Marie-Philip Poulin does it again as she nets second straight gold-medal winning goal

Following in the proud steps of Nancy Drolet, Marie-Philip Poulin becomes the second woman in the history of the Canadian program to score a pair of gold-medal winning goals. While Drolet helped Canada gain gold at the 1997 and 2000 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Poulin has scored at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, respectively. For both of these players, the chance to score such important goals places them in the same lore as Canadian male hockey hero Paul Henderson.

For Poulin, each one of her goals has provided Canada with tremendous riches on the world’s biggest stage. In 2010, Poulin would score twice in Canada’s 2-0 victory over the United States. Not only did it signify that a star was born for Canada, but it provided the squad with its first Winter Games gold on home ice.

Marie-Philip Poulin is all smiles after scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Marie-Philip Poulin is all smiles after scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Ironically, Poulin would score twice again versus the United States in 2014. With less than sixty seconds remaining, she would score on US backstop Jessie Vetter to tie the game. In overtime, a power play opportunity provided Poulin with the chance to become the first woman to log back-to-back gold-medal winning goals in the history of women’s hockey at the Winter Games.

While fellow Canadian Cassie Campbell became the first captain to lead her team to back-to-back gold medals in women’s hockey history (in 2002 and 2006 for Canada), Poulin follows her proud accomplishment.

This goal would have an even more profound meaning for the Canadian team. While it signified the fourth consecutive gold medal for Canada, a first among female hockey teams in the history of the Games, it also extended Canada’s unbeaten streak at the Games to an unprecedented 20 straight.

Taking an obligatory bite of the cherished gold medal (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Taking an obligatory bite of the cherished gold medal (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect was the way her goal helped three of her teammates make their own unique bit of history. Dubbed as “The Pioneer Generation” by CBC Sports, Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Hayley Wickenheiser helped write a new chapter in Canadian sporting history. Not only do the pioneers become the first three women to win four consecutive gold medals in women’s hockey, they are the first athletes to win medals for Canada in four consecutive Winter Games.

Representing a new generation of hockey heroes for Canada, the Sochi Games truly represented a passing of the torch. As the Pioneer Generation may have likely played in their final game, Poulin is ready to build on their proud legacy alongside the likes of Melodie Daoust, Natalie Spooner and Laura Fortino, to name a few.

Not even 25 years old, Poulin’s performances over the last two Games is nothing short of empowering. Already a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won IIHF gold, Winter Games gold and the Clarkson Cup, Poulin has one year of eligibility remaining at Boston University. The opportunity to help BU win an NCAA Frozen Four title or capture the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award would serve to enhance a growing career that has reached, and exceeded, its promise.

The Maria Sharapova of women’s hockey

While professional women’s hockey has never marketed the sex appeal of any of its athletes, it is an area that may be forced to acknowledge quickly. 2012 CWHL Draft prospect, Russian national team member, and part time model Zoya Polunina may quickly become the Maria Sharapova of women’s ice hockey.

While it is unfair to single out any one player, Polunina has a modeling background (something that Cassie Campbell, one of the first popular women’s hockey players of the modern era, also had), and male fans are quick to identify the most attractive athletes. Based on the influence of the internet and the sites that are dedicating to featuring the sexiest athletes (male and female) in sports, it is merely a question of time before Polunina is recognized as one of the most attractive ice hockey players in the world. For many male fans, they would state that she definitely follows in the footsteps of fellow Russian athletes Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova.

Even in the 1920s, sex appeal played a role in women’s ice hockey. An annual ice hockey tournament in Western Canada in which teams competed to win the Alpine Cup had one of its players win a local beauty contest prior to the tournament.

There have been many amateur women’s hockey groups that have used calendars and sex appeal to gain attention for fund raising efforts. A group of ladies in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (home to some of the greatest winter athletes in North America) have done a calendar which featured nudity. The Ice-o-topes in Vancouver have done a calendar in which the players were in bra and panties while on the ice to help raise funds for charity.

In the budding history of professional women’s ice hockey in North America, there has never been any publicized disruption in the locker rooms of its franchises based on ego and/or popularity. While men’s sports belong to thirty team leagues where one player can easily be shipped elsewhere, women’s ice hockey tends to be a close knit community of very few teams. The moment one team is poisoned over a player’s ego; working relationships among players may be fractured beyond repair.

Eventually, the time will come when an attractive player will manipulate fans and media to increase her popularity; while promoting herself to such a degree that will be beyond anyone’s control. The issue is how an organization would handle it.

A harsh reality in women’s sports is that sex sells with male fans. Athletes such as Danica Patrick, Lindsay Vonn, Lolo Jones, Paula Creamer, Sue Bird, and Hope Solo captured the hearts and minds of male fans with more than their talents. While the astute male sports fan would be quick to acknowledge the hard work and dedication that these athletes have undergone to be the best in their sport, the sex appeal of a female athlete has been a key factor in determining if the more average fan will retain interest.

There is no question that the realm of male sports has had their own athletes create an impact on popular culture (while possibly being labeled as sex symbols). Athletes such as Derek Jeter, Tim Tebow and David Beckham have become icons for their athletic skill, fashion sense, good looks, and overall likeability with fans and media alike. The first star in the CWHL that has truly gained similar status is Tessa Bonhomme.

Although looks may definitely help in attracting fans, talent and character are what will keep the real fans. Tessa Bonhomme has handled her growing popularity and girl next door image with grace and dignity. While more male hockey fans will identify Tessa Bonhomme with Battle of the Blades than her time with Ohio State, the class that she exudes results in popularity which appeals to fans of both sexes, and all age groups. An example for elite athletes to follow.