As we say good-bye to 2022 and move into 2023, there’s a something that I’d like to see come to an end when it comes to hockey: mansplaining the game to women. I can’t remember a single live game that I’ve attended where some form of this didn’t happen because somehow, despite being decked out head to toe in team colours and well aware of what’s happening on the ice, I must not understand the game and constantly need to be fact checked. The incessant audacity that some men have to make women feel inferior rather than welcome is staggering.
Ladies, tell me, do any of the following sound familiar to you–
**The following list is merely a small sampling of the treatment experienced**:
We are told that it’d be wonderful if we could love the game but when we actually DO, it’s not a truth that is accepted. We are told we are a distraction. We are told we’re only here for the looks. We’re told to find space elsewhere and that our opinions certainly are not valid. We’re told many opinions about why we aren’t allowed to have certain opinions. We’re told that we can’t possibly have the same nostalgia related memories to the game or certain players. We’re told by the repeated actions of many that we are deserving of harassment for simply trying to be part of something bigger than us.
“Oh you like hockey? You definitely must not actually understand the game though. Let me help you and explain the game point by point…” —Did we ask you to explain the game? No. Did we ask you to repeatedly make us feel uncomfortable by invading our personal space? No. Did we ask for the absolute condescension? No, but we will be a recipient of it nonetheless.
“Sure, you know *insert current stat* but do you know *insert random trivia fact from 50+ years ago*?” —The only mildly entertaining part of this one is when you shock them by giving them the correct answer and they claim you’re wrong BUT then google or someone else nearby informs them that they are in fact wrong. We didn’t ask for a trivia quiz, we simply decided to attend a sporting event, much like you. The difference being that no one will grill you all night about why you are there or if you should be there at all.
“Did you borrow that jersey? You don’t actually know who that player is do you or if you do, it’s only because you think that player is hot right?” —No, I bought this jersey for kicks. I assure you, we know exactly which jersey we wear and why. We don’t owe you any sort of justification for why that is. Maybe we love that player for the player they are, or because they are attractive or because they are a good human being or for a myriad of other reasons. Maybe that jersey is one that has familial connections and holds special meaning.
“You must not have played hockey to understand what *insert score* means?” I assure just because we may make a comment on the current score does not mean we understand the game less or have any relation to whether we have played the game or not.
Ask most guys and most will not have had one of any of the above experiences for simply trying to attend a game or express their opinion, most are encouraged to display that however they want. I can’t even imagine what it might be like to go to a game and NOT experience some form of misogyny.
On a happy note, the Our Voice Series–a series that puts the spotlight on women in the game is returning to the blog. Any women who’d like to take part or want a glimpse at what that looks like, can find more info the article linked below featuring the first edition of the series. OR simply send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information. Can’t wait to share more incredible stories representing women from all backgrounds in the next edition!
As we move into 2021, we need to talk about the way females are perceived and treated in the world of hockey and how it NEEDS to change. I’m tired of the mentality that is always defining the game for us. Women are constantly being told what we think or ought to think on any given day when it comes to hockey(or any sport really) or issues within the game itself. We have opinions and stories that matter and need to be told. We love a sport that too often doesn’t love us back.
I present to you, a new series: OUR Voice. A series that will shine a spotlight on women in hockey, whether it’s as a fan or working in the game. It will feature our stories, our truths and a perspective that often gets overlooked in all areas of the game. This series will be a recurring series and open to ANY and all women who’d like to participate.
Here’s to creating a space for everyone in 2021 and beyond. I present to you the first edition of OUR Voice. Read the words written by these women, maybe you’ll relate to similar experiences or have your eyes opened to experiences you didn’t know were possible. Also if you’re not following any of these women on Twitter, make sure to do so after you’ve finished reading their contributions below.
Courtney(@CeeJesse): “I’ve definitely put some thought into the topic of being a woman in hockey, whether it be playing of fandom.
For me, liking the sport was natural – a Canadian kid in Northern Ontario – and at a young age, the idea of gender didn’t come into play. My first year playing, I was a 9-year old in a read Timbits jersey, the only girl on the team but never feeling ‘othered’. It wasn’t until the second year, when the cliched bully joined the team, that it ever occurred to me that I was seen as different, that anyone would ever assume that I didn’t belong in the game.
