I don’t often ask to leave work early, but when I do, it’s for something important. Well, a couple of weeks ago, the Canadian Women’s National Team playing in the semi-final of the IIHF Women’s World Championship with a start time of 3:30 pm on a Thursday seemed like an important enough reason. I don’t have cable, so I checked online and saw that the game was playing on TSN3. I headed to one of my local sports bars and arrived only to be informed by the manager that they do not have TSN3, only TSN and TSN2. So I went to the next closest sports bar to find the same situation. Very frustrated, I went home to try to find a stream online as it was now after 4 pm and I didn’t want to waste any more time and miss more of the game.
Once I was settled in at home in front of my laptop, during one of the breaks between periods, because I still felt that my blood pressure was high from the frustration of not being able to find the game on at any local establishment, I decided out of curiosity to see what was playing on TSN and TSN2 that was so earth-shaking that the live women’s game got bumped to TSN3, which few bars carry and even fewer people have as part of their cable or satellite package.
TSN was showing a live PGA tournament. However, TSN2 was showing, during the time the women’s game was being played live, a lumberjack competition and then after that, a nine-ball pool tournament from 2016. I found this to be a little bit insulting that a nine-ball pool tournament that took place at least four months prior took precedence over a live Women’s World Championship game.
Canada won the game and would be in the final on Friday night. Surely that would not be as much of an issue to watch on TV somewhere, right?
A nagging feeling told me I’d better check the TSN website to make sure they were showing the final, and if so, on what channel. I thought I had misread my screen when I saw that the final would be on TSN4. Nope, the final wasn’t on one of the main TSN channels either. I sent a text to my hockey buddy and asked if he wanted to find a place to watch the game with me, and he called a couple of sports bars known for having a lot of TV screens, and found one that had TSN4. We agreed to meet there just before the 7:30 pm start time of the game.
I arrived just before the 7:30 pm start time, and when I went in, the place was quite full and there were TVs everywhere (later I counted at least 40) showing various sports events and programs. A young man escorted me to my table, and I mentioned to him that they needed to put the game on, and he said, “Oh, well US/Canada hockey, that’s a big game. I’m sure they will put it on.”
Ah, if only that had been the case.
I ordered a beer and checked out what was playing on the TVs. Nothing too exciting. There was a review of English Premier League soccer highlights, an NCAA football game from 2005 (literally), some kind of Wipeout-type show, poker tournaments. By 7:30, the Raptors game and the Canadiens games had come on TV, but on no screen could I see the women’s hockey final. Around 7:40 I intercepted my busy waitress and said, “Hey, do you think you could get someone to put the women’s hockey game on? It’s on TSN4.” Then I gestured at one of the smaller TVs and said, “Like, maybe say we could switch the TV showing the women’s wrestling?” She glanced at the screen showing two overly made up women with long, frizzed curly locks and zebra and cheetah patterned tights exaggeratingly throwing each other to the ground, and then said, “Yes, let me see what I can do.” The irony was not lost on me, but I think it was on her.
After about five minutes, the game finally came on. It was only put on to the one smaller TV that I had mentioned. My friend had not arrived yet and I needed to vent, so I took to twitter and tweeted, “Literally just had to ask the sports bar (in Canada) to change the TV from Women’s WWE to @HC_Women vs @USAHockey gold medal game.”
As the game proceeded towards the end of the first period, I looked around the bar and almost no one was watching TV at all. I did see a few people look up at the small screen showing the women’s game and begin watching, and I even heard a couple of them remark, “Oh, look, it’s the Canada/US game.” However, I also wondered if these people just assumed it was not a live game or a meaningful game because it was only on one small TV.
After some time, noticing we had something that looked like a wet t-shirt contest on one screen and the 2005 NCAA football game still playing on another, I started to become really frustrated that they were not showing the hockey game on more TVs and irritated that I’d had to ask just to get it showing on one.
I tweeted my displeasure at this situation, and one of my Twitter friends, Jim, who actually is a hero of mine from childhood as he played baseball for the Detroit Tigers, and is now a hero of mine still because he is a big follower and advocate of women’s hockey, replied to my tweet, saying, “Make a stink. Nothing is more important right now.”
As the game progressed into the second period, I thought about what Jim said. And I looked around again at all the people in the bar eating their dinners, none of them really paying that much attention to the TVs at all, and I thought that if the US/Canada game was on, most people would probably watch as that is the kind of event that evokes patriotism and transcends a person’s like or dislike of hockey or sports in general.
I also thought about where I was. I was in southwest Ontario. I wasn’t in the middle of Nebraska or some other place where hockey isn’t popular. I thought about how 3 miles away from where I was sitting was the arena where Olympian Laura Fortino played her junior hockey with the Stoney Creek Sabres, and her picture hangs on the wall in that arena, and she was playing in the game that night. Jim was right—I owed it to those girls on both the US and Canadian national teams to fight to give them the air time they deserved.
I had been eyeing the restaurant manager for a while. The next time he walked by, I stopped him and asked if I could talk to him for a second. Here is how the conversation went.
Me: Hey, did you know that the US and Canadian women’s hockey teams are playing in the Women’s World Championship right now, live?
I could see a patronizing smirk starting to form on his face, so I continued. . .
A lot of those players are from or live within 20 miles from here. Do you think you could put it on more of the TVs?
Him: Oh, well, yeah, you know the Raptors are on tonight and NHL. . .
Me: I’m not asking you to change those TVs. I just thought if you could put the game on a couple more TVs. . .
Him: Most of the people here have asked for certain things to be on, so that’s what we’re showing.
I glanced over at the NCAA men’s gymnastics competition showing on one of the TVs and the Atlanta vs. Cleveland NBA game on another TV and said. . .
Me: Well, I thought if you could put it on a couple more TVs, maybe people would watch it because it’s a big game.
Him: (smirking even more) Yeah, to be honest, there’s not just much interest. Besides, it’s the NHL playoffs.
Realizing I wasn’t going to win that battle (and so offended by his refusal to even entertain my suggestion), I just said, “OK, thanks.” And then it hit me that in all his mansplaining (and if I’d ever witnessed the epitome of mansplaining, that was certainly it), he wasn’t even accurate in his argument. The NHL playoffs had NOT started yet.
My friend finally showed up and we talked about leaving to try to find another bar that was showing the game, but since the game was more than half over, we didn’t want to waste time driving around to another location.
I’m still trying to determine what, if anything, I should do about this incident other than blogging about it. When I reported on Twitter that one out of 40 televisions was showing the game because “There just isn’t much interest,” Jim suggested I contact the restaurant’s headquarters (it’s a US-based chain with locations in Canada) and tell them that their manager does not support their national teams.
While we are fighting for respect and recognition of women’s hockey as a legitimate spectator sport, a lot of that comes down to more than just how many people actually attend games. It starts with each one of us. When you are at an establishment that shows sports events and they are not showing one of the women’s games, speak up. Even though I didn’t get anywhere in my attempt, the next time someone tells that restaurant’s manager the same thing, he’s slightly more likely to listen. When TSN is showing a recorded months-old pool tournament on one of its main feeds instead of a live women’s semi-final, we need to send them feedback. We are at a significant turning point in the advancement of women’s hockey, especially with the Winter Olympics coming up in less than a year and two “professional” women’s hockey leagues in North America. As my friend Jim said, when you see women’s hockey being overlooked or downplayed, make a stink. Nothing is more important right now.