Grid Girls belong in the past.

I like you Andre Lotterer, I do. I think you’re a pretty good driver and I’m still massively sorry that your Caterham died 1 lap into your only F1 race. You’d worked too hard for it to end that shortly.

But on this, you’re wrong.

You don’t need your grid girls.

No one needs grid girls.

There is technically nothing that a grid girl does that couldn’t be done by someone’s mother (you probably just wouldn’t enjoy seeing it as much). You want your grid girls because they’re very pretty and they make you feel very manly (like driving a race car isn’t already enough).

What is so wrong with grid girls then? Surely they’re harmless, standing there, holding signs and showing off their beautiful smiles, perfect hair and flat stomachs.

It’s the message that grid girls send though, that isn’t harmless. It’s what grid girls tell the female fan about their involvement with motor sports, that’s where I have a problem.

Grid girls tell me that motor sports are for men and that women’s role is to simply stand around and look pretty. Not pretty? There isn’t a role for you here.

Motorsport isn’t just a man’s game anymore. Maybe this was the case 10 or 20 years ago, but as each season goes by, gradually, bit by bit, we see women starting to make their way into the sport, women who’ve fought tooth and nail to be taken seriously regardless of gender.

Grid girls are an insult to each and everyone of these women.

Gird girls are a rellic of yesterday,


“Why don’t we just have grid boys for the female drivers? That’s equal right?”

Yeah. No problem. Great idea, except that absolutely nothing would change.

If we gave female drivers grid boys (all in the interest of equal objectification) we’d have 0 of them in F1. Oh, and in GP2. And in GP3. And probably in WEC (1 women raced at Le Mans in 2014 – Japanese driver Keiko Ihara finished 14th overall). There’d be 1 in World Series Formula Renault 3.5 (Bietske Visser) and 1 in Eurocup Formula 3 (Tatiana Calderon), 2 tiers I’m not even sure have grid girls.

In fact, I went through every single FIA endorsed Open Wheel racing category, from Formula 1 to Formula 4 and found that there were exactly 6 females currently holding down positions as racing drivers, and 4 of those drivers are racing in FIA Formula 4, a competition mainly populated by teenagers barely out of karts.


So next time you tell me that you need Grid Girls, that Grid Girls are harmless

Growing up, aspiring to something, girls (and boys) imitate what they see. There’s F1 drivers now who grew up wanting to be Schumacher, and young karters who have their eyes on Hamilton and Vettel. But for girls?


I’m supporting Carmen Jorda. You should too.

A fortnight ago, Carmen Jorda was named to the Lotus F1 team as a Development driver, a decision that was met with much derision, bitterness and mockery within the Formula 1 and racing community.

Here’s a female ‘driver’ who had previously gathered a reputation more for her looks than her talent, who had departed GP3 in 2014 after three seasons during which she finished no higher than 13th (2012 Valencia Feature race) and did not record a point, securing a coveted spot in F1.

The reality is that based on her driving history, Carmen Jorda probably shouldn’t be anywhere near a F1 car. During her decade long racing career, there has been no sign that she has the potential to develop into a competitive Formula 1 driver, let alone a significantly useful development driver. In fact, Lotus already has 2 other Test and Development Drivers signed in Jolyon Palmer (Current GP2 Champion) and Charles Pic (Former Marussia F1 & Caterham F1 Driver), both of whom have far better racing pedigrees.

So how did Jorda get there?


Carmen Jorda isn’t the first driver to make their way into F1 with the backing of deep pockets, let alone the first Lotus driver to do so. Pastor Maldonado brings the backing of  Venezuelan oil company PDVSA (and a rumoured 45 million pounds) and Charles Pic comes with support of his family and their multi-million dollar trucking business.

The reality is, whilst there are a significant number of F1 drivers who have paid their way into seats, they still have a reasonable amount of prior success when compared to Jorda. However, at the end of the day, Carmen Jorda has a seat as a F1 development driver. She’ll spend time in the sims, helping with feedback and potentially get track time in the E23 at some point this season and in all of that I want to see her succeed.


Because Carmen Jorda’s success is a success for women in motorsport.