After that is when I moved to the girls’ league, but the comments never stopped. It’s been over two decades and I still hear, ‘you know a lot about hockey for a girl!’ or ‘I didn’t know a girl could like hockey so much.’ It is beyond frustrating when you know those remarks would never be said about a (white) man. We have to constantly prove that we deserve our fan cards. I guarantee you can find a lot of female fans with the most random hockey knowledge tidbits, as if we’re expecting a pop quiz that we need to pass in order to show that we belong.
The best decision that I’ve ever made in hockey fandom is to find the best space to exist. Posting in a now-dormant live journal community (where a vast majority of the members identified as women) nearly a decade ago, gave me a place to just be me – a Canadian kid who loves to talk hockey and the Canucks. I never had to brace for the comments on my gender or a test to see if I was a true Hockey Fan(TM). A few women I met on there are still good friends to this day. Even lately, when I resigned myself to merely watching the game and enjoying it on my own, the Broadscast hit the scene and it reminded me that being part of the hockey fan community can be FUN, as long as you’re following accepting people.
My hope is that we get beyond that – that we won’t have to be picky and cautious about who we follow and interact with. Maybe someday the majority of people won’t look at women as ‘others’ in terms of hockey fans, but it still seems like a long way off. People still religiously follow a sports media platform known for their misogyny, and people still question the credentials of a newly hired female GM in the MLB despite her job history. For now, I’ll just keep being loud and opinionated about what I believe in – a proud hockey fan.
A few months ago, I was playing in my weekly old-timers/not-so-old-timers pick up hockey game, right back where I started – in a red jersey, the only gal on the ice with the guys. Hockey is my happy place and no one can take that from me.”
Serena(@CaptToeDrag): “My relationship with hockey is complicated. I love hockey, and it is the only sport that I follow on a deeper level. I get emotionally invested in my teams (Team Canada, Vancouver Canucks), and have spent more than I should on merchandise. I spent my first pay cheque on a Canucks jersey, and saved up enough money to finally see my first live Canucks game in 2012. I used to follow all the stats, watch all the games and follow prospects and potential NHL draftees. I even moderated a hockey forum (hello HFVan!).
I have also come to realize how the depth of my hockey fandom is tinged with undercurrents of misogyny and white supremacy.
I started watching hockey casually during the heydays of the West Coast Express, and fell off the bandwagon when Bertuzzi was suspended for the Moore incident. The rise of the Sedins brought me back into the fold, and the 2011 Stanley Cup run completed my transformation to die-hard fan.
As with most of my intertests, I hyper-focused and soon sought out like-minded fans to engage in deeper hockey conversations. Twitter and HFBoards is what I eventually settled upon, and I dove deep into the depths of hockey analysis and discussion. In my desire to be taken seriously and feel accepted in hockey fandom, I started embodying the Cool Girl(TM). I scoffed at ‘casuals’ and ‘puck bunnies’ for not being real fans and laughed off sexist jokes because unlike others, I was cool and not overly sensitive. I brushed aside Don Cherry’s xenophobic and racist remarks for years because, ‘he’s just an old guy ranting, what harm could he do?’. I weaponized my hockey fandom to appear more white adjacent because, ‘hey, I’m one of you!’.
“‘Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all, hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, s*** on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”‘– Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I eventually realized that, no matter how much I knew about hockey, it never mattered. My hockey fandom was always going to be subject to scrutiny and doubt because I am a woman, and especially because I am woman of colour. Even when I was able to ‘prove my credentials’, I was then deemed too intimidating because I knew too much. Though I am fortunate not to experience worse cases of misogyny, my experience was more ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and it was much too draining for me. It has taken a while to unlearn and deprogram the ‘Cool Girl’ mentality and I am still working on it.
All of this is to say that I have now become less invested in hockey. I will still follow the Canucks and their games, watching Team Canada in World Juniors and the Olympics, but not to the depth that I once did. Misogyny and racism had shaped my perspective as a hockey fan, and almost killed my love for the sport. I have started to approach hockey fandom from a healthier perspective, but I am still constantly doubting how much of my love for hockey is still a result of internalized misogyny and racism. I loved hockey, but hockey is as it is now, like a bad boyfriend, will never truly love me back.”
