Few things get me more excited than talking about sports. When the Winter Olympics come around my television stays on 24/7. One sport has always fascinated me: Women’s Ice Hockey.
There are only three occasions in which women’s hockey is nationally or internationally televised. One being the Olympics every four years, two being the NCAA Frozen Four (College Hockey), and the third being International Ice Hockey Federation playoffs and championships. And even with these, the caveat is that if a men’s tournament or game is scheduled near the same time it gets priority. Needless to say, it’s incredibly frustrating to be a women’s hockey fan.
So many issues need to be tackled, but in my opinion issue one is the lack of visibility. If this sport only gets attention paid to it an average of twice of year, it’s never going to grow.
The National Hockey League has 32 teams, 25 in the U.S and 7 in Canada. Every single regular season and playoff game is televised. Will you find women’s teams on main television networks such as NBC, NBCSN and ESPN? Nope…you’re going to have to wait until the Olympics in February 2022 for that! See my frustration?
I grew up watching men’s hockey (NHL) because it was what was on, and I love the sport. It wasn’t until I watched the 2014 Sochi Olympics that I realized women play the sport too! Watching the passion they had for the game made me confident that I could play too. Shortly after I started playing hockey.
Looking back, I wish it hadn’t taken that long to click that I could play too, because by the time I entered the hockey world I was WAY behind my peers. Being considerably behind in my skills took a huge toll on my mental health. I was bullied for being allowed to play in leagues with younger players and harassed by parents when I did well. I decided to stop playing a few seasons later because I couldn’t take it anymore. All I wanted to do was play the sport I loved.
Every once in a while, I can’t help but think about what could’ve been. Would I have ever been a professional player if I started playing at a young age? Probably not. I’m from a rural county in the middle of nowhere. Would I have gotten to grow up playing with people my own age? Absolutely. Would I have been a lot happier? Yup. This is why visibility is so important and might I add helpful. Women’s sports are worth investing in for the sake of future generations.
When women’s national teams are televised on large networks they get good viewership. In fact, in 2018, the women’s gold medal game between the USA and Canada drew record late-night (11 p.m. – 2:15 a.m.) viewership for NBC Sports Network at 3.7 million viewers. Clearly if people are staying up until all hours of the night to watch games like these, there is a market for women’s hockey.
After the USA Women’s National Team won Gold in 2018, USA Hockey saw a large spike in registration of female players. Registration spiked 4.35% compared to the men’s program, which only saw .48% growth from the 2017-18 season to the 2018-19 season. The sport is growing and a huge part of that is the fact that people had greater access to watching the games.
Visibility matters. When you see it you can dream it and when you can dream it, there’s a possibility that you can achieve it.