The 8th annual “Girls Hockey Weekend” took place this past weekend across the United States. If you missed it, no one can really blame you. The event took place across the country on October 17th and 18th. USA Hockey announced that it would happen on October 15th. Less than 48 hours before the weekend began, USA Hockey made the announcement. Yikes.
If that wasn’t bad enough, how about this Tweet that USA Hockey put out Sunday?
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) October 18, 2020
In their official release for “Girls Hockey Weekend”, USA Hockey proclaimed that the two-day event was aimed towards “celebrating girls currently playing hockey, building awareness and growing participation in the sport.” The sport, according to the organization, is one of the fastest-growing youth sports in the United States.
According to USA Hockey, “total participation, including youth and adult players, within USA Hockey has risen to more than 84,000, an increase of 34%.”
USA Hockey also said that local associations “nationwide” would be engaged throughout the weekend in various ways. That’s not exactly how it panned out.
Multiple NHL organizations, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators did some sort of social media campaign, Q&A or made a donation for the weekend. That was about it. People posted pictures of their daughters, while some programs and colleges posted their women’s programs on social media.
Many local associations had no clue that this was happening over the weekend. In fact, numerous programs took to social media to express their displeasure with the fact that they had less than 48 hours to prepare some sort of program for the event. Many of these associations simply had to punt on the weekend because of both the lack of preparation time and the struggles of hosting events amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personally, I think it is great that USA Hockey dedicates an entire weekend to the women’s game. Quite frankly, it’s one major way that the game can continue to build on the momentum gained over the last decade. That being said, the execution was poor at best.
Announcing this mere hours before the weekend reeks of doing something just to say that you did it. There was no build-up, no hype, no planning and no notice for local programs to do something. It just isn’t good enough.
The last thing I want to touch on is the Nashville Predators making a donation. On the face of it, it is a move that I applaud. The Predators ‘invested’ $504,000 in the development of girls hockey and learn to skate programs in Middle Tennessee over the next two years. That’s great, but should these ‘investments’ be made at the youth level, or should they be made higher up?
Here’s a question I want to pose, would women’s hockey be better off in the long term if these donations and investments from NHL teams, the NHL and NHLPA went towards professional hockey? After all, we have the PWHPA fighting for a sustainable professional women’s hockey league that provides these women with a real living. Of course, the NWHL is entering it’s sixth season of play and recently expanded to Toronto.
There is ample opportunity at the youth and ‘Learn to Skate’ levels for both boys and girls. Those opportunities are simply not equal once you get to even the high school and junior levels. Investing higher up could have a trickle down effect that helps the game more than any kind of investment at the ‘grassroots’ level.
The sad reality is, boys dream of playing in the NHL when playing youth hockey. What do girls have to dream of? There is no WNHL, and there is no league in which a woman can go and play hockey in for a living. That isn’t good enough. Investing in professional woman’s hockey could make that dream a reality, and it could push more girls to play the sport of hockey.