(@tams3333): “Well, where to start! I have so many stories! I remember in elementary school in the late 70’s and early 80’s coming home and making our way through dinner while my dad excused himself to go to the living room to watch TV. At first my mind couldn’t wrap around it. THERE WAS SO MUCH YELLING! My dad would be yelling at the players to SHOOT or he’d be swearing at something they had done. In my new to hockey mind, I thought, ‘They can’t hear you’ or ‘Dad doesn’t play hockey, how come he knows what they should do?’, but apparently now, I know the same things now when I am engorged in my TV.
I began to sit with my dad during games. I’d lie on our atrocious shag green carpet and he began to filter himself a little, not a lot, a little. He would ask me, ‘What’s that guy’s name they are interviewing?’ or to check the TV Guide for what games were on. My dad is dyslexic and struggled with the information and back then, not all the games were on TV. I began to listen to games on the radio in my room and collected news articles from the paper. At the time, unfortunately, I thought it would never be an option for me to play but maybe I could be a writer or work for the team somehow when I was older. I didn’t know any girls at the time that played. Both myself and my dad would write down stats for the games or what goalies played. I would keep my dad up to date with all the goings on of the canuckle-head world. We didn’t have much money but I do remember going to a game or two with my dad, and I remember collecting hockey cards that I still keep enshrined in an album, barely touched.
I remember Cam Neely getting traded and thinking that it was a mistake, I remember Trevor LInden leaving, I remember my dad loving Stan Smyl’s never quit play, I remember towl powere and thinking that it was my fault Don Cherry called Bure a weasel(long story), I remember being at game 6 and hoping that Linden was okay. I remember discussing all of these things with my dad. Now, my dad is in his 80’s and it’s been my turn for awhile now. I take him to games, or let him know when the season is starting and what players will be back. I still help him with PVR-ing games as ‘it never records the end of the game, honey!’ and as well I deliver him a calendar every year where he keeps track of his stats while I’ve moved onto Twitter and Instagram.
I honestly don’t know what could have been better for bonding a father-daughter relationship in hockey than the mutual love of a Canadian team. Although, I have nothing but gratefulness and love for the game of hockey, I just wish that when I was a young girl so passionate about hockey, that girl’s hockey was more common place because, playing in front of my dad, the sport he loves much, that would have been the ultimate childhood dream.”
Medina Z(@MrsMMZ_2018): “Growing up in a sports town, being a girl who loves football and hockey is the norm. That being said, that doesn’t mean that it’s fully accepted. As a female fan, we are constantly put through the ringer of ‘why’; hounded by our male counterparts to ultimately prove that our fandom is valid or ‘worthy’ by being asked to spout off random facts, stats and what have you.
‘Oh, you’re a fan of such-and-such…well who was their running back in 1978 in week 4 who scored ONLY one time the entire season, 12 minutes 47 seconds into the second quarter…you do know what a quarter is right?’
‘If you are a such-and-such fan, then who wore number 41 for that team in 2004 and how many goals did he score that year? What was his corsi average…oh sorry…do I need to explain corsi average to you?’
These questions, along with sexist, borderline sexual harassment based, and downright rude comments, are an everyday occurrence for me and other female sports fans both in public and on social media.
What is worse is that this type of behaviour is basically accepted. Not just by other fans but by the sports leagues themselves. No matter how much they want to portray an all-inclusive mentality, or try to integrate females more into broadcasts, events, etc., the fact is that there are very few ‘faces’ within those male professional sports organizations that come forward asking for change and condemning those who make female fans feel unworthy.
As a former staff writer for a Penguins Hockey blog (that is no longer in existence), my articles garnered verbal/written attacks questioning my facts and sources (even though they were cited) or even just stating flat out that I didn’t know anything about the sport (‘Girls don’t know anything about hockey, they just want to sleep with players.’). Listen, Jack, I’m not WAG material…never have been, never will be, so let’s put that to rest right now, okay?