No one’s going to deny the fact that being a women in motorsport, at any level, is hard.  Only 2 women have ever actually started a Formula One race (Maria Teresa de Filippis in 1958-9, Lella Lombardi in 1974-1976). When Susie Wolff took to the track at Silverstone last year for FP1 she was the first women to participate in a F1 weekend for 22 years. In fact, 5 2015 drivers weren’t even born the last time a women participated (Giovanna Amati failed to qualify for 1992’s South African, Mexican and Brazilian GPs). In 2015, there isn’t a single female driver listed to race in GP2 or GP3. Formula Renault 3.5 has one – 20 year old Dutch, former Red Bull Jr and AVF driver Beitske Visser. FIA European Formula 3 has one – 22 year old Colombian Carlin driver Tatiana Calderon. 4 of the world’s top development competitions and there’s 2 female drivers.

There’s girls out there who’ve proven themselves worthy but when it comes to making a choice between them and a similarly talented male, it’s hard not to believe the male driver would be chosen 9 times out of 10.

Is it not harder for a team principal (at any level) to imagine a successful female driver when they have not seen one before? Is it not harder for a team principal  (at any level) to take a chance on a female driver when your team is made up by men? How will they fit in?

Carmen Jorda is a women with a seat in F1. That’s a rarified position and one I wish to see the most made of.

I want Carmen Jorda to succeed because if she doesn’t, if she fails it’s not just Carmen Jorda who fails, to the racing media, it’s women in racing who fails. If a male development driver fails, in the media’s eye because he wasn’t good enough. The narrative has nothing to do with his gender and everything to do his talent.

If Carmen Jorda fails, it’s not because she’s female, it’s because she isn’t good enough. But the story, the sometimes implicitly, sometimes blatantly sexist narrative we’re fed is that it’s because she’s female. If Carmen doesn’t do well (and we’re not even sure to be honest what “do well” is defined as in her role), if she loses her seat for reasons that aren’t explicitly stated as being financial (the circumstances in which Sauber parted ways with affiliate driver Simona De Silvestro) she fails because she is a woman.

Carmen is intelligent, incredibly determined and believes women have their place in motorsport just as any other sport in the world.

Formula One isn’t a sport that welcomes women with open arms. Numerous drivers have made less than delightful comments regarding the chance of women racing competitively and that’s before you even get onto Bernie, the sport’s not so adorable sexist grandfather.

“You know I’ve got one of those wonderful ideas … women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances.”

Bernie Ecclestone after Danica Patrick placed 4th at the Indy500

I do not necessarily believe Carmen Jorda deserves her spot within a Formula 1 team (I hold the same opinion for several actual drivers as well but that’s beside the point)  but I will back her, support her and wish her success for as long as she holds that position. I want to see women in F1 and I want to see women succeed in F1 and if in 2015 that’s Carmen Jorda, then so be it.

Additionally, she’s handled the blowback like a champ.

Formula one is full of jealousy. There are few cockpits, so only a few can make it. Rob is obviously jealous that I’m here and he is not. I wish him all the best, that’s all I can say.

Carmen Jorda

Mic Drop.


#89 in the Draft. #1 in Our Hearts.

At 1:30 am (AEST) on Sunday, June 29th a little bit of Australian history was made with Nathan Walker (British born, Australian raised) becoming the very first Australian to be drafted into the NHL. Whilst Walker has been involved with the Capitals organisation, and spent the last season in Hershey after appearing in several pre-season games, his official drafting by the Capitals at #89th overall is a big moment for Australian hockey.

I admit hockey has been far from my mind lately. The last several weeks have been hectic, with finishing my Master’s degree, massive system changes at work and family visits, so whilst I vaugely remembered the draft was on, I had in fact forgotten about the chance of Walker going (atleast on the day!). It was by sheer luck too that I happened to be awake at 1:30 am when this all unfolded. Typically, I’d have been long asleep on a Saturday night, but on this night I found myself out on the town with a motley assortment of hockey players all of whom were equally as ‘stoked’ about the news.

