Team Canada and Team USA have long been rivals on the international hockey stage. And while competition between the Canadian men’s team and other countries has escalated over the years, the two women’s teams remain the other’s No. 1 foe.
Ever since the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) officially recognized the Women’s World Hockey Championship in 1990 – an unofficial tournament had taken place in 1987 – Canada and the United States have taken the gold and silver medals at each event.
Held only in non-Olympic years, the Canadian women had plenty to boast about initially, winning the first eight instalments. The Americans snapped that streak in 2005 and were the victors in three of four matchups through 2009. Their April 2009 triumph marked the first time the American women had won back-to-back World Championship gold.
Manon Rheaume, who appeared in NHL preseason games in the early 1990s and remains the only woman to play in an NHL game, experienced the rivalry firsthand.
“It’s the two forces in women’s hockey; you need a rivalry like that. You never know who’s going to win,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s fun for the fans and makes for great games. It was great to be a part of it.”
“You always get excited to play the US because they’re a team that gave us a little more competition. As a goalie, you look forward to those games,” she added.
Games Between Canada and the US at the Winter Olympics
Women’s hockey made its Olympic debut at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. That year, the United States claimed the first-ever women’s hockey Winter Olympic gold medal. Four years later, Team Canada put an end to their own eight-game slide against Team USA and spoiled their rival’s home ice advantage in Salt Lake City by skating away with their own gold medal.
Hockey fans who tuned into the women’s gold medal hockey game at the 2006 Winter Olympics witnessed a rarity in ladies competition: a team other than the United States or Canada in the final. That year, Sweden shocked the US in the semi-finals to earn a berth against powerhouse Canada.
The Canadian women would also be stunned by the Swedes, falling 2-1 to the Tre Kronor ladies in November 2008 at the Four Nations Cup.
The 2006 tournament would prove to be a blip on the rivalry radar as the two squads would face off for women’s hockey supremacy in Vancouver. Team USA was looking to avenge the 2002 loss; Canada had its sights set on a third straight title.
A pair of goals by 18-year-old Marie-Philip Poulin together with the stellar goaltending of Shannon Szabados, the Canadian ladies skated to a 2-0 win over their longtime foes on the world’s biggest stage.
Gold Medals Won by Canada and the US at the World Hockey Championship
Winners of nine gold medals at the World Hockey Championship, Team Canada has clinched the title on home ice five times. The four other victories came twice on American soil and twice in Finland. Team USA, which has won just three gold medals at the Worlds, has yet to be crowned champion when the final game has been played in the United States; its three triumphs have come in Sweden, Finland and China.
Ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the Canadian and American women battled in several tune-up tilts and it was clear the rivalry was as fierce as it has ever been. Witness a brawl between the two teams in an exhibition game in October 2009. With just one Olympic gold to go with two silver and a bronze for the US, an already potent competition is likely to elicit even more sparks down the road.