Thursday, February 02, 2006

Cute, but dangerous?

I stuck around my house for a few extra minutes this morning to catch the Today show's feature on the US Women's Hockey Team. It was a correspondent who conducted the interviews with four of the veteran players about their training but Matt Lauer is scheduled to get in goal when he heads to Turino later this month.
It was a pretty standard segment: shots of practice spliced with interview comments. One of the segment's themes was the whole women play hockey too and this is how the game differs (and maybe is even better) than the male version. And somewhere along the line, when noting that just because the women are not allowed to check, the interviewer noted that these women are still dangerous (shots of players being held against boards and fighting for the puck along the boards) but wait, it's ok, because they're cute. Oh good. I was worried the women representing the US in hockey would be ugly. Who the hell cares if they're cute? Oh, that's right the people who are afraid of strong women in male-dominated sports. The label "cute" accounts for multiple sins: the fear of masculinization of female athletes, it makes less threatening the actual physical capabilities of these players, and it infantilizes and marks as child-like, these WOMEN who play at the highest level of their very physical, very demanding sport.
On a different note, there was a brief interview with coach Ben Smith, about the team's progress and also a mention that Smith cut two veterans in August, including Cammi Granato who has arguably been the Mia Hamm of women's ice hockey. There was a small mention of the shock these cuts had but I feel like this initial shock is being downplayed. There were big problems with team dynamics in Salt Lake City that stemmed, in part, from controversial cuts. They were largely ignored and the effect was obvious. Given the team's pretty poor performances (it's all relative of course--mostly relative to the Canadian team's progress) in the tour leading up to Turino I would say team dynamics are still very much a problem. Smith himself noted that the offensive lines need to improve and the interviewed players admitted that they aren't ready yet but said that they will be. It's more than just drills and scrimmages though. I hope team USA gets it together off the ice.

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