Simi Valley native Angela Ruggiero hasn’t just seen the lopsided scores that have been part of the women’s hockey tournament at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. She’s been helping produce them.
With two goals and two assists from her defenseman position, the 30-year-old Ruggiero has heard the talk that there’s too big a discrepancy between the haves — Canada and the U.S. — and have nots — Russia, China, etc. — during the preliminary rounds that ended Thursday.
After the U.S. finished off Finland 6-0 in its final game, coming after a 12-1 win over China and 13-0 over Russia, there has been some worry that women’s hockey could go the way of women’s softball in the Olympic movement — disappear because of a lack of balance in the world’s performances.
Canada won its three games 41-2; the U.S. won its three games by a combined 31-1. The U.S. and Canada have combined lost just four games — two to Sweden, and two to Finland — since the women’s world championship was sanctioned by the International Ice Hockey Federation in 1990.
“I put the onus on the federations,” Ruggiero said in a story posted by the Toronto Globe and Mail (linked here). “Especially the countries that have men’s programs like Russia.”
These are the fourth Olympics for women’s hockey, and the problem, says international federation president Rene Fasel, has been consistent: a lack of female players. There are 700 million women in China, he points out, and yet only 166 play hockey. Canada has 85,000 players, and the USA boasts almost 60,000.
“The IIHF and the federations need to step it up and help their women develop as much as the men,” Ruggiero said in a USA Today story (linked here). ” It’s disappointing to see a country with a tradition and history as much as Russia not have a medal contending team.”
A Vancouver Star columnist wondered if it really would be beneficial for the women’s hockey movement if the U.S. met Canada for the gold.
“Give us some time,” Ruggiero told her, after the U.S. beat China (story linked here). “You can’t expect a whole nation to adopt a sport overnight and have thousands of girls start playing. They’re going to see these girls play in the Olympics, regardless of the score, and say, `Hey, maybe that’s a sport I want to try.”’
Ruggiero’s concerns about the future of her sport have put her in a position to do more than just talk about it. She’s on the ballot to become an IOC member of the athlete’s advisory board. She’ll find out Wednesday if she’s won the election to a seat on the board — which would make her the only U.S. representative.
Ruggiero talked to us recently about her future goals with women’s hockey, her past achievements and her present state of mind as the U.S. squad goes for its second women’s hockey gold in the last four Olympics. The Q-and-A will be in Sunday’s editions.
Meanwhile, other stories that have been written about Ruggiero leading up to and through the Winter Games:
== A feature on NBCOlympics.com that includes many family photos (linked here)
== A feature in the Ventura County Star (linked here) that quotes her dad, Bill: “Angela always said she was going to play in the NHL and I didn’t have the heart to tell a 7-year-old you are not playing in the NHL. You are a girl. At the time they didn’t have anything for women basically. There was no world championship, no Olympics, no Division I college programs. But thankfully, things progressed over the years.”
== The Vancouver Olympic site link to women’s hockey (linked here)
== Her philanthropic side (linked here)
== On her opinion of the “unique” looking medals (linked here) that some have called “microwaved Frisbees”: “I think they’re awesome. One thing about the Winter Olympics is the originality of the medals. Haven’t seen them in person, but I hope I get the honor!”