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The history of USA vs. Canada in women’s hockey

There’s only two teams that have ever mattered in international women’s hockey.

Jamie Lee Rattray 1st R of Canada scores during the ice hockey women’s preliminary round group A match between Canada and the United States at Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 8, 2022. Photo by Song Yanhua/Xinhua via Getty Images

There have been 20 world championships and six Olympic gold medals awarded in the history of international women’s hockey. All 26 of those gold medals have been won by either the USA and Canada. And 24 of those times, they played each other in the final.

There is nothing like this rivalry anywhere else in international sport. These two teams don’t really do anything all year long except get ready to play each other. And while there will be another IIHF World Championships every year, there’s an Olympics once every four, and that’s how these teams are judged.

The United States won the first women’s hockey Olympic gold in 1998 in Nagano in a 3-1 gold medal game. Shelley Looney’s goal in the third period gave the USA a 2-1 lead, and an empty netter sealed it. Canada’s Manon Rheaume was the losing goalie that day, the only woman to play in an NHL exhibition game.

But the Canadians would then win the next four golds at Salt Lake City 2002, Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, and Sochi 2014. In the world championships since 2002 the USA has won nine times to just four for Canada, but in the Olympics Canada leads 4-2.

In Torino the USA lost in the semifinals to Sweden in an overtime shootout, and it’s the only blemish in the history of this rivalry in the Olympics. The 2019 World Championships is where Canada has their glitch in the matrix, as they fell to the host country of Finland in the semis. Otherwise it’s always been a border battle across the 49th parallel for the gold medal in this sport every single time.

The last game in PyeongChang in 2018 was a classic, and perhaps one of the best women’s hockey games ever played. The USA won 3-2 in a shootout, with Jocelyne Lamoureux scoring on the sixth shot to send the USA to their first gold medal in 20 years.

What will happen in Beijing in 2022? We’ll all find out together in the gold medal game, scheduled for February 16th at 11:10 p.m. ET.