At 1.30 am, we were starting to wind down for the night and suddenly my phone started vibrating rapidly. The first message came in from Jeff Marek, followed quickly by a bunch of others and that’s how we found out the news. There was shouting, hugging, raised glasses and cheers for “Stormy”, a large amount of disbelief and excitement and more bro-hugging than I’ve seen outside an ice-rink in a long time. Many of these players had been teammates of Nathan over the years, were life-long friends who had grown up together on the ice. Everyone was practically giddy, firing off messages, tweets, and in two instances, face-timing the probably overwhelmed Walker to share their congratulations (mostly through the form of loud yelling and cursing). 

Walker’s drafting to the NHL doesn’t mean there is a pipeline of Australian’s to follow. We know, for well, that both his talent and the stubborn determination of those around him to help him succeed, may be a once in a generation occurrence, the outcome of a decade plus of hard work and a small sprinkle of luck.

What it does mean however, is that for the young Australian hockey player, maybe, just maybe, that that dream isn’t as impossible as it seemed last week. Nathan Walker did it and maybe, just maybe, they can too.

At the rink later on Sunday, the giddy mood hadn’t disappeared, many of the players expressing that when they woke up they’d had to pinch themselves to believe that it had in fact happened. ‘Stormy’ had done it. This mood wasn’t restricted to the players though. Fan after fan I spoke to, wanted to talk about how exciting it was, how great it made them feel, how much they were going to support the Capitals now that they had one of ‘us’.

Because that’s how the Australian hockey community thinks. We may support different teams, both at home and far away, wear different colours and cheer for different players but at the end of the day, we’re an incredible close knit bunch, fiercely proud of the foothold we’ve helped this sport carve in the most un-typical of hockey nations.

That’s what this is all about I think, the mentality of Australian Ice Hockey and the ‘us’ component of our fandom as look outwards to the wider hockey world and the NHL.

Being a hockey fan in Australia is for the crazy, and dreaming of the NHL as a hockey player in Australia is, if possible, even crazier. But that’s what Nathan Walker did, and this week, we saw that dream come a step closer to fruition.

Nathan Walker is a Australian hockey player, maybe not by birth but by the origin for where his passion for the game started. He is a hockey player, who whilst having left for the Czech Republic age 13 to follow his passion for the game, learnt so much of the game here in Australia and of that fact we are fiercely, fiercely proud.

Nathan Walker is a hockey player, he is an Australian and he is one of ‘us’.

And for that he’s got a country’s never-ending support and admiration.

So from the Capital’s first Aussie to their next – congratulations, mate.

(Context: I was a Washington Capitals intern for several months in 2009.) 

We Need To Talk About Amanda: The Kessel Divide

Author Note: All information within is true to the best of my knowledge and research. Great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of any statements in here, especially those pertaining to current status of the CWHL, including talking to CWHL player’s regarding the situation. If any information is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it. 

Sticktap to NBC Olympics


If hockey were science, the Kessel siblings would be the perfect experiment. They certainly have the right control elements: identical genetics and family environments, and equally dominant talents.


Then there is the independent variable that sets the experiences of Phil and Amanda so dramatically apart: gender.


On April 10 last year, Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the New York Rangers in Game 40 of the NHL season. He scored two goals, was the evening’s second star and for his Tuesday-night efforts took home about $50,000.(1)


The previous night, Amanda Kessel and Team USA defeated Canada in the gold-medal game of the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships. She scored one goal, was Team USA’s player of the game and for her efforts took home nothing more than a medal and pride in (and of) her country.


In case you don’t know much about Amanda Kessel, let me break down for you what the 22-year-old has done in the past seven years. In her three years at Shattuck St Mary’s she won two U19 National Championships and in 136 games put up 324 points, averaging 2.3 points a game.


In 2010, she started at the University of Minnesota and helped the team to back-to-back NCAA championships (2012 and 2013), including a 41-0 record for the 2013 championship run. In 2013, she was only the fourth female player in NCAA history to break the 100-point barrier, with 46 goals and 101 points in a mere 37 games. That’s 2.7 points per game, on her way to collecting the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award for the top female college player in the US.


The truth is, if Amanda Kessel were male, she’d have left Minnesota long ago (if she’d even gone the NCAA route). An NHL team would have called her name early in the 2009 draft, making good on the scouting reports that had been touting her since her days with the Madison Capitols Bantam boys’ team.


