The Canada-U.S. ladies’s hockey rivalry enters a brand new period

Habs-Leafs. Yankees-Purple Sox. Celtics-Lakers… Of all the good rivalries in North American sports activities, few may match the sheer depth — even downright hatred — that fuelled the various gold-medal showdowns between the Canadian and U.S. ladies’s hockey groups over the previous few a long time.

Consider Hayley Wickenheiser’s enraged allegation that American gamers trampled a Canadian flag earlier than the 2002 Olympic closing in Salt Lake Metropolis. Or the Canadian gamers gleefully smoking cigars and chugging beer on the ice after capturing the gold in 2010 in Vancouver. Or the uncooked ecstasy and agony following Canada’s unimaginable comeback to win the basic 2014 Olympic title sport in Sochi.

Because the inception of the ladies’s hockey world championship in 1990, Canada and the USA have met in 21 of the 22 finals. The rival superpowers have duopolized the Olympics too, squaring off in six of the seven gold-medal video games since ladies’s hockey joined this system in 1998.

For the longest time, nothing mattered extra to those groups than these once-a-year possibilities to beat their archrivals for gold on their sport’s greatest levels. However now, one thing else issues too.

Because the Canadian and U.S. ladies put together for tonight’s opener of the 2023-24 Rivalry Sequence — a seven-game barnstorming tour designed to showcase the groups between world championships and Olympics — it feels just like the outdated hostilities have thawed only a bit as their enterprise relationship continues to develop.

In 2019, Canadian and American national-team gamers banded collectively after the collapse of the Canadian Girls’s Hockey League to type the Skilled Girls’s Hockey Gamers’ Affiliation. Refusing to hitch the rival Nationwide Girls’s Hockey League (later rebranded because the Premier Hockey Federation), the PWHPA members as an alternative pushed for the creation of their very own “sustainable” league — one that would supply higher pay, advantages and dealing situations than what was being supplied on the time.

Their efforts lastly paid off this summer time when a gaggle led by billionaire Los Angeles Dodgers proprietor Mark Walter purchased out and folded the PHF and struck a labour take care of the PWHPA for the creation of a brand-new league. The since-named Skilled Girls’s Hockey League is ready to launch in January with franchises in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Boston, Minnesota and the New York Metropolis space. After every membership signed three foundational gamers (high salaries are reportedly round $80,000 US per yr), the PWHL’s inaugural draft befell final month in Toronto, the place tennis legend and equal-rights advocate Billie Jean King (an investor within the league) introduced College of Minnesota star Taylor Heise because the No. 1 choose.

The PWHL’s first coaching camps open Wednesday — simply 4 days after the second Rivalry Sequence sport, which can be performed on the Los Angeles Kings’ house enviornment on Saturday. Tonight’s collection opener is on the Arizona Coyotes’ Mullett Enviornment. The collection continues in mid-December with video games in Kitchener, Ont., and Sarnia, Ont., earlier than concluding in February in Saskatoon, Regina and, lastly, Minnesota.

Final season, Canada misplaced the primary three video games earlier than storming again to win the ultimate 4 and take the collection. However the U.S. acquired its revenge, after which some, within the world-title sport in Brampton, Ont., in April, scoring 4 unanswered objectives within the third interval to beat Canada 6-3.

The PWHL, correctly, will break for worldwide play, together with the Rivalry Sequence and the world championship this April in upstate New York, the place Canada and the U.S. are an awesome wager to fulfill once more within the gold-medal sport.

Certainly, the gamers’ focus can be not less than considerably divided this season by the launch of their new league. And it might be exhausting for Canadians and Individuals to summon as a lot contempt for one another now that they are companions (and in some circumstances literal teammates) in such a essential enterprise for the way forward for ladies’s hockey. However my colleague Karissa Donkin, who does a superb job protecting ladies’s hockey for CBC Sports activities, instructed me {that a} Canada-U.S. showdown for the world title ought to stay simply as intense.

Karissa additionally identified that the Rivalry Sequence will give us a have a look at some key developments on each groups. Canada’s three newcomers embrace defenceman Sophie Jaques, who succeeded Heise because the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award (the Heisman Trophy of girls’s hockey) final season for Ohio State. And, with No. 1 goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens out for the primary two video games attributable to damage, Emerance Maschmeyer and the youthful Kristen Campbell may get an opportunity to indicate what they’ll do. On the American aspect, ahead Laila Edwards, a College of Wisconsin sophomore who was the MVP of the 2022 U18 world championship, will turn into the primary Black girl to play for the senior U.S. nationwide workforce.

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