April 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I will write an in-depth response soon, but here’s an initial take. Burke does say some great stuff, but he also says many things that I would like to see the data on. Has the growth of hockey in the sunbelt *actually* produced more players, for instance? Most women’s hockey players still come from cold states. And one of the more worrying things that I hear from male coaches of all sports is that women are more ‘coachable’ than men, which means more tractable, less argumentative, and more pliant. Certainly we want effective coach-player relationships in which athletes don’t have attitude problems, but we also want female athletes to be able to stand up for themselves, not succumb to the societal pressure to be a ‘good girl’ and just do whatever the authority figure says. That’s a troubling path.
April 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Keely Dunn has written an excellent post, echoing the views of what I presume to be many Canadians that women’s hockey should allow checking. I wrote a very similar post a few years ago, making some of the same arguments about safety and sexism. Then everything changed.
Over the past few years we’ve watched many football players and a few hockey enforcers descend into early-onset dementia, depression, and suicide. There are serious questions about whether football, America’s most popular pastime, will even survive. We are paying to watch men destroy their futures. I cannot bear to think we could knowingly do this to an even bigger group, none of whom will be making enough money at their sport to cover their medical care. Although there is evidence that female college hockey players suffer more concussions than the men, we have no idea why. We also have no idea why female basketball players suffer ACL tears at such an alarming rate. We would never suggest that they do more of the behavior that could be a risk, because we guessed it might not be the cause. It’s true that the uncertainty of whether/how contact will be coming may be a factor in women’s concussions. Ending that uncertainty is about making the rules more concrete and working with officials to enforce a consistent set of standards.
One of the primary arguments Dunn makes is aesthetic: hockey without hitting just looks incomplete and wrong. This is exactly how I felt. But as I got more involved in covering the women’s game, I made a conscious effort to stop expecting hits when players skate together toward the boards. It took some time for me to change my perceptions, but now men’s hockey looks odd and unnecessarily violent to me. Aesthetics are not written in stone. The men’s game is changing its expectations around checking too. Ironically, the prototypical checking situation used to be an opposing player skating through the neutral zone with this head down. This guy was ‘asking for it.’ Now we understand that hits on a vulnerable player are the clearest risk for concussion.
Of course it’s sexist to keep women from checking. It’s based on the idea that women are more frail and/or essentially ladylike. And if it were a question of non-dangerous behavior I’d say change it immediately. But as women’s sports finally become more prominent, I think we need to emphasize the fact that ‘equal’ can, but does not have to, mean ‘same’. Britney Griner does not need to be drafted into the NBA to be considered a great basketball player. That belittles the WNBA and its talent. The fact that she dunks, which is a traditionally ‘male’ aspect of the game, has been emphasized out of proportion to the skills one needs to successfully play basketball. Athletic prowess does not have to require that athletes approach the game the same way, even within the same gender. We need to make it clear both that women *can* do the same things as men, but that they don’t always have to.
Which leads me to the third, and I’d argue most important point. I haven’t seen anyone else make it and it’s both interesting and seductive: women will not bring toxic sports culture to the practice of checking. Unfortunately I have to disagree. When Canadians say they want to check specifically after a game with USA Hockey, what I hear is “we should be able to beat the crap out of those girls [sic].” Checking is not a release of hostility. This is the BS we’ve been hearing from the NHL for years. Instead, checking ratchets up the hostility level. As I recall, the U.S./Canada women’s team rivalry really began with an alleged comment about someone’s dead mother. The intervening years and the growth of the college game have only somewhat mitigated that nastiness. I guarantee that Canadians will feel even worse, rather than better, toward the U.S. team the first time J. Lamoureux obliterates someone and a brawl breaks out. We don’t actually want to see that. You only have to look at Team Canada’s cigar and beer celebration at Vancouver to convince you machismo didn’t miss these athletes (or the Americans, certainly). Does anyone other than elderly men actually like cigars? Where do you think the players got that idea? It’s a symbol of masculinity, that’s where. That’s not always a bad thing, as the gender binaries become more fluid and people try out different types of behaviors. But unfortunately in sports those behaviors shade in one direction, stereotypically male, and can quickly become problematic. Female and male athletes have been acculturated the same way. I simply don’t believe they will bring different values to allowable violence.
