CW: harassment, misogyny
Back when the Leafs were terrible, I used to trudge out to the pub on the corner to watch the games. I was too poor for cable, I reasoned, but not too poor to get Tuesday night drunk in the Village by myself.
Gay bars are fantastic places to watch a hockey game because nobody hits on you and you’re generally the only one paying attention. I was severely depressed, chronically unemployed, and profoundly miserable from gaining 70 pounds of Effexor weight. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I sunk back into the comfortable world of my childhood dream, but it was somewhere around the first time I saw James Reimer blow a victory kiss to the rafters. My political aspirations hamstrung by my chronic lack of a ding-a-ling, hockey seemed to fit me like an old coat, my Hockey Night In Canada dream like a forgotten $20 in the pocket. It felt right in a way none of my former lives ever had and night after night as I sat there on my barstool, pieces of the vivacious little girl who threw hockey-themed birthday parties and called play-by-play during foosball games slowly reassembled themselves into a whole person.
But the more I embraced my first love, my first real and true passion, the more men didn’t seem to want me there. I’d read the litany of tweets from angry Habs fans calling me fat or outraged Jonathan Bernier stans calling me a dumb cunt and I couldn’t help think of that day in Grade Four when I accidentally violated William Mitchell’s sacred rule. Every “stupid bitch,” every “Kill yourself, dyke,” every “You ugly slut, you’re just jealous [A Certain Hart Trophy Winner] didn’t rape you” was code for “You can’t come in here! There are ding-a-lings!” I was breaking an unspoken law simply by taking up space, and those men hated me for it.
Every time a Respected Sportswriter tells me that hockey media doesn’t need to diversify, I think of a gaggle of ten year old girls squealing with joy as they play ball hockey in a suburban basement. Every time a very lost straight guy wanders into the pub and shouts “What a pussy!” at a player on TV, I remember my sister bouncing on the balls of her feet as she waited for her turn in the broadcast booth. Every time someone calls Amanda Kessel “Phil Kessel’s sister,” I think of the late, great Shirley Fischler literally fighting her way into the Rangers’ press box while a crowd of men shouted “You can’t come in here! There are ding-a-lings!”
Now that the Leafs are decent, my boyfriend took me to the Hockey Hall of Fame for the first time in my adult life.
There are women now – Angela James and Geraldine Heaney and a handful of other women I’d loved as a girl – but not many. And only three of them are on the media wall.
Shirley Fischler is not in the Hockey Hall Of Fame.
When I am, I’ll make sure they put our pictures up side by side on the media wall, facing the Cup. And little girls will come on their summer vacations to see us take up space together, ding-a-lings be damned.