Mercy Rules and Blowouts

Team Canada and Team USA's women's hockey teams have been handing out blowouts to teams in the Olympics like they are free candy. Because of that, a lot of talk has arisen about whether blowouts hurt hockey tournaments or whether there should be a mercy rule introduced. With Team Canada winning over Slovakia 18-0 in group A and the US handing the Russian women a 13-0 loss in group B, it shows the Canadian and American squad's are at a level entirely on their won.
But should a mercy rule be introduced?

As someone who has been attending some of the Games, I say no.

In non-Olympic competitions I might consider that a mercy rule like ending the game once a goal differential of say 10 goals has been achieved might be a good idea. Or perhaps, the in-rink scoreboard stops announcing the goals for the winning team if the goal differential is more than 10. But even with the blowouts, like that of Canada over Slovakia, a suggestion of a mercy rule in the Olympics have caused me to disagree with such a suggestion.

Now I understand a mercy rule to end the game may be something that is good for team morale as suffering through a huge blowout to one of the North American superpowers is embarrassing. Having high scoring blowouts also doesn't necessarily make for a good game for the fan to watch, evoking a feeling of embarrassment for the other team if you support the winning team or despair if you are a fan of the losing team.

But what about the consumer?

In the Vancouver Olympics the cost to attend a preliminary women's hockey game for price A seats are $75 a ticket and in for the men's they were $140 a ticket. In the Canada vs. Slovakia women's game, by the 10:19 mark of the second period the score was 10-0 for Team Canada. So if a mercy rule to end the game after a 10 goal differential was put in place, the game would have ended halfway through the second period. Imagine being the paying ticket holder who just had their game end halfway through because the mercy rule was put in to effect, or what if it was 10 minutes into the 1st? Would it be fair to the ticket holder to end their game early? If I shelled out a lot of money to go to a 10 or 30 minute game I would be livid.

In women's Olympic hockey one of the tiebreakers is the goal differential when two teams are equal in points, thus teams want to run up the score. And when you are in the Olympics, your goal is to win gold, thus dominant teams won't let up on applying the pressure to the opposition. Perhaps instead of discussing a mercy rule, what we should be debating is the goal differential as a tiebreaker.

And don't feel too bad about Slovakia's loss to the Canadian squad, because they back in 2008 in an European Olympic pre-qualifying tournament Slovakia crushed Bulgaria 82-0 in order to qualify to play in Vancouver