I am very sympathetic to the idea that it makes women’s hockey look second class to most Canadians that the women can’t hit. Hockey is a vital part of your culture and for many years there has only been one acceptable way to play it. I know that women can hit, and do it well. But I think that as in most cases, what we ought to do to foment equality is have the men’s game be more like the women’s game, and not vice versa. How refreshing that would be.
March 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It’s the day all of the women’s hockey community have long awaited: NCAA playoff time. However my happiness is not unalloyed. Readers will know I don’t use screens on Saturdays, except when they coincide with the NCAA tournament and/or the Frozen Four. Having to do so makes me both guilty and cranky. The past few years the opening round games have been played back-to-back-to-back-to back, eight-ish hours of hockey in a row, which generally gives me a migraine but at least allows fans to watch the damn things. This year, they have chosen to schedule two of the games at the same time, and they also overlap with one of the others, which overlaps with the fourth. Gosh, can’t imagine anyone will actually be watching, let’s just stack ‘em. So now there is stress about where to tune in. Nevertheless, these are three interesting match-ups and one dud. I am adding predictive scores for the first time, although wincing as I do so, because those can go so wrong, so fast. Don’t use me for wagers is all I’m saying.
*Harvard at BC. If the ECAC-tournament-version Harvard plays the Hockey East-tournament-version BC, advantage Harvard. The key here is for Harvard to score first. The Crimson had some trouble finding the net against Cornell, plus some bad luck (a hit post), and early goals were the key to their victory over Clarkson. That said, it would be wrong to sleep on Alex Carpenter’s skills, plus the other potential offensive weapons for the Eagles, who averaged 4.4 goals a game this year. Perhaps playoff urgency will help them find their form. Harvard 3 – BC 1
*Clarkson at BU. This is a Clarkson squad that has beaten Mercyhurst, North Dakota (!), Cornell, and Harvard twice times before finally succumbing to them in the ECAC field. However it dropped match-ups with Hockey East foes Northeastern (a team I would have loved to see in the NCAAs) and BC (giving up five goals in that one). Although Poulin did not score in bunches this year, the number one goal of any opponent is still to contain her as she could go off at any time. Kohanchuk is an overlooked player. Howe is the better overall goalie by a large margin. Sperry has something of a history of turning into a different player during the post-season, however. BU 4-Clarkson 2
Mercyhurst at Cornell. Almost certain that this game will be decided by special teams, as these are among the most penalized groups in the NCAA. On paper, ‘Hurst has a significantly better Power Play, while Cornell has the slight advantage on the PK. But we must recall that ‘Hurst has historically had a strength of schedule problem, and Cornell beat them handily in their one meeting this year. Jenner scored twice, and Laura Fortino was on the ice for three of the Big Red’s goals in that one. If ‘Hurst can contain those two, they have a shot. Cornell 4 – Mercyhurst 3
North Dakota at Minnesota. God almighty. Has this team not suffered enough? Now they get the famed ‘no money to send them anywhere’ slot as well? And they have to face a Minnesota squad whose only competition at the moment is history? The numbers, they are ugly. UND was outscored 23-9 in the five prior meetings, including a shut-out in the WCHA final. Sometimes, when teams have played this many times, familiarity breeds enough contempt that the stronger team loses focus and the weaker team finds a way to crack the code. I just don’t see this happening. UMN 4 – UND 1.
Bonus Kaz prediction: I feel Raty will be given the nod. However, here are the reasons the committee could choose one of the other finalists: Bozek is team captain, and Notions of Leadership ™ drive this award. She is also a top scorer among defenders, and that’s the one defensive metric really valued by the committee. Kessel led the nation in scoring, and that is always a good predictor, but I don’t know whether she is considered A Leader. I suspect not. I’d still bet on Raty.
February 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The one day…THE ONE DAY I don’t save as I go along. I worked for an hour on this post with my usual witty brilliance or brilliant wittiness and great insight, and it’s now in the ether. Which DOESN’T EVEN EXIST. Stupid pre-science theories.
So, Cliff Notes version: Annie Pankowski is a really good Junior hockey player.
My predictions for Kaz finalists: Raty, Bozek, Kessel, Decker, Dempsy, both Lamoureux, Babstock, Jenner, Coyne. Outside chance: Sabatine, Poulin, Carpenter, Brandt, Rigsby, Bellamy. Players who are carrying weak teams/are younger, but had good years and thus I think should be looked at: Smith, Vint, Mercer, Lefort, Howe, Tarr (who, you ask? Only player to crack top 50 for Ohio State). Usual whining about selection criteria blah blah blah Raty will win.
