Is that the Bulgarian flag, or the international symbol of surrender? After a couple of women’s hockey games over the weekend in Europe, you might be forgiven for confusing the two.
Plenty of people are already having fun at the expense of the Bulgarian Women’s National Ice Hockey Team right now, and it’s just about impossible not to join in after they were beaten over the weekend by their counterparts from Slovakia by a score of 82-0 in a pre-qualifying tournament for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
No, I didn’t get that wrong, the score was 82-0:
Bulgaria conceded a goal every 44 seconds in the Latvian town of Liepaja. They trailed 7-0 after five minutes, 19-0 after ten and 31-0 after one period.
Even better — the head coach kept the starting goalie in the game and didn’t lift her until Slovakia scored 77 goals. But even the backup couldn’t stop the bleeding, as she let in five goals on all five shots she faced in just 1:25. Overall, Bulgaria was outshot 139-0. The loss put an exclamation point on what had to be one of the worst tournament performances in the history of international ice hockey. In previous matches, the Bulgarians had lost 41-0 to Italy, 39-0 to Latvia and 30-1 to Croatia. So, after being completely demoralized on the ice, these women now get to face a fusillade of international mockery.
But the biggest joke of all is that this wipeout, epic as it might have been, still isn’t the worst in women’s ice hockey history. That came in 1998 as South Korea pummeled Thailand 92-0 in an under-18 Asia-Oceana championship.
Later, the head of the Bulgarian Ice Hockey Federation decided to dump on the victorious Slovaks: “What the Slovaks did to us was kind-of an insulting mockery, and is not at all sportsmanlike”, said Dobromir Krustev after the game. But the real mockery was whoever in Bulgaria, at the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation thought inviting the Bulgarians to participate was a good idea in the first place.
Why do I say that? Because the tournaments that are being played right now are just the first steps to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. At the top of the women’s hockey world, six nations have already qualified for the Vancouver games. Only two spots remain. The winners of the tournaments that were played last week, Norway and Slovakia, will simply advance to the next qualifying rounds in China and Germany in November where the final two spots in Vancouver will be up for grabs. And if the results from previous Winter Games are any indication, these qualifiers will serve as nothing more than cannon fodder for the world’s top national teams.
In other words, the Bulgarians were slaughtered for no good reason at all, except for all of us to laugh at them. Whoever set them up to take the fall deserves to be tarred and feathered.