For the Love of the Game. (the female perspective) Vol.2

In May, I had the idea to bring other female hockey fans together to share our experiences, and shed light on the game that brings us all together despite rooting for different teams and players. I put out a tweet, asking if any other female hockey fans would be interested in sharing their stories, sharing their voices, and be a part of opening up the conversation. The response was overwhelming and demanded a second volume.

Volume 1 was popular, and there were more who have stories to share.

Here we are deep into 2018 and it still boggles my mind that when it comes to loving hockey(or any sport really), girls and women are told that either we cannot love the game OR we are dictated to on how to properly love the game. If we love it too much or too loudly, we are told that we are obsessed and to quiet down or if we don’t have every single stat memorized we are deemed clueless. Or then there’s the take that tells us that we only love the game for superficial reasons, because we must be attracted to the players or just love the uniforms. Or heaven forbid when we wear our favourite player’s jersey to be told that we either must not know whose jersey we are wearing OR that we are only wearing it because we are attracted to that player. And when those tactics don’t work to dissuade us from the game, we are put against one another.

If we were male, no one would raise an eyebrow or give us constant unwanted commentary every single time that we take in the game.

It’s 2018, and we aren’t going away, there are simply more and more of us discovering our voice declaring our place in the hockey world. We’re here to stay.

Special thank-you to each and every one of you who once again took the time to be part of this piece! Anyone who once again missed out or didn’t have time to get their response in and would like to take part in a similar post down the road, let me know and we can set it up! And to those of you stumbling upon this post, please read all of the experiences below. Maybe you’ll relate to the experiences or maybe you’ll see part of your story in theirs or maybe you’ll see hockey in a whole new perspective through someone else’s experience.

Represented below are some incredible women from across the world, many who root for different teams across the league but all united for our love of the game. (And if you’re not following these incredible hockey fans yet, you can remedy that by reading and sharing this post and following all of them on twitter!)

Here are some more of our stories:

Marion (@mazza_shad): “I have always loved sports – just like my dad! I grew up in England watching TV with him and my 2 sisters; football, rugby, the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth games, anything that was on, and we were all into playing and going to the games. Football was the main draw (soccer, you heathens, lol). Tottenham was and is my team!

BUT then I married a Canadian hockey nut and moved to Vancouver! Needless to say, he barely misses a game and pretty soon I was hooked too! I loved that speed and the passion of hockey and the atmosphere in the arena, I’m louder than him – I yell and scream encouragement and jump up and down when we score!

My husband has never questioned my love for the sport or any that I’m watching – for that I’m lucky – but wow other men can be so dismissive: “I’m just a girl” or “I’m English and can’t possibly understand hockey!” OR “ha ha, you just like his looks”. Well, yeah I can appreciate a hunky guy as much as the guys appreciate Genie Bouchard – I have as much appreciation for skill as any of you, as do the rest of us female fans. Yes, I have my favourite players – lots of Canucks of course but many in other teams who are a wonderful joy to watch. (Who doesn’t hold their breath when McDavid’s rushing the goal?!). So, I laugh them off now and say: “yep, I’m a hockey nut” – love it, it is my favourite game.

Twitter’s fun when a game is on, and enjoy the female commentary, often way more insightful than the armchair GMs!

This summer, I was glued to my TV watching the World Cup, cheering for England but watching most of the games, and appreciating the talent of all the great athletes!”

Michele G. (@MicheleMyBell71): “My story – what can I say? I used to watch hockey when I was in college back around 1990-1992 but wasn’t a huge fan. I enjoyed it a lot and cheered on the Detroit Red Wings with a friend of mine regularly at our favourite sports bar. I live in Iowa where hockey isn’t really huge, YET. There is a local team in Des Moines called the Buccaneers and now the Iowa Wild(which is an AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild located in Des Moines). My road back to watching hockey happened last year. I was dealing with significant depression and anxiety that fall. I usually have some Seasonal Affective Disorder in the fall, but it was really bad this time. One of my favourite musicians, Gord Downie died that fall and I was touched by his music with The Tragically Hip. While listening to several of the HIP’s hockey songs, I thought why not watch hockey again? Maybe it will help me get out of the funk I was in. You know what? IT WORKED! I caught a Bruins game on TV and decided to learn more about the team. I fell in love with the unity of these men and their coach almost instantly. I never missed a single game and found myself on twitter chatting with new friends about the Bruins almost daily. My depression started to lift and I felt a renewed sense of well-being even with the “hockey anxiety” that I had during the playoffs!