My pieces also brought shock and bewilderment that a girl, who sadly never got to play hockey, knew so much (because doing research is SOOOO hard right?). I remember going to an event with other media and bloggers and we got to ask whatever questions that we wanted to Pierre McGuire (yes, THAT Pierre McGuire) and no one was piping up to ask anything, so I just went for it and asked a question regarding (former Penguins bust of a defenseman) Derek Pouliot. Everyone just kind of stared at me for a second…Pierre included. He answered quickly after but just the awkward few seconds of silence that followed my question was unnerving. I didn’t know if I should have been flattered or embarrassed. The fact that I even had to question it says a lot. Would there have been such a ‘shock and awe’ moment had the question come from a man?
Being a female fan is hard, and it shouldn’t be. Not by any means. We should not have to beg for permission or validation to be a fan. We should not have to prove our worthiness to little men who’s only physical activity in life included using their thumbs to play Madden or NHL(whatever year).
Here is a thought: what if we treated men who are fans of musical theatre, or ballet, or baking competitions, for example; the same way as they treat women who are sports fans?
‘Oh you like show tunes? Who is the most decorated musical composer of the modern age of musical theatre then? What show won the most Tony Awards in 1998 and who were they against? Oh sorry…do I have to explain what a Tony Award is?’
‘Oh you went to the ballet? Oh you like the ballet? Tell me who first choreographed a stage production of Swan Lake and who the principal ballerina was at the time? Who was the first African American principal ballerina for American Ballet Theatre? Oh wait…do you know what “principal” means?’
But do we? No, we don’t. We respect and welcome the fact that they are fans. Which begs the question, why do we not warrant the same respect?”
(@AvsQueen20): “One of the best memories I have, happened at an Avalanche home game about 5 years ago; I was at a Tampa Bay/Avalanche game and I was about 20 rows off the glass. I’m screaming at plays, players, calling the refs a joke, the usual hockey stuff. This gentleman in his 50s comes up and he said: ‘Ma’am, I want to say this, I have no idea about this game, but hearing you shout, scream and show your support is amazing! Keep it up!’
The WORST memory that I have had was 2 years ago, I bought tickets to a Penguins/Avs game and it was CROWDED with pens fans. We were in the upper corner and I had offered the ticket to our Avs family group that I manage on Facebook. The guy showed up in no gear, said he had to go to work after the game and was on his phone the walk in. We get to the seats after I grab a beer and food for myself; I’m watching the game, cheering and such, the guy who had the other ticket kind of chatted, asking how I got into hockey and I told him through my dad. Well the 3rd period came, and I went down to grab another beer, I knew I was going be there a bit and I took the train in. The guy asked me to buy him a beer and he’d pay me back at the end of the night. So I did, he had the beer and slugged it, halfway through the 3rd period, he leaves saying he had to work.
So one, I’m pissed cause the dude didn’t stay, now I bought him a beer to be nice AND nothing. Well the pens were losing I think 5-2 or something and these darn Penguins fans behind me kept screaming ‘YOU SUCK GRUBAUER’. So I was already irritated and yelled back, ‘Where’s Murray then?’. The guys respond, ‘He’s playing, girl.’ And I’m like: ‘Not very well, too bad you lost Fleury to Vegas.’ Then I turned back and the guys had no response to me.
Later that night, the guy who had the other ticket, started harrassing me, sending sexually explicit texts and just really nasty stuff; all I wanted was for him to send me the money owed that we had agreed on. Well, he never did and ended up getting banned in our Avs Family Facebook group. For the most part, I’ve had great experiences.”
(@canucksprayoffs): “I’m not sure if this holds any value but I love not only watching but playing hockey too. I can’t skate and in high school there was no ball hockey team so in grade 10, I joined what was the closest things to it: field hockey. I’m naturally a lefty but for field hockey, you have to play right handed because of the sticks. I worked hard to adjust and eventually learnt how to play as a righty. In grade 12, the school had its first ball hockey team. I was excited until I found out it was for boys only. I obviously voiced my opinion on it but it made zero difference. I was so jealous. They had tryouts but it didn’t matter because I was a girl and I couldn’t join anyways. I also had an IT teacher who knew that I was a huge hockey fan and I made all of my assignments somehow hockey related -I’d always find a way. Yet, he would try to ‘quiz’ me by pretending to casually ask me about the game the night before and about prior offseason moves, it was awkward and made me feel belittled. I should also mention the amount of times that I’ve been called a ‘puck bunny’ or ‘groupie’ for supporting Virtanen when he played for Team Canada. I also received death threats.”
