Defeated. Lopsided. Blown out. Beaten down. Crushed beyond recognition. None of these terms can fully explain the loss that the Bulgarian women's hockey team suffered to Slovakia in the European Olympic pre-qualifying tournament. Let's just consider what a completely one-sided score in a sixty minute hockey game really is. At the highest level of professional men's hockey, in the NHL, the record for the most lopsided score was a 16-3 victory by the Montreal Canadiens over the Quebec Bulldogs in 1920. So, from that statistic, it's safe to assume that a margin of 13 goals would normally be considered the worst loss that a capable team could suffer in the sport of hockey. And, this matchup between Slovakia and Bulgaria was in the European Olympic pre-qualifying tournament so, the teams must be at least capable right? I mean, these are the best players that the country could find to represent their country, right? Wrong. Unequivacally wrong. See if you can wrap you head around this box score.
Goals: Slovakia 82, Bulgaria 0. Shots on goal: Slovakia 139, Bulgaria 0. For you math geeks out there, that's one goal every 44 seconds. That's one shot every 26 seconds. Fourteen different Slovaks netted a goal and the leading goal scorer had 10 by herself. What's even more ridiculous is that two of their other losses in the tournament, a 30-1 defeat to Croatia and a 41-0 slaughter at the hands of Italy, didn't even make any headlines. In the entire tournament, Bulgaria scored one goal and allowed 192.
There are approximately 7.4 million people in Bulgaria and 37 of them tried out for the country's national hockey team. A team can only carry 25 players on a roster. That means 12 of these women didn't even make the cut. How would it feel to get the axe from a team that was outscored 192-1 in a single tournament? That's real pain, knowing that you weren't good enough to compete on a team that couldn't stay within 80 goals of Slovakia. Ouch.
Now, when I used to play hockey in pee-wees and squirts and other ridiculously named sections of young kids, our coach would tell us to lay off the other team and work on passing or skating techniques when we were winning by a wide margin. That wide margin was usually 7 or 8 to nothing. Not 82-0. Can you imagine what kind of person this Slovakian coach must be to keep the pressure on when they were winning by 80 freakin' goals? I mean really, how good could it have felt to score the 81st or 82nd goal of that game. Isn't there a point where the coach calls the dogs off? Bulgaria didn't even get a shot on goal in this game. Not a single shot.
"We took it as training," said Slovakin coach Miroslav Karafiat. Oh really? How exactly do you train a team during an 82-0 victory? Explain that to me. Hockey training usually consists of passing, skating drills and offensive and defensive strategies. How do you have time to do any of that when you're scoring a goal every 44 seconds and getting a shot on net every 26 seconds?
A win is a win. Whether the Slovakian team won 1-0 or by their actual score of 82-0, they still were going to move forward in the tournament. Would it be embarrassing for the Bulgarians to watch the Slovaks simply stop trying and just pass the puck back and forth on the ice? Probably. But that kind of embarrassment can fade away with time. An 82-0 defeat is recorded, written in the International Ice Hockey Federation history books. That kind of embarrassment lasts forever.