There it was sitting on the kitchen table, a brand new shiny copy of a monthly Hockey magazine my daughter subscribes to. What a special treat! This one happened to be an Olympic wrap up with a full colour photo of a Canadian Men’s team member on the front with a catchy bottom banner of “Canada’s Best Team Ever?” Naturally I was hooked and had to read further.
What I found inside was disheartening, and a rather disturbing reflection of how ignorant the Hockey Media can be at times in its attitude towards Women in Sports. For a magazine, who by name, would imply they are indeed reporting some sort of all-encompassing Hockey News, their failure to reach and connect with a much larger audience was almost a direct insult.
Inside was page after page of beautiful Olympic Hockey photos, a job well done by their sports photographers. There were 128 photos in all, featuring most of the teams involved in the Games; however of that number only 12 showcased anything to do with Women’s achievements 5 of which involved a Team Canada woman (the Men’s team from Latvia also had 5). If there is a parity issue with Women’s Hockey it has more to do with Media Culture than actual competition. And now I have to have an awkward conversation with a 10 year old girl about equality.
With so many inspirational moments showcased by women, not just for women but for all of sport during the Olympics, it is a true lack of respect that they appear in the media as an afterthought. But where there was Media failures there was also some exceptional Media coverage. For this you need only look to the Canadian coverage of Women’s Hockey as it turned over commentary and analysis to four incredible Canadian Hockey Greats; Cassie Campbell, Jennifer Botterill, Cheryl Pounder and Tessa Bonhomme. Not only did they add terrific insight and intelligence to the coverage they brought an exceptionally high degree of class and enthusiasm.
This is the challenge that promoting Women’s Hockey has had in the media; the antiquated and ignorant sports propaganda machine has difficulty comprehending the fact that girls and women enjoy and freely participate in sports, especially here in North America. They are strong, intelligent, dignified and a very integral and equal part of our society and they need to be celebrated for their dedication and inspiration to our future generations.
It is understandable that sponsorships are not always easily obtained for Women’s Hockey, but when looking at how some of these sponsors push their products it becomes clear that not only would they not understand Women’s Hockey they can’t possibly understand Women in general (insert average beer commercial here). Society is evolving and so too should sports culture, especially when it comes to exposure.
So many times when standing in a Sporting Goods store with my daughter, watching her go through hockey sticks looking for the perfect twig, I catch her eye looking and the sponsored player names on them and I know what she is thinking. She wants a Wickenheiser, a Spooner, a Hefford, a Bonhomme, a Campbell, a Botterill, a Pounder, a Ward, a Wakefield, an Ouellette. But as the last salesman replied “The Hockey Stick is for your daughter, have you tried looking at the discount rack? Does she even know which way she shoots?”
Things will never change when we accept these things as part of the Game. Women have played this game for over 100 years, they are entitled to Respect, because I tell you right now, they Love the Game, they know the Game, they play the Game and they will own the Game.