(@ArtUnwound): “I was raised by a man who loved football and hockey. Weekends were for watching sports. We also lived in an apartment building that was home to a lot of Canucks players in North Vancouver. This was the mid ’70s. I lived and breathed Canucks. I moved away to Northern BC in 1983 and my ex-husband was not a sports fan at all, in fact, my desire to watch the Grey Cup game instead of hanging with him was a factor in the end of our relationship. Both my sons are hockey fans but it’s my younger son(who’s 32) that has bonded with me over sports. He calls me at intermissions to discuss the previous period or texts me after a great play, and we just really enjoy talking sports. He regularly asks my opinion about hockey pools or prospects. Most men are pretty dismissive about my hockey knowledge but I have found that most of them are just not used to women understanding the game in their own right. I will never stop being a hockey fan, regardless of other’s opinions. I am grateful to have found like minded women on Twitter who understand, but mostly I am grateful for the bond that my son and I have been able to form through our mutual love of the game.”
(@allychesham): “I fell in love with watching hockey when I was 12 years old. My dad was a major reason why I got so into the sport and 10 years later, the game has continued to provide me with entertainment, great memories, and family bonding moments. The unfortunate thing is that being a female fan, there have been countless times when I have felt excluded by the sport I love. I think it’s important to note that I’m saying this as a cishet white woman, so this feeling of rejection in the hockey community can be much worse for those who do not identify as I do. A lot of women have to deal with the classic assumption that they do not actually understand the game or that they watch for superficial reasons. As a result, I have tended to keep my passion for hockey to myself for the most part. Female fans also have to handle constant reminders from the sport that we are not valued the same way male fans are. This is especially clear every so often when we get to watch the top professional league fail to properly address issues pertaining to misogyny. I know there has been progress made over the years but it would be amazing to see a bit of a cultural overhaul occur within the sport in terms of the way women are involved and supported. As someone who hopes to one day find themselves working in sports media, I do remain hopeful that there will eventually be more positive changes and our voices will start to be valued and included more often.”
Clarissa S.(@quinnsedgework): “After a tumultuous year, I’m left to reflect on both critical moments in society and my own personal experience in the COVID-19 pandemic. That initself is a challenge, with days that seemed to blend together and way too much time spent overthinking my life choices. Along with several obvious things to appreciate such as family, friends and social media, I embraced sports initially as a space to consume content and socialize in, and eventually as a site of politics with mentors that gave me a sense of belonging. In particular, with only half a year spent on #HockeyTwitter, I’ve observed and united with the force that is women in sports, with hopes of the same pressures for change to continue. In this piece, I discuss how I was reminded of my love for hockey and the struggles that I’ve faced in such a short period of time as a queer woman of colour in the digital sports world, and why I still look forward to taking up space in 2021.
When the lock down was announced early in the year, most of the naive reception I saw online was positive. University classes moving to Zoom allowed me to sleep in and saved me from spending more time taking transit to the class than sitting in it (shout out SFU). As restrictions became, well, stricter and I was left with my family and the internet, I chose to waste my days playing Nintendo Switch, visiting my sister’s room three times a day to show her TikToks, and randomly deciding to re-watch the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs on YouTube, re-activating the fan that I left to perish with that Canucks run.(And fortunately, I didn’t miss much in their following seasons anyway).
I began to follow NHL hockey teams, players and fans on my personal Twitter account. THe dynamic nature of controversial opinions, niche memes that my sister didn’t understand, and thirst posts over athletes made it easy to continue scrolling my timeline for hours on end. Then, the league announced their Return-To-Play plan, released training camp content, and safely assembled their NHL bubbles. Albeit the prison-like-environment, the players did what they they came to do. When the Canucks lost in the 2nd round to the Vegas Golden Knights, I created a separate Canucks fan account after annoying my non-hockey fan friends on my former Twitter.
At the start, I feared the digital sports fan landscape would be dominated by white, cis men. As professional hockey is evidently lacking diversity from its rosters (and I soon recognized in its media as well), I assumed the audience would demonstrate the same. With several questionable events during the playoffs, including former analyst Mike Milbury’s sexist comments on-air and the NHL’s performative solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement through their #WeSkateFor campaign, my expectations were only reinforced.