‘Hurst has three conference defeats for the first time since…ever, actually. They should still win, but given the rest of the slate was upset central as mediocre teams collided every week, bless their little hearts the CHA tournament should be a roll of the nice. Just throw the puck over the boards and have at it.
The ECAC and Hockey East will be full of desperation as it’s almost certain at least one undeserving WCHA team will take a spot in the national tourney, so conference tourney wins are huge. SLU/Quinnipiac is the only toss-up in the opening round of the ECAC, but the finals could feature Harvard versus the Clarkson team that has defeated it twice already this year, or Cornell. Cornell/Clarkson is where we see whether great defense really does defeat great offense. In Hockey East, Northeastern has some late-charging momentum with its Beanpot win, and BU is backing in with two losses, but I still feel BC has the biggest potential upside. All three of these teams should make it to the national post-season, but probably won’t
because of the WCHA. Now, all of you Easterners are looking askance because generally the complaint is the WCHA is under rather than over-represented. But the Wisconsin Anemics really don’t deserve a berth this year, unless they manage to find their hidden offense under someone’s old textbooks or something. Everyone is also hoping that the Minnesota Juggernaut of Destiny comes down en masse with the flu or gets bored or is freaked out by facing the only team that gave it any trouble this year and gets the yips. I find this unlikely. The Gophers have been disciplined for a front-runner and that will not go away. Four lines can score. Great D. Also of interest is which Duluth squad shows up. On any given weekend they can look technically sound or pretty average, they don’t have a dominating weapon, and unlike their in-state rivals they tend to not stay focused for three periods. OSU has not been totally woeful this year, so that series might be competitive depending on how much Duluth wants it. NDU is the real wild card here, as it is capable of beating any of the competitors other than Minnesota, but their team motto over the past five years is ‘who the hell knows?’
I recognize this post is high on prosody and low on statistical analysis (so what else is new?), but we’ll just pretend all the numbers were in the one that got lost.
In other words, I’m super-excited for the postseason and I hope you are too.
January 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy New Year, all! Just a reminder that even when you aren’t seeing new posts, something is probably happening over at @firstlinehockey.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the middle of the college year already. Here’s a look at the upcoming second half through some of my favorite names on contending D-I teams.
Wisconsin- Alev Kelter. Kelter has long been a role player to watch, but it’s hard to find a role on a team with fewer primary weapons. After Brianna Decker, tumble down the list to number 41 to find Wisconsin’s next top national scorer. The Badgers are sitting 11th overall in team offense, but they are still two+ goals a game behind conference rival Minnesota. Part of that may be attributable to bad luck, as they are scoring on only .087 of their shots. Kelter leads the team in shooting perecentage with .159.
Harvard- Emerance Maschmeyer (Honorable Mention: Miye D’Oench). Goaltending by committee at Harvard has worked out thus far, and Laura Bellamy seems to be sanguine, at least in front of the curtain, about sharing time with this talented Albertan first-year. It also helps the Crimson that Cornell has taken something of a step backward.
Ohio State- Hokey Langan. God bless Canadian parents. The Buckeyes were a pleasant surprise in the first half. Their early sweep of UMD was a sign that the program was serious about competing in the WCHA. While plus/minus is an extremely rough metric , last year OSU had only three players in the plus column. This year to date, it’s fifteen. The true test will come at Wisconsin on the 11th and 12th of January. A woeful power play (although also improved over last season) will not continue to cut it.
Clarkson- Renata Fast (Honorable mention: Carly Mercer is a quintessential hockey name). Clarkson’s roster reads like Canadian voter registration. Recruiting in the Great White North has paid off for the Golden Knights, especially on defense, as they sit third in fewest goals allowed. Erica Howe could probably use a little more rest to continue her success into the second half.
Robert Morris - I guess I’ll go with Anneline Lauziere (Honorable mention: the entire rest of the team). The headline “Colonials Ink Seven For 2013-2014″ greets you upon arrival at the RMU website, signalling that the rebuilding momentum shows no sign of slowing. The stand-out of that group is goalie Jessica Dodds, who is with the Canadian U-18 team at Worlds right now. The current roster swept Mercyhurst at the beginning of December to serve notice. ‘Hurst will be more than ready for the rematch, and I’m a little concerned from a numbers perspective that RMU doesn’t have quite enough power on either side of the puck, but the CHA is no longer a pushover for the Lakers, that much is clear.
