“When our world is telling girls and women who they should be or what they should look like, it is critical that we empower those girls and young women to be confident with who they are.”
The sports world is terrible at representing women’s sports to the same extent as men’s sports, regardless of how skilled the women are, and it has pretty much always been this way. The arguments are always the same – women’s sports just aren’t as entertaining or they aren’t as skilled as the men that play the same sport. Which is bullshit- we all know that it’s bullshit, but that doesn’t matter. Representation is important, not just to show the world that women can do the same as men (and sometimes better), but to give younger generations hope of being able to do what they love when they get older.
Growing up, I loved hockey. I loved watching it, cheering for the Flyers even when I had no idea what was going on, and my dad taking me to the ice rink whenever the local high school had games. I even begged my dad to teach me how to ice skate because of how much I loved hockey. I wanted to play it when I got older, and I would practice on the street in the back of the neighborhood with some of the kids who lived around me. I wanted to be a professional hockey player.
Back then, I never knew about professional women’s hockey, because it isn’t covered nationally like men’s hockey is. Even men’s college hockey has more coverage than women’s college hockey, despite being equally entertaining. I thought that I only had until high school to play the sport that I loved. I thought after that it was over. For me, I didn’t see the point in continuing to play so I ended up quitting.
We never had professional women’s hockey players come to the ice rinks to talk to us. Guys always have professional athletes coming to help them practice, give them pep talks about how if they practice, they can be just like them! We never got that. We didn’t have real uniforms, because we didn’t have people wanting to fund a girls team when they could be funding a boys’ team, which makes so much more sense since girls can’t play professionally.
I wish I had known that had I kept up with it, I could have gone to college to play hockey and maybe, if I was good enough, I could go to the Olympics or play professionally. I wish I had known of players like Hilary Knight or Amanda Kessel. I wish I had them to look up to, to remind me that I can be a professional hockey player. I wish I had more grown ups telling me to keep at it and encouraging me as much as they had encouraged the boys.
And I know they encouraged boys more – I saw it first hand. I had to practice with my brother’s team because there were no girls’ team that I could play on, and all the parents constantly told the guys how well they were improving during practices. Me? I got a “good job” from my dad and the coach. When I went to hockey camp, I was the only girl in the group. We had scrimmages at the end of the week, and I was barely ever told how to improve my game or to keep up the good work. Why encourage someone when it won’t go anywhere or result in anything?
There’s no reason that there can’t be national coverage of women’s hockey like there is for men’s hockey. It’s equally entertaining and the women work their asses off to prove themselves, to prove that they can play in a sport that has always been deemed a “man’s sport”, and most of the time, they do it while working another job. Why? Because they don’t make nearly enough money like the men do. And I don’t want to hear that they don’t cover it as much or pay them as much as the men because they aren’t as “good” as the men.
Take a look at the 2018 NHL All-Star games where they had players from the Women’s US Hockey team present to demonstrate the skills portion for the men. Hilary Knight, a personal hero to me and a seven-time world champion, had demoed the accuracy event. They had timed her during it and it took her 11.640 seconds to hit all five of the targets. Had she actually been competing in the competition, she would have come in third place, behind Brian Boyle (11.626) and Brock Boeser (11.136). She came before Sidney Crosby. So tell me again that women can’t keep up with the boys. The 2018 All-star weekend, and even this past All-Star weekend, shows that women having just as much talent as their male counterparts should not come as a surprise. They work just as hard, if not harder, than the men do and countless women have shown that they can compete with the men and that they deserve the same amount of coverage. Look at what happened when they showed Kendall Coyne participating in the fastest skater event! How many tweets followed that event of parents broadcasting that their younger daughters want to be able to be like her?
The lack of representation continues to push the ideas that women do not belong in the sports world. Whether it’s playing the game or being involved behind-the-scenes, it doesn’t matter. It reiterates the idea that sports are only for men.
I’m graduating college and one of my biggest regrets is ever giving up hockey. I miss it every damn day. I miss the adrenaline I got from playing and from the friendships I made. I regret believing people when they said that women didn’t play hockey professionally and it was pointless for me to continue. I want more coverage for women’s sports so that no other girl has to give up playing because she doesn’t think that it is worth it.
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