted "way into the future."

At a news conference with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday, Fasel noted that the Vancouver Games included an 18-0 victory by Canada over Slovakia, among other blowouts. There have been no double-digit blowouts in Sochi.

"It's much better, but we are not there," Fasel said, already looking ahead to the 2018 Winter Games. "I really hope that in PyeongChang we will have a better result, but we have to work very hard."

Although some of the games have been lopsided — the United States outshot Sweden 70-9 in a 6-1 victory in the semifinals — the competition has indeed been closer at the 2014 Olympics. Part of the reason is a new format that put the top four teams together for group play, with the bottom four teams playing each other in the preliminary round.

The top two teams in the top group, which turned out to be the United States and Canada, earned a bye to the semifinals. The United States beat Sweden to advance, and Canada beat Switzerland 3-1 — the closest the Swiss had ever come against Canada.

"I think for us, it was a great game," said Swiss coach Rene Kammerer, who described himself as "happy to be disappointed."

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