I never missed a single game and found myself on twitter chatting with new friends about the Bruins almost daily. My depression started to lift and I felt a renewed sense of wellbeing even with the “hockey anxiety” I had during the playoffs! But that’s a good kind of anxiety to have. I got to attend my first NHL game in Minnesota (Bruins-vs-Wild). I walked into the arena with my Bruins-Zdeno Chara jersey on and was so proud to be there. It was a dream come true for me! I am a Boston fan in the Midwest. We are a rare breed, but we do exist. I’ve learned so much over the past year about the game and how it has changed a lot since I first watched it in the 90s. I’m so glad to be back cheering for a team again and being part of something amazing. My cubicle at work is covered in posters of my favorite players. I’ve even helped my husband develop a love for Hockey now. I truly love this sport and its passion.

Allie Parks (@charliedebrusk): “My brother and I are 9 years apart, he being the older sibling. We were never really close until he got into college and I got into high school. He became my best friend and I have always looked up to him. He was always into sports, whereas I really did not have a care for them. One night, a few years back, we were hanging out and he wanted to watch a Boston Bruins game against the Oilers. Instead of complaining or leaving, I wanted to bond with him over this and seem like a cool sister, so I stayed, watched, and fell in love. I was never an active person, quitting most sports I tried to play and I never watched. Hockey was different. I knew in my heart that it was my sport. I fell in love with the game, the fights, the speed, the skill, and the I always loved Boston Bruins so they were automatically my team. Its now how my bother and I bond. We always watch hockey games together, always texting back and forth about hockey, and it’s our brother and sister thing. I took my love to twitter and I made so many other hockey friends on this app. Although I have been called a puck bunny, I expected it and ignore it. I know the game, the players. I know hockey and I express the love.”

Karen (@bluinsfan2017): “I was 10 years old when we first started following hockey: my parents had season tickets for the St.Louis Blues for 3 seasons, back when they still played at the Arena (ie: the Old Barn, formerly the Checkerdome). Bernie Ferderko, Brian Sutter, Greg Millen were a few of the names on the team at the time, an any Blues fan worth their salt understand and know those first two names to be legends. I’ll never forget the iconic voice of the late, great Dan Kelly making the call (and later Ken Wilson). I learned early that there was nothing more evil than the Chicago Blackhawks (I still feel this way 30 years later!). Your first hockey game is nothing you ever forget: I remember walking down the corridor behind my mom toward our seats and ducking back a moment once I saw how big it actually was, as it was so much smaller on TV. Mom was annoyed with me before I explained the aforementioned sentiment. I was also scared of heights, so looking up toward the rafters kind of frightened me. And cold, let me tell you! Back then, we played teams in our division 500x times a year, so there was plenty of Blackhawks/Red Wings rivalry action (including the very famous Cujo/Cheveldae fight that can still be found on youtube). Those were games you always looked forward to.

My first favourite player was Wayne Gretzky. A story to go along with that: I was really sick and my mom and sister went to the library. She came back with a surprise for me: a children’s book on 99! I was so excited! My sister got into the bed and read it to me, and after she was done, I distinctly remember saying: “Read it again, Sis!”.

The bedroom wall was decorated with Blues stuff, from cutouts of team calendars with little flags I made stapled to straws. The absolute best Christmas gift I received was my first Blues jersey of my crush at the time, (to be fair, I was 14 and what teenager doesn’t have crushes?). It still hangs in my closet as you never forget your first love right? I also made a scrapbook in which I also still have despite having survived a flood, and man I’ll tell you it really hits my heart with memories. Some of my other favourite moments was my dad, younger brother, and I would watch the games –that was our ‘family time’, as we really didn’t have many of them. Let me tell you, were were all loud enough that my stepmom would go upstairs to watch her TV! The three of us were NOT shy about how we felt about some of the action going on and to this day, not a single one of us has changed –still swear like sailors at times if they do something stupid (most certainly not sorry about that either).

