Sunday, February 14, 2010

A mercy rule is not the answer.

Every Olympics we have this discussion.

And every year people miss the mark.

I'm talking about women's hockey. Specifically when a powerhouse like Canada plays a hapless Slovakia and thumps them 18-0.

At the daily IOC-VANOC briefing, officials were asked if there should be a mercy rule in women's hockey.

"Clearly if you're on the losing side of a hiding, it's never much fun. But I'm sure they had a great experience and I'm sure they're thankful to be Olympians," said IOC director of communications Mark Adams.

"You know these things happen in all sports, at all levels. They're a good team but clearly yesterday Canada were the better team by a long way."

Then there was 2006.

Canada handed the host Italians a 16-0 beating in the opening game of the Turin Olympics.

"I'm upset that Canada has been running up the score, especially against the host nation," said Team USA defenseman Angela Ruggiero.

"There was no need for that. They're trying to pad their stats... Canada is running up the score for whatever reasons -- personal, short-term."

People are missing the boat here. It's not about padding stats. I don't think Haley Wickenheiser, the most prolific scorer in women's hockey, needs to pad her stats.

It's also not about mercy. I'm sure Canada would like to let up after they were certain their lead was sufficient.

But here's the problem. In international hockey, if there's two identical records in the standings, the tie-breakers are done by goal-differential.

So if Canada and USA both go undefeated through the tournament, and meet in the final. The home ice advantage is awarded to the team with the most goals scored.

That doesn't exactly breed mercy. In international play you can't control what other teams will do, so you don't want to leave anything to chance.

And this is nothing new, take the 2010 World Juniors. Latvia lost 16-0 to Canada and 12-1 to the USA.

There doesn't need to be a mercy rule -- using goals-scored as the tie breaker needs to be removed. There would still be blowouts, but I'm sure the scores would lower a bit.

Jennifer Casey was born and raised in Halifax. She loves all sports but tries to stick to writing about hockey for sanity purposes. You can follow her on twitter @jenncaseyhfx