I don’t care too much about the Olympics, but I was pretty psyched when the Canadian women’s hockey team won gold the other day (and not just because I’ve had a huge crush on Hayley Wickenheiser since the 2002 Olympics, either). I thought the pictures that were later released of their on-ice celebration – in which the players drank beer, smoked cigars and at one point attempted to drive the zamboni – were, well, pretty awesome pictures of great athletes celebrating an important (and well-deserved victory). The fact that there has been any controversy at all is baffling.
Yes, Marie-Philip Poulin is only 18. Big deal – that’s the legal drinking age in her home province anyway, and besides, she scored the two goals that won the game, so she can do pretty much whatever she wants at this point. And bad sportsmanship? Really? Millions of people are publicly celebrating the team’s victory, so why shouldn’t they get to have some fun?
Thankfully the IOC changed their minds about investigating the party, and the public as a whole has been supportive of the players, but the fact that an investigation took place at all, and that Wickenheiser was asked to publicly apologize for the offense they had caused, is ridiculous. (One woman interviewed on CTV said that, in her experience, you only apologize when you’ve done something wrong. I have to agree.) Howard Bryant of ESPN.com rightly pointed out the sexism of the whole thing, saying, “I can’t imagine Sidney Crosby puffing on a cigar after winning a gold medal turning into an international incident.” Damn right.
Tracy Clark-Flores at Salon concurs. As does Brad Cran, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate:
(In case you don’t know, the picture on the left is Canadian skeleton racer Jon Montgomery, who celebrated his gold medal win by walking down the street with a pitcher of beer and drew no criticism whatsoever.)
Lastly, if women’s hockey is insufficiently competitive because Canada is too dominant, the solution is not to eliminate it to the Olympics, but to lend more support to women’s sports. Hayley Wickenheiser and her teammates let the young women of Canada know that they can be just as good as the guys, and can party just as hard, too. Let’s keep it that way.