Womens Ice Hockey
A sport of speed, sailing on ice, quick movements, and strength despite heavy equipment, ice hockey is seen as highly aggressive and a sometimes violent sport, allowing players to stop and duke it out while a hyped-up crowd cheers on. Ice hockey pucks zoom past players at speeds of 90 to 100 miles per hour, occasionally injuring them for life. Commonly known as a man's sport, ice hockey is being infiltrated by women, in a fast and furious sweep across the country.
It's not a new-fangled idea. Ice hockey has been played by women for well over a hundred years, and it's one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with the number of participants in the past ten years increasing by 400 percent. Only recently have leagues and college play become widespread.
Women's ice hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1998, with Finland winning the Bronze medal, Canada taking the Silver, and the US women snagging the very first Gold. In the 2002 Olympics, North America continued with victories, when Canada found Gold, the US took Silver, and Sweden finished with Bronze. In 2006, Canada's Women's National Ice Hockey League hold on to their Gold, with Sweden climbing to Silver, and the US hung in with the Bronze.
The IIHF began holding women's ice hockey championships in 1990. Since then, Canada has won every championship, except for the recent 2005 win for the United States.
The NCAA began hosting tournaments in women's ice hockey soon after the sport's initial appearance in the Winter Olympics. In 2001, the NCAA held their first Division I women's ice hockey championships and cleverly called them the Frozen Four. Teams from the Central North have prevailed, with the University of Minnesota-Duluth winning for the first three years, the University of Minnesota winning in 2004 and 2005, and Wisconsin grabbed first place for the first time in 2006.
The NCAA has also been holding Division III Women's Ice Hockey Championships since 2002. Elmira College from Elmira, NY, won for the first two consecutive years, while Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT has claimed the women's ice hockey championship 2004-06.
Women's hockey also exists on the regional level, with an amateur association that continues to grow every year.
Interestingly, the only major rule difference between men's and women's ice hockey is that women's ice hockey does not allow body checking. This was eliminated after the 1990 World Championships, because North American women tended to have larger body mass, which supposedly resulted in unfair competition.
Like many other women's sports, women's ice hockey will continue to grow and thrive, with women players who thoroughly enjoy the sport and the competition it provides. Unfortunately, its relative lack of physical contact may keep it less publicized than men's ice hockey.