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Host of change

Lopsided results may alter Olympic hockey qualifying

Posted: Tuesday February 14, 2006 5:40PM; Updated: Tuesday February 14, 2006 5:45PM
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Michaela Maria Leitner and the Italians have been drubbed in Olympic competition so far.
Michaela Maria Leitner and the Italians have been drubbed in Olympic competition so far.
Elsa/Getty Images
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TURIN, Italy -- The International Ice Hockey Federation is expected to change the Olympic tournament format that automatically allows a host nation to compete in the Winter Games. Three days after Canada embarrassed Italy, 16-0, in the opening round of the women's hockey tournament, IIHF president Rene Fasel told SI.com that he is recommending a host team must qualify for future Olympic Games if it is ranked outside the top 10 in the world rankings.

The IIHF fears that if South Korea is awarded the 2014 Games, the top two teams -- Canada and the U.S. -- will demoralize the host nation. At the 1998 Nagano Games, Canada crushed Japan, 13-0, and the U.S. beat the Japanese, 10-0. (Defending champion Canada will be the host nation at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.)

After Italy's loss to Canada, U.S. defenseman Angela Ruggerio told SI.com that the Canadians were running up the score to "pad their stats." Canada's performance against the host team had even disturbed Canadian fans. Canada head coach Melody Davidson received several e-mails from fans accusing the team of running it up. Said Davidson, "From our standpoint, we're just going about our business. Pucks go in the net. That's part of the game."

Canada forward Danielle Goyette says the team wasn't trying to embarrass Italy. "We won, but I think we were lucky," she said. "We were just shooting. Some goals went in. Italy clearly had no expectations that they could compete against the gold medal favorites. They weren't frustrated or angry at us. After the game, they asked for our autographs. They were happy."

Italy was not the only team to get routed by Canada. Less than 24 hours later, Canada trounced Russia, 12-0. In fact, Canada shut out its opponents for the first 156 minutes of the preliminaries before Swedish defenseman Ylva Lindberg scored in the second period of an 8-1 Team Canada victory on Tuesday. 

Ruggerio surmised that if Canada continues to destroy teams, opposing federations won't bother to invest in building women's hockey programs. But Canada forward Hayley Wickenheiser said that's no excuse. "We worked way too hard to come here and sit back and not work on our strengths and play the game we're meant to play," she said. "I think it makes a mockery of our game. I think it'd be a good idea to get rid of goal differentials and stop it at 10 [goals]. If you look at Italy, the reality is if Italy wasn't hosting the Olympics, they're not here."

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