I learned all the little but important things any sports fan must come to terms with, one of which is that’s your favourites that will leave, either by trade, FA, or retirement. They’re not going to be there forever, and only the greatest of the greats become legends. It was hard but necessary. I was in-and-out of hockey for over a decade but I usually kept tabs here and there on my team, and I’ll always love guys like Chris Pronger, Cujo, etc. I remember being wholly embarrassed by 99 being a Blue despite loving him (mostly because it came off like a bad publicity stunt gone awry). And David Backes, which is how I came back for real this time.

To me, it was never really about being a girl who loved hockey, I just did, it’s a part of who I was and am today. I do not think that I feel any differently, but times have drastically changed from my 10 year old self. And while I don’t experience it a lot, I do see other ladies go through it and it’s absolutely ridiculous. I personally could care less what others think about me loving my hockey and I’ll not change for anyone. It’s a shame that people feel the need to judge females by their love of a game and accuse them of certain things when some of the posts I see made by males are far worse and makes you wonder to their sanity. Double standard much?

Keep loving your hockey, girls! And keep screaming so much it makes you hoarse for 3 days (or longer –heh one of my favourite consequences of going to a game)!”

Ashley March (@marchhockey): ” I could actually split the whole things into two topics. The first being the usual that is women get treated like dirt by male fans, males that we interact with on social media, males who we confer with about hockey in general. And then there’s the other side, how I was treated by players from junior right up to senior pro from around the world, to management from certain teams and more.

There’s also the side of the males in the business (and players) who actually did want to help me to succeed, that would help me get opportunities and things like that. I think it’s important to touch on that too because not every sporting man is a douchebag. I’ve met a few former pro players who I’ve become good friends with. And that’s actually still weird to me, but that’s a whole other topic.

But yeah, I stopped writing literally because of all the hate I would get just for being a woman in hockey! I’m sure you know how exhausting it can get to defend yourself all the time. With health issues I’ve had going on, I just said screw it, this isn’t worth it right now. Hopefully, I’ll come back some day.”

Me (@nucksaid): “Truthfully I’ve lost track of how many times or encounters I’ve experienced that have attempted to take my love of the game away or those who think I have to prove my knowledge of the game. These moments happen in everyday conversation when hockey comes up, on social media, and of course in the arena at most games I’ve attended. Someone finds out I love the game, and before I can explain why or say one word about the game, I’m forced to having the game “man-splained” or forced into proving my knowledge with the google test. Sounds a bit ridiculous right?

As incredible a tool as social media can be to connect with other fans, it can also be a dark place where some use their keyboards or their phones to attack those who have a differing opinion or who they deem not worthy to love the same game or for no reason whatsoever. There are names and words that have been tweeted towards me and fellow female fans that I cannot and will not repeat here. At one point it got so bad, I had to step away from twitter for awhile. And while those dark moments exist, there’s also lighter moments that take me by surprise such as the time I was at a fan event and someone who I had a beyond terrible twitter/hockey experience with, sought me out and APOLOGIZED. It was not something I ever expected to happen but it was a moment that showed me that change CAN happen and that the words we use to express ourselves and the words we use towards others DO MATTER.

I accepted long ago that I may have a different perspective on the game and the team and that unfortunately has made me a target at times and being accused of being either naive or being incompetent about hockey and the Canucks. Guess what? Choosing a different perspective does not mean I’m clueless about my team’s standings or their situation, it simply means that while I understand their reality, I also choose to find the silver lining and anticipation of the future. Different perspectives is not a bad thing, often I will learn a lot from how others view the game.

What I don’t accept is that by wearing my favourite player’s jersey to a game that means I should be attacked both personally for being a “female” hockey fan who must not even know who that player is AND having that player’s name said in the female form (IE: Henrietta instead of Henrik & Daniella instead of Daniel). Rest assured, I’m more than aware of the jersey I’m wearing and their career stats. By wearing a jersey to the game, the only statement I’m making is that I’m there to support my team and watch the game, I’m not there to debate why you think I’m there or to have the entire game explained to me in condescending tones. I love talking hockey with anyone and everyone but it doesn’t have to be done in a way that belittles, demeans or we can all love the game.”

Once again, I urge you all, if any of these experiences resonated with you or if you know someone who has felt the same, share the post and let’s all make it our aim so that in 2018 and beyond, the sentiment of “hockey is for everyone”, actually becomes 100% true. We are all hockey fans.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

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