The meaning of PWHPA talks with Billie Jean King, Deloitte — Dee talks authenticity in sport — Must-click women’s hockey links
The IX: Hockey Friday with Anne Tokarski, May 27, 2022
Welcome back to Hockey Friday. On Tuesday, The Athletic‘s Hailey Salvian confirmed reports of the rumored league in the works by the players and leaders of the PWHPA. (Article linked below.) According to Salvian, the group — which, as we know, is neither a formal league just yet nor a players’ union — “has entered into a formal relationship with Billie Jean King Enterprises and The Mark Walter Group” with the intention of forming a brand new professional women’s hockey league in North America.
This move is a huge one, especially considering reports that have been swirling on social media since mid-April, when reporter Jeff Marek shared details on the structure of a potential league…details that included salary information.
The PWHPA has had no shortage of premier sponsors stepping up to bankroll their efforts over the past three years, and investment into women’s sports has been at an all time high (you can take a look at women’s soccer, for starters).
Nevertheless, getting a brand new league off the ground is tough work and requires a serious commitment from people with serious money in their bank accounts. It requires long hours, lots of money, and a belief in the athletes and the on-ice product. It requires emotional and financial investment.
Lucky for women’s hockey fans, Billie Jean King and Mark Walter, controlling owner of MLB’s LA Dodgers and a participating party, are exactly those type of people.
Women’s hockey needs investment. Women’s hockey needs money. Women’s hockey also needs people who care deeply about the success of the athletes involved and the on-ice product, about the experience of the players and the experience of the fans.
It’s been a long time coming…and while women’s hockey needs all of these things, the sport also deserves all of these things. It’s about time.
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This Week in Women’s Hockey
PWHPA, Billie Jean King Enterprises exploring new women’s hockey league (The Athletic) ($)
Women’s professional hockey is about to have it’s moment (On Her Turf)
Hilary Knight on her identity, her dreams, and the fight for what’s next (The Athletic) ($)
Five at the IX: Dee
For this week’s issue, I sat down with Dee, a women’s hockey fan from New Jersey who is part of the LGBT+ community. We chatted about authenticity in sport in the wake of Meg Linehan’s powerful piece on American hockey star Hilary Knight (link).
Question: Tell me about your relationship with women’s hockey — how you got interested and involved in the sport and the role it plays in your life.
Dee: [It] actually when Anya Packer tweeted about gigs with the Metropolitan Riveters… I had gone to a [Gotham FC] game that summer and gotten into hockey twitter and all and I had always loved hockey growing up so I went for it and Anya hired me! It was really so cool to be part of the Rivs, doing stats and all, and working in hockey ended up being my escape from stresses in other parts of my life! So women’s hockey is very special for me.
Q: Before you read Linehan’s piece on Hilary Knight, what were your preconceptions of her as a player?
Dee: To be honest, growing up, women’s hockey just wasn’t really talked about… I mean, I got into hockey a little late, around 2012, but it was still pre-NWHL and the CWHL wasn’t really that big a deal in New Jersey. so I only really learned about [Knight] this year! She’s really such a treat to watch play, but I didn’t really know much about her outside of games.
Q: Hilary Knight talks a lot in the article about authenticity and being true to yourself. As a queer hockey fan, what does that idea mean to you?
Dee: Like I said, sports are kinda an escape for me. Women’s hockey was extra special for me because it was the first time i saw people who were like me on the ice…and it was so normal, no one made a fuss!
It was just… “This player’s gay,” or “This player’s queer,” and it was okay! I’d struggled a lot with my identity that past year, but I could see myself in players for the first time. That’s why it’s so special to have people like [Knight] finally feeling comfortable with themselves and their identity, because there are so many people out there who are seeing her talk about who she loves and her struggles and happiness and realizing that it’s okay for them to love who they want and not feel like they have to give that up to succeed in the sport.
It’s a beautiful thing she did because it spreads. She’s a leader in the sport, and seeing her talk about this? I don’t know, next it could be a coach or a player who didn’t feel comfortable before. It could be family members or friends. It’s a massive thing.
Q: What did it mean to you to see such a prominent athlete be so vulnerable, especially when hockey culture promotes silence and compliance?
Dee: We see over and over again that hockey culture is rotten to its core. It feels like all we see in the news is allegations of sexual harassment, racist or homophobic remarks/gestures, and other awful behavior. That’s a brutal thing to face as a player, because it’s a lot easier to just shut up and get through it. Speaking out about yourself might cost you a much-needed sponsor or a job, or cause issues in your personal life.
So for Knight to decide to open up, it’s a big thing. Really exciting to see someone who I’m sure has thought about this so many times finally feel safe and [supported] and happy with herself to live authentically. At the end of the day, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Being true to yourself isn’t easy sometimes, but when someone so important feels like they can be their true self, that means we’ve done good.
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