Focus on men’s hockey a ‘detriment’ to other Sochi sports: Olympic expert

At noon Eastern-time Thursday, the Olympics in Sochi changed and some people are suggesting not for the better.

That was the time the Canadian men’s hockey team took to the ice against Norway and began their 11-day pursuit of the Olympic gold medal.

So despite Patrick Chan beginning his chase for the elusive Canadian dream of winning the first men’s singles figure-skating title, most Canadians were glued to TV sets in homes, offices and bars to watch Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty and other NHLers.

Dr. Janice Forsyth, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at Western University, said the non-NHL athletes need more support, at least for the 17 days of the Sochi Games.

“This intensive focus that we have on hockey is understandable from a cultural point of view, but I think the media isn’t doing our athletes in our sport system any favours by not giving the other athletes their due attention,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth said even though the women’s hockey coverage has improved, it has nowhere near the same interest as the men.

“In Canada, there is just that intensive focus that we have on hockey — and it’s mostly around men’s hockey, let’s face it — it’s really challenging when you don’t see the other athletes getting as much attention,” she said.

Forsyth said the focus on men’s hockey is a “detriment to the other sports.”

“It’s because the NHL is taking a break and they’re trying to generate excitement from the NHL crowd in the Olympic Games, just spinning the NHL model a different way, this time where the athletes actually represent their country,” she said.

“In terms of trying to support the other athletes and generating support, it’s not necessarily a good thing.”

There is more balanced coverage of all athletes in Quebec, she said.

“We could actually learn a lesson from Quebec because they really do hold up their athletes as role models, and not just the hockey players,” Forsyth said. “They’ve got a really good funding base in the province, they’ve got good opportunities for sponsors, of course corporate sponsors step up the plate, and media is very supportive of all of the athletes.”

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