Instead, when Amanda Kessel leaves Minnesota, the NHL will not have lured her away, early or otherwise. She will be the subject of no speculation on TSN or HF Boards forum. When Amanda Kessel leaves Minnesota as one of the best players to ever wear the Gopher’s uniform, she will do so with an undecided future that almost certainly promises little financial return.


Why Does No One Give A Damn? The Sociology of Women’s Sport


  • In 2013, the Forbes Top 100 list of Highest Paid Athletes contained just two women: #26 Maria Sharapova and #81 Li Na, both of whom earned the majority of their money from endorsement deals.
  • Only one North American professional women’s sporting team has a higher attendance average than a Big Four sports team. It is currently the 150th most popular sporting team in North America.(2)
  • The current operating budget of the CWHL is equivalent to the 2013-14 cap hit of Zenon Knopka.

So why does no one give a damn – or a dollar – for women’s sport?


When we as a society look at sport, we ground our assessment of sporting performance in the values and experiences of the male athlete, a standard of evaluation that typically disadvantages women. Subsequently, when we use these male standards to judge female athletes and their performances, we are setting them up to fail by requiring a style of play impossible for them to emulate.


This ‘required’ standard or style significantly disadvantages female athletes due to the inherent physical differences between men and women. They play this sport, but they do not play it in an identical fashion to men. Because of this, we, as a society, discredit them, their participation, and their achievements.


Women are expected to play sport as men play sport, and the failure to do so negates support. And so, these false narratives – the superiority of male sport and the inferiority of female sport (slower, less aggressive and therefore not as good) – continue to dictate how we value and engage with sport.


The actions of the male athlete are defined as the standard for ‘right’ and ‘normal’ within the sporting sphere. As a result, there is an assumption (intentional or not) of triviality in women’s sport compared to men’s sport, which dramatically colours how we engage with and value female athletes.


In 2009, a 20-year study of network and cable TV sports reporting by USC and Purdue sociologists found that female athletes are present in only 4% of all sporting news. This seems all the more dramatic when compared against gender participation numbers: girls constitute more than 40% of high school sporting participants (6).


The discrepancy between actual participation and the importance assigned to female athletes in media coverage continues to highlight the historical stereotype of male superiority in the sporting realm, diminishing the perceived quality of female athletes and asserting their lack of appeal. In her article, Messner points out that these arguments echo many of the sentiments against African-American baseball players in the early decades of the 20th century. (7)


A while back, someone took the effort to go through my old posts on here (there’s only a handful) and leave the following comment on an article about the Sedin twins and my aversion to the sexist nickname ‘The Sedin Sisters’:


“I’ll explain it very simply: On average, females aren’t as fast, strong, or athletically able as men. In hockey, if you put the best female hockey players in the world against the best male hockey players, the resulting game would not be a contest, but a drubbing. Indisputably, males are superior to females — as a whole — at hockey. Thus, calling the Sedins sisters likens them to inferior athletes. The insult is based on truth. There is nothing sexist to point the finger at here. Okay, you fucking dame?” – Angry Commenting Guy


This ‘comparison’ does exactly what it seems every person who wants to throw darts at women’s sport does: it measures the female athlete in relation to their male counterpart and find them lacking, by virtue of their gender, for failing to meet “a threshold for athleticism bestowed upon them at birth”.(4) In drawing such comparisons we continue to enable the viewing of female athletes as being second-class. In contrasting them with male counterparts we deny them the recognition of “being world-class in their own right”.(5)


Equality is a funny and difficult thing. In sport, some suggest that equality does not mean affording men and women the same chances, it means providing them a single, unified field in which to compete (in other words, what the corporate world aspires to). However, this  idea does presume that male and female athletes start from an identical position – and as such it is ignorant of each gender’s physical differences.


Our valuation of women’s sport is not dictated by the sport itself; it is dictated by us as a society, and to what – and how – we tend to assign value. This same foundation affects how sport is valued in different countries and cultures. Table tennis, despite being the most popular sport in China, is subject to must derision within North America. Why? Because in North America, the sporting public values aggression, physicality and strength above the dexterity and agility displayed by an elite table tennis player.


Like table tennis in China, the depressing reality of women’s sport is the result of social construction and how we assign value to the participation and achievement of the female versus male athlete.


