Five Things Seen and Observed at the 2017 CWHL All-Star Game

  1. There is absolutely an audience for women’s hockey.

There’s a persistent argument that the reason women’s sports don’t get much attention is that there simply isn’t an audience for them. 8000 people attended Saturday’s game, and while some shitty dudes predictably whined about it online, the social media response has been overwhelmingly positive. The crowd at the game was an impressive mix of ages and genders and the level of enthusiasm and crowd engagement was on par with any Leafs or Marlies games I’ve been to. If it’s good hockey, Canadians are going to watch it. Not airing or discussing or writing about women’s hockey because “there’s no audience for it” is an excuse borne out of laziness as much as sexism.

2. Haters gonna hate.

Poor Brandon. (I’m using Brandon here, but you can substitute any generic hockey bro name.) Brandon had to watch a commercial for women’s hockey and now he is Mad Online™. Brandon does not like women because his mom told him to stop playing Overwatch and put his Meninist shirt in the hamper. Brandon logs on to Twitter and tweets “Women’s hockey? I’d rather watch paint dry!” so that the other Pepe the Frog avatars will now that Brandon is a Real Man™ and not a media party cuck like James Mirtle.

3. Tween girls will be total goofs if given the opportunity.

That weird limbo between childhood and adolescence is a tricky time for girls. Between peer pressure, the media, and the daily reality of patriarchy, they’re encouraged to abruptly leave childhood behind and devote their entire existence to what boys think of them. The CWHL All-Star Game was packed with tweenage girls and as it turns out, when there’s no pressure on them to be anything but hockey fans, tween girls are goofy as hell. They giggle, they shriek, they dance like dorks to make their friends laugh. They flail around on the Jumbotron and tackle each other for free t-shirts. In a judgement-free setting where powerful women are celebrated and applauded, little girls can feel free to be little girls.

4. The hockey world needs to quit sleeping on Jess Jones.

Forget the women’s game – Jess Jones is one of the world’s best hockey players full stop.  The Brampton Thunder forward was drafted into the CWHL after a dominant stint in the EWHL, and her explosive speed and uncanny hockey sense have led to a team-leading 32 point season. (In the scoring race, she sits only behind Ann-Sophie Bettez and Marie-Philip Poulin, who are maybe the world’s best hockey players.) Jones scored a hat trick for Team White at the All-Star Game, and probably had the most vocal cheering section in the building. And yet she remains a relative unknown outside of a small circle of Thunder fans. When Jess Jones is on the ice, the game becomes nine players chasing Jess Jones. She is a generational talent, and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as players like Natalie Spooner or Meaghan Mikkelson.

5. There’s no wrong way to be a woman.

Whether you’re tall and willowy or short and squat, whether you’re blonde or brunette, whether you’re butch or femme, there’s a place for you in women’s hockey. You can tuck your hair up under your helmet or tie it back in an elaborate braid. You can ring your eyes in black eyeliner like Natalie Spooner or wear no makeup at all like Jamie-Lee Rattray. You can play a physical game like Rebecca Vint or a finesse game like Jill Saulnier. In the CWHL, you can be whoever you want to be in whatever way you want to be, and no one will tell you you’re doing it wrong.

On Girlhood, Growing Up, and The Hockey Hall Of Fame, Part Two (Originally written Nov. 20, 2017)

Back when the Leafs were great, I had a hockey-themed birthday party. My parents set up a ball hockey net in the basement and made chocolate cupcakes so we could “ice the pucks.” We played musical squares to the Hockey Night In Canada theme and took shots on my dad to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

My parents took birthday parties very seriously. Continue reading