However, I owe my entry into Hockey Twitter to Jo(@notafan_jo), a talented Black woman who loves hockey and art, often combining the two interests. She led me to follow even more marginalized hockey fans, just like me, I discovered Black Girl Hockey Club(@BlackGirlHockey), a non-profit that became an important vehicle for change regarding hockey and accessibility. I religiously listened to the Broadscast(@BroadscastPod), a podcast of five inspirational women who discuss my favourite team and rightfully criticize problematic happenings on Twitter and in sports. I managed to associate myself with users I identified with, began to learn more about inclusivity in sport, and recognized my interests in writing about exactly that.
Enter: my random Tweet request of a guy dribbling that Elias Pettersson decided to remake and made viral. I informally became a better known member of #Canucks Twitter, reached out to writers at Canucks Army (shout out to Faber @ChrisFaber39 and Quads @Quadrelli), and found interest in niche topics, excluding the hockey part and rating their Halloween costumers and ranking the cutest Canucks pets.
Though I had fun with these articles and learned a lot from fellow writers, I felt detached and began wanting to fit into their common analytics-based writing. Additionally, I felt like I was suppressing my true passions to advance the narrative of women belonging in sports due to both apolitical norms and overwhelmingly degrading and baseless responses that these ideas attract on social media. When Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power 5 Football game and Kim Ng became the first woman of colour to be an MLB manager; comment sections were chock full of misogyny and gate-keeping. When Major Junior Hockey League player, Yanic Duplessis came out as gay in September, the posts drew homophobic comments. When Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear wore his jersey with his name in Cree, Instagram comments exhibited blatantly anti-Indigenous racism. These forms of discrimination not only made me outraged, but exhausted, as I argued with a faceless Troy29381039 everyday to contest the space that I thought was made for me.
In truth, I’m still conflicted, especially after the Fall semester and basing my two final papers on the NHL’s hashtag activism and sports news framing of athlete activism in the playoffs. I felt a proud rush when amplifying players of colour or criticizing problematic but dreaded the disapproval from traditional understandings that sports should remain apolitical. Journalists like Shireen Ahmed(@shireenahmed) and Hemal Jhaveri(@hemjhaveri) not only encouraged me to refocus my interests and keep writing, but acted as symbolic, optimistic reflections of myself in my uncertain future. My appreciation for and aspiration in joining women of colour in sports media only grows.
I know, I’m still in that safe, early 20’s period of not knowing what I’m doing (and am probably overreacting), but I truly believe #HockeyTwitter gave me a chance to revise personal goals and confirm my definite interest in sports writing. More significantly, I hope fans will enter this new year with the very reasonable understanding that yes, women in all facets of sports belong, but are also essential to ensuring sports are inclusive, entertaining and diverse. To the women and queer folx I met on #HockeyTwitter; thank-you for making space for me. Let’s make more in 2021.”
Ashley(@Ashonice): “Trying to put into words what being a woman in hockey is like is difficult. As I said on Twitter as I worked on this: ‘words are hard’. They’re even harder when you are trying to breaking down the barrier you’ve enforced yourself because that’s what my journey in hockey has been like – compartmentalizing the bad aspects away so that I can focus on the good.
First, some backstory. I was introduced to hockey in the season after the Vancouver Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins. It was an interesting time to come into hockey for a math-oriented woman from Washington State -analytics was in it’s infancy, Seattle NHL was years away from announcement, and women in hockey were really better off silent. A friend asked me to watch a game, teased me with how hockey wasn’t just about pucks and sticks but stories, and I gave in. Eventually I was hooked on speed, skill, and yes, those story lines.
I was fortunate when I started finding my place in the hockey world to be able to build a community around me that was diverse and inclusive, but I quickly realized that as a woman, I was definitely a minority in both hockey and hockey analytics. I strived to change that, and in November 2015, I joined the now dark HockeyStats.CA as the Director of Social Media. This opened my eyes even further to a prevailing assumption that all hockey people were supposed to be men, particularly they should be white men. Even at the end of my work with the site, I was correcting people – primarily men – that I was not, in fact, a guy. However, that was preferable to the abuse I would receive when they realized a woman was the one running the account. Comments of ‘get back to the kitchen’ or ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’, were the polite ones directed at me – and only me, because for whatever reason, they were smart enough to not send these to the HockeyStats.CA account, but my personal one.
