Kelly Babstock May Force a Change in Approach to Women's Game

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Kelly Babstock May Force a Change in Approach to Women's Game
Babstock competing with Quinnipiac, Photo obtained from: http://uscho.photoshelter.com/image/I00002uabOD90KFA, Image by Shelley M. Szwast

While Kelly Babstock has proven to be a game changer with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, her sputtering international career with Canada may become the blueprint for how not to do things. Despite invitations to the Canadian Under-18 and Under-22 training camps, she would never compete for either squad.

The end result was Babstock, a full status Native North American, gaining American citizenship in December 2012. Such a move may prove to be one of the most influential moments in early 21st Century women’s hockey.

Having been invited to USA Hockey’s training camp for the 2013 IIHF Women’s Worlds (and aiming for a spot at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games), Babstock may have unknowingly become one of the most revolutionary, yet important, players in the game today. Babstock is just one of many Canadian women whose careers have not reached their full potential in their homeland.

Young talent such as Erin Ambrose, Christine Bestland, Melodie Daoust, Jamie Lee Rattray, Jillian Saulnier and Laura Stacey were all worthy of an opportunity to try out for the 2013 Canadian squad. As Canada has enough talent to ice three quality teams, the reality is that such prodigious youngsters will likely play the waiting game.

With the IIHF wondering how to close the gap between Canada, the United States and the rest of the world, Babstock’s involvement with USA Hockey may have served as the catalyst. There have been many players on the Canadian roster (and to a degree, the US roster) who have been part of more than two Winter Games squads.

Going forward, perhaps there should be an agreed upon limit, where Canadian and American players cannot compete in more than two Winter Games. This rotation would allow more players a realistic opportunity to represent their country.

While there is something to be said for loyalty, the reality is that many young players are being cheated. Focus on tomorrow, and provide the younger stars with the opportunity (even if it means a silver or bronze medal). How many more players must be treated like Babstock, where the carrot is dangled in front of them, only to have it taken away?

Perhaps the most important factor to consider is that Babstock is NOT a traitor. She attended the training camps and did everything her country wanted, but it was simply not good enough. Her ability to fight for her dream makes her a player of great courage and a role model for young, Aboriginal Canadians.

Unless rules change, regarding Winter Games selection, there will be more cases like Babstock, where they must exploit a loophole and compete elsewhere for the opportunity to play internationally. Should Babstock be named to the American roster for the 2013 IIHF Worlds (and possibly Sochi 2014), it would prove to be poetic justice if she helped the US to gold.  

Her move may lead to the coming of a time when Canadian hockey fans reflect on Sochi 2014 (and the IIHF Women’s Worlds in Ottawa 2013, as one of the events leading up to it), and see it as the one that not only got away, but the one that changed everything.

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