Canadian women's carousing stirs debate
By Jocelyn Noveck
NEW YORK — They worked hard, they triumphed, and then they played hard — the way athletes so often do.
And yet the photos of the Canadian women hockey players joyously feting their gold medal with beer, champagne and cigars struck some as jarring, or at least inappropriate. And the International Olympic Committee said it was looking into the incident, which took place on the Olympic ice after fans had left.
On Twitter, Facebook and other venues across the Web, many were debating whether the scrutiny was fair. Most seemed to think it wasn't, and a number thought it smacked of sexism, conscious or not.
"I'm gobsmacked at the reaction," said Kara DeFrias, a writer from San Diego who expressed her thoughts on Twitter, calling officials hypocrites for even looking into the matter.
"If this were the men's team, would anybody be saying one word about it?" asked DeFrias, in a followup telephone interview. "Of course not. It would be no big deal, because boys will be boys. I absolutely think they singled these players out because they're women."
In fact, DeFrias said, for her, it was nice to see these exuberant players erupt in joy. "I'm excited that they were celebrating in a way that they felt appropriate to celebrate," she said.
And celebrate they did. Photos showed player Haley Irwin pouring champagne into the mouth of Tessa Bonhomme. Goalies Charline Labonte and Kim St-Pierre lay on their stomachs with a giant bottle of champagne resting just above the Olympic rings. Another player, Rebecca Johnston, tried to commandeer the ice-resurfacing machine.
More disturbingly for some, Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored both goals for Canada, had a beer in her hand. Poulin doesn't turn 19 — legal drinking age in British Columbia — until next month. The drinking age in Alberta, where the Canadian team trains, is 18.
That's what troubled hockey fan Erica Kowalski, a mother of an 8-year-old boy, the most.
"I watch the Olympics with my son, and he always says he wants to do that, he wants to be like that," said Kowalski, of Sheboygan, Wis. "Olympic athletes are held to a higher standard, and they should act accordingly."
Besides, Kolaski added, "I just don't think the Olympic ice is the place for a party. It's no place to be drinking beer or smoking cigars, regardless of age or gender. I'd feel exactly the same if this were the men."
For some, indeed, that was the point — whether you liked or disliked the behavior, it was athletes acting like athletes, hockey players acting like hockey players, and there was something satisfying in that.
In other words, male athletes overdo it sometimes, so why can't women? That's what Lesley Jane Seymour, editor of More magazine, wanted to know.
"Why should men have a monopoly on acting like idiots?" Seymour asked. "Being un-PC is an equal opportunity. Women are finally catching up on everything, including the opportunity to act like idiots after a sports event.
"So, is that progress?" Seymour asked. "I guess so."
Seymour wasn't overly impressed with the behavior, especially with the underage drinking. But many who defended the players — and that seemed to be the dominant feeling across the Web — pointed out that it would have been different had the celebrating occurred while fans were still in their seats.
Without the fans, it was more like a locker room celebration, they said — similar to when baseball or football players pour champagne over each other's heads in giddy victory fetes.
"I don't see people checking ID cards in those locker room parties to make sure nobody's underage," said DeFrias, the San Diego writer.
Plus, noted Jennifer Olney, a marketing consultant and hockey fan from Frederick, Md., "This is the way hockey players celebrate! Are you kidding? It used to be you'd see pro players come back (from halftime) with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. This is nothing for hockey."
It seemed that Olympic officials were not overly concerned about the antics of the Canadian players, who swiftly apologized. The International Olympic Committee said it would send a letter to Canadian organizers asking for more details about what happened but was careful not to characterize the response as an investigation.
Vancouver organizing chief John Furlong said it was simply a matter of "young kids who were happy."