Having that previously mentioned community of support around me was vital in learning how to compartmentalize and just be a fan of a sport that continuously treats woman terribly. For example, writing about Patrick Kane during the allegations against was one of the most difficult things I had done to that point in hockey and discovering the management of where I was writing at, at the time did not support my post was one of the loneliest moments I can remember. Being able to lean on friends and allies saw me through that and so many other moments where hockey or someone in hockey disappointed me.
There has been progress, of a sorts. In 2017, there was only a handful of women attending analytics conferences:( https://twitter.com/ashonice/status/840603219327836161?s=21 ). The following year, one in three presenters at the Vancouver Hockey Analytics Conference was a woman. By 2019, we would be excited about there being an actual line for the women’s restroom at the Seattle Hockey Analytics Conference.
But it feels like that progress comes at a price. The more visible women are in hockey, the louder and more abusive the naysayers seem to get. They attack our thoughts, our looks, our hobbies outside of Twitter. They threaten violence against us, harass us for days on end, make multiple accounts to evade blocks and so much more. If they’re not doing that, they’re questioning your knowledge of the game, calling you a puck bunny and saying you only like hockey because of the hot men…and so on and so on.
I haven’t quite hit a decade as a hockey fan and it’s a continuous cycle of reminding myself of how much I love the game. I want to make it easier and better for those who come after me. So I remind myself that being involved is better than not being involved. That nothing will change if we don’t keep trying to change it. That hockey is worth it.”
Sarah(@nucksaid): “Where do I even begin? I can remember with distinct clarity each moment when I have been unequivocally told that hockey is not a space that I am welcome in. When I fell in love with hockey, it wasn’t long before it was made crystal clear that not only does hockey not love me back the same way but that in particular as a female fan the game is constantly being defined for me. From the moment I began following the game, because of my gender it is assumed that I only watch the game to keep an eye on players deemed good looking or because a man influenced me to watch the game or some other inane superficial reason not because I actually have an interest in the game itself. And then there’s the ridiculous obscure trivia test that comes out if you’ve already proven your fandom with facts because if you’re knowledgeable that still isn’t acceptable and will be proven because you don’t know this random fact from 1942.
And when I decided to start a hockey blog in the summer of 2012, I was initially scared to even share it publicly let alone on multiple social media platforms because I was worried about what the reaction would be to my hockey themed blog written and solely put together by a woman. At the time, there were many hockey and Canucks themed blogs written by men, but not many by women that I could find. I had opinions to share and stories to write but no outlet to express it, and decided that I’d create it myself. It wasn’t easy and I’ve received backlash over years from men in particular who rather than simply say they disagreed with me and/or my opinion, would leave comments that would need blocking/removing and send DMs that will never be repeated, and honestly there were times when I thought there wasn’t a point in continuing with the blog journey. It became particularly hard when I started attending more games at the arena as a season ticket member, in person harassment hits in a whole different way than the online trolls. When you go to the one place that’s meant to be your happy place and you’re made to feel as though you have no business being part of it, it’s an incredibly deflating feeling. And then there are commentators that cover game defining you as a distraction and making it abundantly clear with continuous misogynistic comments on each national broadcast that you are not welcome to be part of this world.
Social media is double edged sword, it is as cruel as it is kind most days. There are lines crossed lines and boundaries crossed every single day for most women, it can be what feels like an unending onslaught. On the other side, there’s magic in connecting with souls who have had similar experiences and those who are ACTIVELY working to make sports a more welcoming place for all parties. There have been some incredible allies to cross my path at exactly the right moments, reminding me that my voice matters.
8.5 years later and I’m still here, and I’m not going anywhere.”
A massive thank-you to EACH AND EVERY woman who took the time to share their story here and all those are always using their voices to help make hockey a safer and bigger space for all of us.Hockey as it is, isn’t for everyone but one day it could be and wouldn’t that be amazing?