Look for a version of this post discussing Division III teams soon, and remember to check out what’s going on at the U-18 Worlds.
November 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Since I have long been calling for more (or any) NHL support for the CWHL, you’d think I’d be over the moon about the news that it was finally happening in what seems like a big way. I am certainly guardedly optimistic, as the politicos say, and the exposure that comes from being on a big stage during a pro hockey drought is going to be fantastic.
But as a fan and commentator I’ve lived through two failed soccer leagues, and the cautionary tale of the WNBA’s relationship with NBA franchises. As I have noted before, there is a reason that more and more WNBA teams are going to an independent ownership model, often by female entrepreneurs with a stake in the women’s sports community. I have also watched the media climate become only an iota more friendly to, and repeat the same tired sexist nonsense about, women’s sports for the past twenty years despite the massive gains women have made in this arena. Red flags for me in the deal include the absolute desperation of the NHL for anything that could improve their image in what is a borderline armageddon lock-out situation. The NHL has a serious problem when it comes to tokenizing women for its own benefit. Note that once again, there are no women going into the Hall of Fame. That first class was all we’re going to get until Wickenheiser has been out of the game for ten years, and that will be in 2114 according to current projections. Because the Hall wasn’t interested in actually redressing the injustices they’d done. They were interested in getting the Adam Proteaus of the world off their backs. (Hey, that Angela James induction speech I lauded at the time is looking pretty prescient).
The upside is that the Toronto CWHL franchise looked out for its interests in signing a five-year agreement. They will have something to hold the league’s feet to the fire with when men’s hockey inevitably comes back and takes over the ice time and the airspace. They, the Alberta team, and anyone else who makes a similar deal need to make sure that they don’t get so overwhelmed with gratitude that they sign away benefits and then have no foundation to stand on if the NHL partnership doesn’t work out long-term. This is, indeed, potentially a huge opportunity for the women’s game. But the women’s game also needs to be proud of what it has already accomplished on its own, and remember that if necessary it can go that route again.
October 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Well, this has been quite an educational weekend in the NCAA.
*Not satisfied with proving they weren’t anybody’s opening weekend chumps, Minnesota State upset North Dakota in game one of their series. The MSU juniors have been the team’s standouts thus far. NDU suffered from their usual glut of penalties. They managed to right the ship in game two, but I think it’s going to take awhile for this team to find its identity, with the combo of a large number of new players and a top-loaded group of seniors.
*UMD’s quest to return to the upper echelons of the WCHA took a massive hit from back-to-back losses to Ohio State. It’s well past time for the Buckeyes to redefine themselves, and perhaps they needed to jettison their over-reliance on last year’s seniors in order to do it. It’s impossible not to root for a team whose captain is named Hokey. Meanwhile, a few more losses like this and Shannon Miller’s job security might be a concern.
*BC is apparently not quite ready to take back the torch in the rivalry with BU. The Terriers went a woeful 0-7 on the power play, Poulin didn’t notch a goal, and they still scored four times. Advantage: BU’s freshman class over BC’s. Photos from the game. BU also tied the Blades in their exhibition game. Update: this does turn out to be an impressive performance because I see no evidence the Blades didn’t play full out after a dominating first period.
*Once-proud Vermont has hit rock bottom, losing to a team playing its first D-I game. Granted it’s actually easier to recruit to a new program than one which has had some tough years, so Penn State has the clean slate going for them and some solid young players. I know rebuilding takes time, but it’s not even clear that Vermont has dedicated itself to the process yet. This is on the coaching staff and AD. Let’s not put the players through it for much longer, please. Update: Vermont did take the series’ second game.
*Clarkson took two close ones from Saint Lawrence. Expect the Clarkson defense to continue its dominance this year.
*Minnesota and Wisconsin beat up on weak opponents, which allowed their top scorers to pad their numbers. Doesn’t it seem like Decker has been at UW forever? She’s finally a senior at long last.
*Providence split the weekend series against BSU, and Quinnipiac held strong against ‘Hurst, with a tie and a close loss. Hockey on the East Coast is currently fascinating.
*After a rough set of openers, RIT at least proved it doesn’t belong in the D-III limbo category, beating the living hell out of Sacred Heart to the tune of 15-2 over two games. It will take awhile for them to adjust, but unlike certain other transitional programs they almost surely will.
Given the NHL lockout, let’s make sure we spread the word about women’s hockey this year. It should be a great one.