The U.S. and Canada will compete today for a gold medal at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship in Budapest, Hungary, in what has become one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. It’s also a story in the sports realm that doesn’t get the attention it fully deserves.
The U.S. and Canada are the toast of women’s hockey and benchmark teams to beat. It’s uncommon to see such dominance by two teams and the match-up between them has become the pinnacle of competition in women’s hockey at all levels. In the recent 2014 Olympic Winter Games, it was once again on display at its finest with a thrilling come from behind victory by Canada in overtime.
When these teams face off, it’s a North American border war that is equivalent of the Lakers-Celtics, Yankees-Red Sox and whatever other rivalry you want to point to. These games often seem to go to an extra session or end with a one-goal difference in highly competitive and entertaining games that rarely disappoint.
It’s fair to say that there is still a gap between these countries and those they oppose, but it’s also extremely important to note that in the years ahead, it’s less likely that we will see such a consistent match up in the finals due to a disappearing disparity as other countries quickly improve. You can point to the semifinals here in Budapest as evidence to that. Canada was taken to the limit by Russia and won, 1-0, in overtime while Team USA was tied with the Czech Republic, 1-1, going into the third period in a game they eventually won, 3-1. And just a year ago at this event, the U.S. beat the Czech team twice by duplicate scores of 10-0.
The ebb and flow of success will eventually include other countries that will wrestle away their share of victories, so be sure to cherish this rivalry while you can savor each and every hard fought battle.
The tournament is in its seventh year of existence and the two teams will look to break a deadlock between the countries. Each time they have met it has been with the gold medal on the line and each has won three times.
The players in today’s game already have a growing taste of the bitterness in this rivalry and will be sure to carry it forward with pride and passion. It sets up to be another classic chapter in this storied rivalry.