It’s not just that almost no one cares. It’s that, for the most part, we’ve never taught them that they should.


“There’s a Women’s League?” The Women’s Game in 2014


The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) is the world’s most competitive women’s hockey league. Comprised of former NCAA and CIS players – as well as the bulk of the Canadian and non-NCAA USA women’s teams (in non-centralized Olympic years) – the five teams (Brampton, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Boston) compete in a 24-game season. In addition to playing two to three games most weekends, the teams also train on ice twice a week and hit the weight and running tracks numerous times.


They receive an annual salary of $0.


Since 2010 players have no longer had to pay for their own equipment, but the significant time they must commit to the league means many are left scraping pennies to cover the most basic living expenses as they juggle elite-level sport with gainful employment.


Presently, two teams have partnerships with NHL clubs (Toronto and Calgary), which provides some co-branding and $20,000–$30,000 per season to help cover club costs. Both partnerships have been in place since 2012 and represent some of the only individual team sponsorships within the CWHL. Traditionally, the league has favoured league-wide sponsorships that enable funding to be dispersed equally across all teams in the league.


The CWHL’s only competition is the Western Women’s Hockey League, a league of two teams: Winnipeg and Minnesota. In recent seasons, the WWHL has gone through several merger attempts with the CWHL and its previous incarnation, the NWHL. It presently exists as a series of exhibition games between its own two teams and the NCAA women’s teams.


Most Olympic countries have their own national women’s league in some itineration or other. However, none provide viable employment pathways, and most don’t provide a high level of competition for the most elite athletes among their ranks.


In the years leading up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian Women’s Championship expanded to 11 teams and local players could earn up to $1,500 a month during the playing season. But with the teams mostly playing on weekday mornings and before crowds numbering barely in the double digits, it’s easy to believe that with their medal-less performance and the end of Sochi, the backing dollars that have kept them afloat will disappear.


Where To From Sochi?


Financial equality with male hockey players is not the goal of the female hockey player. As it is, financial quality is not a reality for many female athletes, especially those in team sports. What these athletes and their supporters strive for is for the game of hockey to become a viable career choice for elite female players. If this were the case, we would never again see the game’s great talents, like Noora Raty, retiring due to a lack of financial security or sustainable income.


How do we make this happen?


After the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics, the NBA, lead by David Stern established the WNBA. Stern strongly believed in the link between sport and society – and the need for the former to reflect the latter. He viewed the women’s game as another driving force in a push to introduce the game of basketball as a whole to a larger audience – an audience where female fans and participants were an ever-increasing part. Although the concept of a women’s league had been bandied around by the NBA for a significant portion of the 1990s, it took the crowds and enthusiasm generated by America’s gold-medal win in Atlanta to really lift the concept off the ground.


As mentioned, two of the five CWHL teams currently have NHL partnerships, but there are questions as to how effectively these partnerships work and whether they extend beyond limited financial support. (It’s worth noting that the Maple Leafs contribution to the CWHL this season was 1/33rd of what they will pay Darcy Tucker over the same period).


The Leafs partner with the Toronto Furies for promotional purposes yet atleast one high-profile pro-Leafs blogger wasn’t even aware there was a CWHL team in Toronto. In fact, a search of the Maple Leafs website turns up only two mentions of the Furies, and one is a reference to the hiring of Tessa Bonhomme, Fury and former Canadian Olympian, as a presenter for Leafs TV. (Note: Leafs TV did include a base-bar this week during one game that promoted the date for the Furies next home game.)


What prevents these two NHL teams entering co-branding partnerships and promoting the players alongside their own during community activities? In Australia, such partnerships have been a long-term strategy to develop the profile of the W-League (our women’s national soccer league). It leverages already strong brand identities and increases the visibility of female athletes while giving teams more diverse participation in their community activities.


What stops the Boston Bruins partnering with the Blades to offer discounted or free game passes to Bruins season ticket holders or their children? What about allowing them concourse space to promote attendance at upcoming games or even just engage younger fans? (Note: I have been unable to find a record of this happening, but I cannot confirm whether the Bruins already use this tactic.)


