I have gotten notice of quite a few articles about women's hockey lately so I thought I would do a round-up.
The other day I linked to this article about Canadian hockey moms: mothers who play hockey, most who have taken it up later in life after watching and supporting their children for years and years. And though it is nice and possibly inspiring, unfortunately* it spent about three paragraphs on the mothers before launching into a lengthy discussion of the overall decline in Canadian boys who play hockey. It did end by noting the huge rise in the numbers of girls playing though and the hope that the increase would bring a little more respect to the women's game.
And according to a Toronto paper, the women's game is gaining respect. Most of the article focuses on the national team and veteran member Hayley Wickenheiser who comments not just on the (lack of) depth in women's ice hockey but also on the denial of women's ski jumping in the 2010 Olympic games and the cutting of softball from the summer games. [Wickenheiser actually played softball for Canada in the Sydney games; something I did not know.] She also addresses the idea of a boycott of the summer games--it's up to the individual athlete she believes.
Of course, the best women's hockey players in the world are currently in China for the world championships but there has been no mention of a boycott in anything I have read.
This editorialist thinks that women's hockey would grow even more if the no body checking rule was nixed. I have such mixed feelings about the body checking rule. I don't like the rationale that is behind it--women are smaller, women are more prone to injury, women shouldn't be that aggressive. But I'm not all the way on board with the reasoning behind lifting it: the men do it; so the women should do. Why can't women make a game their own? Of course, when men have been making the rules that govern your sport it might be quite tempting to say "stop treating us like kids and let us play" without thinking about what version of the game you want to play. I also think the author's contention that there is minimal body contact in the women's game is way off base. Has he ever watched a women's hockey game? There is a lot of legal contact and his contention that any contact has the potential to be called a penalty is just wrong. Yes, there are refs that call things more tightly but that happens in the men's game as well. What you can "get away with" is always changing depending on the officials, trends in the game (one year every other I heard was something about "contact to the head" clearly something officials were trying to crack down on) and the level of play. There is a lot of contact in the intercollegiate game and even more at the international level. In the end, I don't want women's hockey to have to allow checking because it will make the game more popular. It's not a bad or deficient game now. What we have to change is how people see it and sports in general.
Because do we really think if women are allowed to body check all of a sudden next year the world championships will actually be televised? I won't have to go searching all over the internet for results and maybe a little bit of commentary?
*I also worry a little that the happy, pleasant moms-who-play hockey story erases issues of class and sexuality that are so much a part of ice hockey. Hockey is expensive and it can be time-consuming. Women who want to play have to have the economic resources to pay for the equipment, ice time, etc. and they have to have enough support from their families to spend the time away from the home and their work. And second the focus on mothers allows us not to have to talk about lesbians who play. Because the (false, of course) assumption is that all mothers are straight women. This is somewhat reinforced by this feature on Canadian national team member Becky Kellar who is a mother of two. At least she mentions all the support she gets in balancing motherhood, international hockey, and her work trying to grow a professional league in Canada.