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Women’s Hockey Far From Ladylike

February 10, 1998

NAGANO, Japan (AP) _ U.S. forward Karyn Bye tries to stop a breakaway and ends up sliding neck-first into the goal post.

Canada’s Danielle Goyette gets sandwiched between two Chinese players and finds herself flipped head over heels.

For those who think no bodychecking means no danger, the first female Olympic ice hockey players have the bruises _ and the penalty minutes _ to prove otherwise.

Bodychecking was eliminated from women’s international ice hockey after the 1990 Women’s World Championship, when it was clear that many countries were too small to compete against powerhouses like the United States and Canada.

Also, with the sport still young in many places, some national teams needed to concentrate on basic skills such as stickhandling and skating.

But with the world’s best fighting for the sport’s first Olympic gold medal, the competition has been anything but ladylike.

In Finland’s 11-1 win over Japan on Monday, the Japanese earned 42 penalty minutes, including two 10-minute misconducts for checking from behind. Their coach, Toru Itabashi, even apologized to Finland’s Rauno Korpi at the post-game press conference.

Goyette tangled with China’s Li Xuan, who somehow flipped Goyette on her face and earned a trip to the penalty box.

Some body contact is allowed, even expected, at women’s games. But most players will try to take it further if the referee will allow, U.S. coach Ben Smith said today.

``They can push the envelope and go over the boundaries sometimes. That’s why it’s really important that the rules are followed,″ he said. ``The incidental contact you see now doesn’t always seem to be incidental.

``I wouldn’t want to see the game go in that direction. I think it would deteriorate quickly.″

Less controllable are the spills and collisions that are a part of hockey from the friendliest peewee game to the NHL.

Bye had one of those inevitable moments when she was chasing down a Swedish player in the 7-1 U.S. victory Monday. She dropped to the ice in order to keep the puck away from goalie Sara DeCosta, but kept sliding, knocking the net off its moorings with shoulder and ending up lying face-down along the boards.

She insisted today that her pained pose wasn’t because she was hurt, but because she thought, wrongly, that the player had scored.

``You’re going to see (hard falls) at any level of play. It’s part of the game,″ she said. ``There’s some good equipment out there today and as long as you’re wearing the proper size, you’re going to be OK.″

China’s Gong Ming and U.S. defenseman Tara Mounsey also were among the walking wounded at the end of Monday’s games.

Gong crashed into the boards when she fell while chasing a loose puck and had to be carried, stunned, from the ice. Mounsey was hit on the forearm when she dropped to block a slapshot and left the ice for most of one period.

After a day off today, both planned to play Wednesday.

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