There are many ifs, buts and realities here. Could a league with an escrow and revenue sharing arrangement like the NHL ever gain endorsement from enough NHL franchises to support a venture that might slightly diminish the returns promise to its constituent teams? Is it a venture best run by Hockey Canada and USA Hockey and if so, where would such a league leave the remainder of the women’s hockey world?


Sporting organisations are not charities. They are, for the most part, businesses – though not always dramatically successful ones. I learnt this the hard way in nearly two years working with elite women’s soccer in Australia and the USA, as we struggled week to week to find new and creative ways to put people in seats and dollars in banks.


In part, we, the W-League, were lucky to have organisations and governing leagues that viewed the continued existence and increasing sustainability of professional women’s sport as a necessity for the growth and evolution of the game. Calgary Flames President Ken King echoed this sentiment when his team announced its partnership with the Calgary Inferno women’s team in 2012. King suggested that a large part of the Flames’ decision to support the Inferno rested on it being right thing to do.


“It’s really not what’s in it for the Flames. The Flames have a lifetime obligation that we put upon ourselves to support all sports and support the community, whether it’s in sports or not. This is just a natural outgrowth of that. I think cash is important, but I think what is equally important to cash is that their pioneering efforts that have gone on for many years, I think need to be rewarded. They need some breakthroughs and, if we can play a very small part in that, we’re proud to do that.” – Calgary Flames President Ken King (8)


It is hard to suggest that something should be done for women’s hockey purely on the basis that it’s the right thing to do (though I wouldn’t argue with anyone who tried). However, with the increasing popularity of women’s hockey (in participation numbers and the viewership ratings demonstrated during the recent Olympic tournament in Sochi) it is hard to believe that we can’t achieve or sustain something bigger – something better – than the current situation.


I can’t believe that as a society of hockey fans, we can’t do a better job for the female hockey player than the one we’ve been doing.



This is a story about Phil Kessel and Amanda Kessel, but at the same time it isn’t. It’s about gender, what the Kessel siblings represent, and how we as a society treat the female athlete. It’s the tale of two Olympic athletes who represented the USA in Sochi on equal terms – and then skated back to completely different worlds. One returns to the spoils and riches afforded by his talent and gender. The other returns to an uncertain future, and the fight for a sustainable relevance that lasts for more than two weeks each olympiad.


And in 2014, that’s a bullshit story to tell.



(1) Capgeek. – Based on $5.1 million for the season, pro-rated across 82 games with a 20% allowance for escrow.[EG1]  (

(2) Average Attendance of Professional Sports Teams in the US and Canada – Wikipedia –

(3) Kate Fagan, ‘No Women, Not Even Griner, Could Play in the NBA’, espnW –

(4) ibid.

(5) ibid.

(6) M. A. & Cooky, C. (2010). Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlights Shows, 1989-2009. Los Angeles: USC Center for Feminist Research –

(7) ibid.

(8) Leafs, Flames give boost to women’s hockey teams – 13 November, 2012 – The Canadian Press –

The Most Influential Women in Hockey are a Public-Policy CEO and Carrie Underwood

“We consult handfuls of industry experts to validate, or deny names we have in mind and to unearth people we may not have considered. And it’s important to us that the lift reflects all aspects of our world: from executives to players; from heads of industry to media; from viewers to doers.”

Jason Kay, Editor’s Notebook – The Hockey News 100 People of Power and Influence

The list is, as all hockey fans know, an annual tradition of the magazine and it is an equally annual tradition of the hockey fan to pour over it and debate the merits of those who appear, the order in which they do and the “snubs”. It’s like the All-star game but a whole hell of a lot nerdier.

For me though (and I’m sure a few other of us crazy pro-women’s types) the tradition follows more along the lines of flick through until you come across the first female (generally somewhere in the 80+ section). Look annoyed. Find the few other stray women crammed in the back end. Feel dismayed. Wait another 12 months. Repeat.

This year, the highest ranked female is a Public-Policy CEO who’s only interest in hockey has been to prevent the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Matthew Hulsizer in the public interest of Phoenix taxpayers. Whilst Ms Olsen’s “impact” on the game via this had been significant and an understandable choice, it is #85 where we start to stumble.

