*This is a opinion piece about something other than Kindergarten, but it speaks about equity in sport, and I care deeply about a world that is just.*
To the players in the CWHL (and the managers, the coaches, trainers):
I am sorry. Canadians have failed you. You poured your heart into hockey to make professional women’s hockey a reality. We failed to support you. You sacrificed personally (including job opportunities) so that you could forge a future for other girls who dream of playing in the big leagues. The end of the CWHL will not be the end of women’s hockey in Canada. You are strong, you are fast, you are hard-working and you will continue to play hockey in Canada. I believe that out of the ashes that were the CWHL, a new structure will emerge and an exciting next chapter will be written. I will be there to watch you play.
Yours Sincerely, A Hockey Mom who thanks you
To my fellow Canadians:
It is shocking when we hear that the CWHL was not a financially sustainable model when it paid world-class athletes a mere pittance. In fact, it was even a non-profit model that couldn’t break even. There is something very, very wrong about this. How is it even possible that in 2019, women are not recognized as equal athletes to their male counterparts? If they were recognized as equals in the world of hockey then Sami Jo Small and Marie-Philip Poulin would be driving around in new Mercedes and Porsches. Why is it that the NHL generates such incredible revenue and the CWHL did not? Maybe this seems like a simple question with obvious answers – and it is. The insidious thing is the value statement that underpins the answers.
When my daughter first fell in love with hockey and I learned about the CWHL I was so thrilled to take her to a Toronto Furies game. I went online to purchase tickets for Christmas and got reverse sticker-shock. I had been to a few Maple Leafs games and cheap tickets were close to $100. Tickets for the Toronto Furies games were about $15.00. I told her she could invite as many of her team-mates as we could fit in the van! When we were at the game, I went to buy her a jersey. I picked Christine Kessler’s jersey because she had attended Harvard (what an amazing role model!) and she was a goalie like my daughter. My daughter (peewee age) asked me how much I had paid and was shocked that it was about the same price as a Carey Price jersey. I was dumbfounded. I reasoned that if I didn’t value women’s hockey as greatly as NHL hockey then where would her opportunities be to play professional hockey? All the girls on the road trip that day got a lesson in feminism and equal opportunity. However, while I was busy being the hockey mom, and driving her to practices and games all over southwestern Ontario I did not have the chance to take her to many CWHL games. And now, the CWHL is gone. Gone because at the end of the day, Canadians choose to spend $100 plus to see an NHL game instead of $15 or $20 to see a CWHL game. In Ontario, the OHL teams regularly fill their venues with between 3000 – 9000 in attendance, while a recent PWHL game recorded attendance of 84. When Tim Horton’s has a big hockey card promotion it is NHL players on the trading cards, not CWHL players. We need to really think about whether we value women’s hockey. We need to vote with our wallets and show women in hockey more than lip service and rhetoric. I know that there are endless inequities that we need to right in this world of ours. It really astounds me that equality in sport continues to be a fight that needs our energy and attention. But clearly it does.
So when Canadian women’s hockey emerges in some new form – whether it is a merger with the NWHL or an organization formed in alliance with NHL support – get behind it. Buy season’s tickets, buy player’s jerseys, send e-mails to companies or use social media to demand corporate sponsorships of women’s hockey. Really. How many hockey parents out there are driving their girls to the rink and going through Tim Horton’s drive-thru? Just saying.