IIHF’s “Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend”: A Chance to Reflect on Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Hockey Culture

The International Ice Hockey Federation is celebrating its fourth annual Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend this coming weekend. The event is designed to raise the profile of women’s hockey globally and to offer participation opportunities for girls, especially those who have never played. From the IIHF:

The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is a global opportunity for girls to try out hockey as a new sport. Thousands of participants took part in the editions in 2011, 2012 and 2013. . . . It is an opportunity for girls of all ages to try ice hockey. We are looking for hosts all around the world to bring girls from their community together on the ice.

This certainly seems like a noble initiative by the IIHF, although it is certainly debatable to what extent such efforts will close the very significant gender gap that exists between men and women when it comes to their experience as hockey players, fans, or even media members. One way in which this may prove to be a positive initiative is that it provides a prominent and public platform through which to foster dialogue about the opportunities for, barriers against, and experiences of women in hockey.

One of the fantastic consequences of the widespread adoption of new media technologies has been the democratiziation of media production – and, in the case of hockey media, this has meant the emergence of new voices that have challenged traditional narratives, entrenched members of the mainstream media, and long-held ways of understanding the sport. It has also meant that hundreds of women, who were barely represented in hockey media, have had a public platform to demonstrate their brilliant insights about the sport, celebrate their fandom, and – perhaps most importantly – to highlight the many ways in which women continue to be marginalized, excluded, and ignored in various facets of hockey culture. There are too many pieces to link, but highlights include insights into to learning to play hockey in a physically aggressive manner, commentary on the lack of opportunity for elite women players, strong critique of CBC’s disastrous “While the Men Watch” broadcast in 2012 (here, here, and here), and criticism of gimmicky attempts to market the sport to women fans. The work of these bloggers has, I believe, helped create space for male allies to criticize sexism and misogyny in hockey culture and to call on all actors – including fans, media, teams, and leagues – to do better when it comes to gender equality.

It is in this spirit that, with the IIHF’s Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend upcoming, Hockey in Society will be running two pieces this week to offer diverse perspectives on women’s hockey in Canada and around the world. This blog has made women’s hockey a major area of focus since its inception, and is currently in the process of recruiting more female writers to broaden the diversity of voices represented on the site. Later in the week, we will run a new Hockey in Society Roundtable featuring insights from female bloggers, academics, and players about women’s and girls’ hockey. Meanwhile, in this initial post I have collected together some of the many pieces about women’s hockey and the role of women in hockey culture that have been posted here since Hockey in Society launched three years ago. If you missed them the first time around, I encourage you to check out some of the past pieces on these topics.

The Sad State of Women’s Hockey Coverage, and Some Suggestions for Change
by Mark Norman (October 26, 2011)

Frustrated at the limited and trivializing exposure given to women’s hockey in a publication by The Hockey News, I critiqued the lack of media attention given to women’s hockey and offered some ideas for how this might be changed.

Pretty in Pink – Understanding the “Girl Jersey”
by Courtney Szto (October 27, 2011)

Image from: http://d13z1xw8270sfc.cloudfront.net/origin/2905 /reebok_montreal_canadiens_pink_kids_jerseys_635152508966749256.jpg

Courtney provided a female fan’s perspective on the pink “girl jersey” that has become ubiquitous amongst the merchandise of NHL teams, and critiqued its underlying gender assumptions.

“I Remember Just Being so Frustrated Because I Wanted to Play”: Former Youth Hockey Player Brianna Thicke Speaks About Being a Girl Playing Boys’ Hockey and the Prospects for an Elite Women’s Hockey League
by Mark Norman (November 24, 2011)

The first ever interview posted on Hockey in Society was conducted with Brianna Thicke, an articulate and insightful (then) 18 year-old from Montreal. Brianna shared her experiences of playing boys’ hockey growing up, due to lack of opportunity for girls to play, and the discrimination and frustration she faced before ultimately leaving the sport.

“While the Men Watch” Gave Me a Headache
by Courtney Szto (May 31, 2012)

Courtney responded to the sexist and heteronormative “While the Men Watch” broadcast on CBC, which provided an alternative commentary to the Stanley Cup Final and purportedly offered a female-friendly approach to the sport. Like many women hockey fans, Courtney found the broadcast to be insulting and demeaning.

Hockey at the University of Toronto: How the Sport Has Been Woven into the Cultural Fabric of a University for Over a Century
by Mark Norman (November 29, 2012)

Delving into the University of Toronto’s recently digitized photo archive, I explored how, despite only achieving widespread popular awareness with its inclusion in the 1998 Winter Olympics, women’s hockey had been an important activity at the university since at least the 1910s.

A Violation of Human Rights? Girls Getting too Much Ice Time in Newfoundland
by Courtney Szto (December 2, 2012)
and
Comments on Commenters (Re: Girls Getting Too Much Ice Time in Newfoundland)
by Alvin Ma (December 6, 2012)

Courtney and Alvin discussed a controversial case, in which a volunteer hockey coach in Newfoundland launched a human rights challenge to girls playing hockey in leagues with boys (in addition to also playing in existing girls’ leagues). The posts generated a lot of discussion, including from the coach in question, who used the comments section of Courtney’s post to clarify his position and explain his commitment to participation for both boys and girls. I invited him to contribute a guest post to more clearly explain his position, although he did not take me up on this offer. Nonetheless, the two posts sparked a lot of dialogue about the issue and facilitated a constructive exchange of views.

Playing Like Girls
by Peter Zuurbier (March 20, 2014)

Peter reflected on the Canadian women’s Gold Medal victory at the Sochi Olympics in light of popular myths about the connection between hockey and Canadian identity.

Making Warrior Accountable: A Social Media Campaign
by Courtney Szto (July 13, 2014)

In response to sexist advertizing by hockey manufacturer Warrior, Courtney called on hockey players to boycott the company and to tape over the Warrior brand name on existing equipment – and, of course, to share photos of the taped over gear on social media.

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One thought on “IIHF’s “Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend”: A Chance to Reflect on Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Hockey Culture

  1. Pingback: Weekly Links: | Hockey in Society

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