The second female to make an appearance on the list is none other than country music superstar, Carrie Underwood, who’s claim to hockey influence is her marriage to Mike Fisher. Now, I like Ms Underwood. I find her music tolerable when on the radio. She’s a decent role model for young girls and nothing about her in anyway inspires me to rage. In fact, by all accounts, she seems like a pretty swell women.

 However, for her to be placed at #85 on the Hockey News list, ahead of such women as Tessa Bonnehomme (who slides in at #89 in large part for recent endorsements, charity work and her appearance on Battle of the Blades) and 4 time Olympian, Boston CWHL’er and IOC Athletes’ Commission member Angela Ruggiero, is frankly, insulting. Hell, Lexi Peters – the teenage hockey player who’s letters to EA Sports finally convinced them to include women in their create-a-player options and who stands as a representative of the grassroots surge in female participation – could arguably sit higher on the list than Ms Underwood.

The summary beneath Ms Underwood’s name suggests she is a placeholder for all of the wives and their role in influencing where their husband’s play and sign. In this context, Ms Underwood’s representation makes some small amount sense, as a “place” holder icon and well known face of this role but as a hockey fan and female player I cannot help but feel slightly insulted or overlooked.

Is  this role more influential or important in the game of hockey than that played by significant female leaders of the sport?

Whilst, two such female leaders are further recognized on the up and coming list – the “next generation” almost with Tanya Foley – IIHF’s newly appointed women’s program manager and Katey Stone – the Harvard Women’s Hockey Coach who recently lead Team USA to defeat the Canadians at the 4 Nations, for the Top 100 of Hockey to feature only 2 females legitimately involved in the sport in a direct and contributing context, with a further 1 representing the growth in participation sliding in at #100 seems dismissive of the the fact that 14% of registered North American hockey players are women (via IIHF).

I guess the very nature of  “influence” is subjective. What do we define as influence in the context of this game? Is it controlling the future of the game or inspiring others to become the future of the game? Is it building increased advertising revenue or building a league from the ground up? Further, when we talk about “hockey” are we referring to the game itself in a broad sense as played globally or to the NHL as the pinnacle of the hockey iceberg.  The list covers both aspects (Rene Fasel, head of the IIHF ducks in at #26  and Bob Nicholson cracks the early 10’s), however, showing a strong favour to the NHL (logically evident of the fact THN is a North American magazine who’s consumer base is largely North American NHL fans).

It is hard to suggest that maybe a different list should be considered for the women’s game when this seems at odds with the equality those in the game strive for. However, it is foolish to think that the realities between the men’s and women’s game are not as dramatically different as they truly are.  Women’s hockey, in both an international and professional capacity, is an entirely different paradigm with significantly different goalposts for success.

People like Brenda Andress – Canadian Women’s Hockey League Executive Director,  Hayley Wickenheiser, Athlete Ambassador Co-ordinator and Melody Davidson, Coach Mentor Lead for the IIHF Ambassador and Mentors Program are all deserving of the dramatic impacts they are helping make in the women’s game globally and in North America.

At the conclusion of his latest The Hockey News Editor’s Notebook, Jason Kay invited people to pass comment, present their feedback on that issues Top 100 People of Power and Influence list

Well Jason, from me to you, a few more ladies won’t hurt you.

It’s Not Okay to be a Sexist (whether you realise it or not)


Last night, Steve Dangle posed the above question to his 8,000+ twitter followers. The response was unlike anything he’d probably seen before with replies flooding not only my own timeline but coming back to him at a rate he could barely keep up with.

Now Steve’s a damn good guy (I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a few drinks and poutine with him on my last trip to TO), and I reckon some people unfairly gave him a shellacking on twitter thinking he may have been suggesting we shouldn’t  be offended. I doubt that’s his position – more so one of general curiosity at where we as a community – the female hockey fan – sit on this issue.

I’m going to pre-face my opinion with two statements:

  • Firstly, I am what people often describe, however misguidedly, as a raging feminist. This means I strongly believe in the notion that women are equal to men and as such should be accorded the same respect, dignity and opportunity in all areas of life. It’s a truly shocking notion, isn’t it?
  • Secondly, I am in no way ashamed of this fact and nor do I ever intend to be.

