TSN has been using the above promo for the current World Junior tournament in an attempt to convince people to watch the legends of tomorrow before they become legends. The voice over starts, “Before they were household names, they were here on TSN,” with imagery of much younger versions of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. It ends with the statement, “The future of hockey lives here. The 2020 World Juniors, only on TSN.” It’s a great promo for men’s hockey.
Conversely, the IIHF U18 Women’s World tournament received the following “coverage”:
You cannot make this stuff up. It’s almost as if people are actively trying to sabotage girls and women’s hockey. The sad part is — I think they’re trying their best?!?! After much ire brought about, in large part, by Kirsten’s tweet the IIHF managed to get a far more acceptable livestream up three days later:
Clearly, it is possible for us to cover women’s hockey with minimum amounts of respect but we apparently still need to “ask” before these bare minimums are provided.
Hockey Canada also published the following tweet on December 26th at the same time that Canada’s U18 women’s team was skating uphill and downhill versus the Russians:
The answer to “What makes #WorldJuniors such an iconic Canadian holiday tradition?” is YOU! You, Hockey Canada, make it a worthwhile tradition. And, YOU – TSN make it a tradition. It’s not some magical production that we stumbled upon in the frozen Canadian tundra. Household names are made, not found. You have chosen to make legends out of these young men and have actively chosen to relegate women’s hockey to the margins through horrific “livestream” coverage that would barely be considered valuable security camera footage.
In 1989, Richard Gruneau argued:
What is “shown on television is always the result of a complex process of selection: what items to report, what to leave out, what to replay, and what to downplay. Television sports production also involves a wide range of processes of visual and narrative representation — choices regarding the images, language, camera positioning, and story line required to translate ‘what happened’ into a program that makes “good television.” (p. 134-135)
Thus, not covering the U18 women’s tournament is an active choice. It may not feel like it in those board room discussions but it is absolutely a choice. Gruneau continues:
Competition for audience viewing time since the early 1960s also led to significant innovations in styles of televisual representation and narration. Rather than simply attempt to ‘cover the event,’ television’s technical capacities were employed to create increasingly dramatic and entertaining forms of sporting spectacle. (p. 136-137)
In 2020, we are still at the stage of “covering” the event when it comes to women’s hockey. So, when TSN makes the statement that the “future of hockey lives here,” it becomes very clear that women and girls are not included in that future. Women’s hockey is then left to “die” by crappy livestream after crappy livestream. The easiest way to fix this very gendered narrative is for TSN to say that the “future of men’s hockey lives here.” The harder and less chosen road, however, would be to start investing in high-production television coverage of women’s hockey. More legends = more viewers. Media is one of the most powerful and influential industries of our time. This fact is as true as Crosby having played in the World Juniors on TSN. If you say that you cannot make legends out of women’s hockey because “no one watches” then you are simply undercutting your own power and talent. The choice is yours.
Gruneau, R. (1989). Making spectacle: A case study in television sports production. In L. Wenner (Ed.), Media, Sports, and Society (pp. 134–154.). London, UK: Sage.