1. David Bolland’s statement implies that being “female” is bad and an insult whether that was his intention or not.

When David Bolland references the Sedin Twins as “sisters” he does so for the purpose of disparaging their worth as hockey players by likening them to something that is negatively perceived. In this instance, that is to be like a women. By implying they’re girls via the use of the term “sisters”, Bolland attempts to call into question the thing hockey players seem to hold most dear : their masculinity. Because you know, being a girl is completely negative and they could never play hockey. Right?

This is sexism. It may be subtle and it may be unintended but it positions the female gender at a lower and inferior level in the game of hockey.

Now I highly doubt that David Bolland truly believes women to be of a lesser level in society, or to be the weaker gender in the grand scheme but it is this perception that his words perpetrate. Hell, very few people probably think Raffi Torres is actually racist, yet the media and much of the wider hockey community still took the Columbus player to task earlier this season after he appeared at the teams halloween party in blackface, irrespective of his actual intentions when choosing the costume.

When Wayne Simmonds appeared to call Sean Avery a faggot we were all up in arms about the unacceptable nature of homophobic slurs.

Someone is bound to draw a line on this and claim that racial and sexual discrimination is of a much more  serious nature than the petty sexist behaviour and whilst its arguable whether they’re right on this (many will support that they are) it does not make .

It’s not okay to call a black man a monkey. It’s not okay to call any man, gay or staight, a faggot. So since when is it okay to mock someone based on gender?

2. “The Canucks don’t care so why should we?” isn’t an appropriate defence. 

The Canucks don’t really care because being called a women isn’t discriminatory to them. They’re not women.

For women however, to have someone suggest that being their gender is appropriate as a put down? To have someone use your gender as a way to disparage and put down an athlete in a sport you yourself may very well compete in and probably love because being like “you” could only be negative? About that you should care.

3. Whether it “offends” you or not, you should still understand the implications and stop enabling the behaviour. 

Plenty of women tweeted back to Steve to say they weren’t offended and found it funny with many suggesting or admitting that they had used the comment themselves. I’m not offended as the comment a) wasn’t directed to me and b) wasn’t the most sexist comment I’ve ever heard. In fact, it wasn’t really the most sexist comment I’d even heard or read yesterday (that’s a whole other problem).

Offended or not, we still need to understand the implications of what this “implicit” sexism means. Throws like a girl is an all to common phrase in our sporting vernacular to imply a male athlete isn’t living up to the standards we’re setting.  This and many other phrases that are used, by so many without much thought towards the greater social implications. They suggest that as a girl you’re not good enough and chances are you probably not going to ever be “good enough” in their eyes to be taken seriously.  It’s helping perpetuate the negative stereotyping that leads girls away from sport – both as fans and as participants.

Further, as female fans (and as male fans as well) we need to stop continuing to enable this behaviour. Every women who rolls out a “Cindy Crosby”, a “Danielle Briere” and the Sedin Sisters is implicit in this sexist behaviour regardless of their gender. In attaching these labels, it’s done so in the exact same way as David Bolland has done so – to disparage their worth as a hockey player and as a man by likening them to women.

That is something we need to care about.


On Red Ice : A Reflection on a Semester of Sport Sociology

“I’d rather see a guy fight and lose than turn his cheek and not fight of all and I think a lot of the players are like that. You pretty well realise that you have to fight, otherwise the guys look down at you.”
Tie Domi

“. . . violence in a hockey game . . . is not acceptable in our society . . . [for it] spills over from the arena into the streets.”
Judge Harris in Regina v. Ciccarelli

I know 6 different ways to repair a cut from a fist to the face dependent on both the cut’s location and how heavy the person is bleeding. I know the best way to treat a broken nose so a player can get back into a game and how to get blood from a jersey without having to take it off. I even know the best way to deal with someone who has been concussed by an opposition fist and can barely tell me his own name let alone how to get to the locker room. All these dubious skills I have learnt from ice hockey.

For the last decade hockey has ruled my life and I imagine it will do so for many decades to come. I have lived and breathed this game as one of its most committed and passionate proponents on this continent and have played, coached and administrated the game at the countries highest levels. Currently, I volunteer my time as a Director of the Australian Ice Hockey League and a large portion of my time is spent determining and dealing with penalties and suspensions the aftermath of the more physical aspects of this game.

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