The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, November 15, 2019

Why words (and stats) matter - Honoring Wickenheiser - Must-click women’s hockey links

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On Monday, Haley Wickenheiser joins a short list of women who’ve been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame:

Angela James, Canada, 2010

Cammi Granato, United States, 2010

Geraldine Heaney, Canada, 2013

Angela Ruggiero, United States, 2015

Danielle Goyette, Canada, 2017

Jayna Hefford, Canada, 2018

Hayley Wickenheiser, Canada, 2019

I’ve spoken here at The IX about the importance of stats and metrics for the women’s game. I often point to people much better with numbers to make a case for why we should care about stats. But in the long-term, if we want more women in the Hall of Fame, we need to keep meticulous stats. 

As the recent PWHPA commercial reminds us, the “good old hockey game” treats the women (people of color, non-binary … I could go on) in the game as invisible, as opposed to equal. But of course, we aren’t! It’s just that the storytellers the collective “we” rely on don’t tell our story. 

There is an amazing West African proverb that says, “The lion’s story will never be known as long as the hunter is the one to tell it.” This rings true in women’s hockey and in all of women’ sports. 

This leads me to some of the social media pontificating that happened after a certain AP article made its rounds (link below). USA Hockey and PWHPA player Hilary Knight was quoted calling the NWHL a beer league. 

For those perhaps unfamiliar, beer league is a casual, sometimes competitive evening and weekend league where men often “tolerate” elite women athletes to compete alongside them. We former DI athletes sometimes even get to play important roles while (despite our actual age) continually being called “girls. The men we play with see us as ‘good for a girl’, despite the fact that our arm … err slapshot … is the strongest on the team by a lot. 

Yes, I am a beer leaguer (and two-time beer league softball champion)! However, to compare your average beer league to the NWHL or the PWHPA plays into the hunter’s story, not the lion’s story. 

Further, I’d argue disassociating with a former employer to this level does not make a strong case for a place like the Hockey Hall of Fame to seriously consider CWHL, NWHL, or (eventual?) PWHPA stats when considering women for induction. 

As we make a push for a consistent women’s league – a league much more accessible to a local fan base than Four Nations, World Championships, or the Olympics – domestic or professional league stats can and should be taken into consideration. 

It is widely believed and overwhelmingly true that the best talent in the world plays for their national team. However, there are also reasons, everything from pregnancy to politics, that can influence whether a player is able to crack a senior national team roster and/or remain in the player pool. Luckily, the Hockey Hall of Fame seems to know this, at least in the case of Angela James. But, there are blind spots, including that the HHOF has never inducted a woman outside of North America. 

For women not wearing red, white, and maybe some blue on the International stage, the most outstanding stats (apparently) aren’t good enough. But, you know what might be the great equalizer? How these women compete when they play against and alongside women from other countries in a professional league. 

All the women’s league that have, do and will exist in all the curves of the earth have/do fall short. But, the MLB, NBA, and NHL have and continue to fall short as well. 

Despite that, players, fans and investors understand, respect, and know how to access the stats records for these very flawed men’s leagues. What if we opened ourselves up to showing respect for a situation, even if it no longer serves us?

I mean, I still put old jobs on my resume, despite the horror stories I have or could tell about my (emphasis on my) personal experience. This is a business, not an awkward breakup with your ex who happens to run in the same circles. 

For the sake of the game, let’s all be better at honoring what was, pushing forward what will be, and writing it all down. Because the women recently or soon-to-be retired should flood HHOF nomination ballots. But they won’t if we don’t hear the lion’s story. 

This Week in Women’s Hockey

The aforementioned AP article, by way of the New York Times. 

Yale Athletics introducing a student incentive program, only seeing positive attendance results for women’s hockey. 

Harrison Browne return to the ice with #TeamTrans in Boston. 

“It’s the latest move in the public relations battle” is my favorite line from Hailey Salvian’s latest on women’s hockey. I myself have used this language to describe the current state of affairs. 

Maddie Rooney and Sydney Brodt return to Minnesota-Duluth after USA Hockey camp in Pennsylvania. 

“I was asking myself if my teammates were going to be patient enough and they are. They always help me out.” BU’s Nadia Mattivi on adjusting to life and hockey away from Italy. 

NWHL announces a new round of funding and Kristina Rutherford reports this may lead to expansion into Canada

Victoria Bach had a great exhibition series, writes Marisa Ingemi. 

Melissa Burgess joins WBFO to preview the Buffalo Beauts weekend and  discuss the latest in women’s ice hockey. 

Two Olympians head to Europe. Nana Fujimoto has arrived in Sweden and Megan Bozek joins Shenzhen KRS Vance Rays. 

Danielle Goyette on Hayley Wickenheiser

News 12 visits the Metropolitan Riveters. 

Cornell sophomore Min Shin hopes to crack an Olympic roster and perhaps play for the Big Red. 

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Hockey Canada & USA Hockey Players on Hayley Wickenheiser 

In Cranberry Township and Pittsburgh, I spoke to some of the best active North American players about arguably one of the best to EVER play the game. Emily Clark, Kacey Bellamy, Cassie Campbell-Pascal, and celebrate Wick before her induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday. 

Around this time next week, Hayley Wickenheiser will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. What is your first memory of Wick?

Kacey Bellamy: Yeah, she is a phenomenal ambassador for the sport. I remember my first ever Four Nations putting the jersey on I think we were in Canada. We were in Kitchener, and their starting lineup got announced and her name. 

The whole place. I’ve never heard a hockey rink, be so loud, and for it to be at a women’s hockey event. And having a sold out crowd in Canada. It was just an experience that I’ll never forget. And I just remember particularly her name, and because I was so new to play in Canada, it was just special. 

She’s done such a great job and had a stellar career with hockey Canada and she’s done an amazing job beyond her career, and I wish her all the best. 

Emily Clark: I mean it’s incredible anytime we can get female representation in there. And, being from Saskatchewan, I think every girl my age Hayley was, you know, a player that they looked up to. But especially being from Saskatchewan, you know, that resonated with me a lot and I looked up to her a lot so really proud of her proud of her from being from Saskatchewan and you know, the stuff that she continues to do for a game is amazing So congrats to her.

When you think about what she’s meant to hockey, what stands out to you the most?

Cassie Campbell: Well, I think just how consistent she was an athlete and her work ethic and you know, that’s that was really her style of leadership was what she did on the ice and then it’s remarkable the opportunities now that so many female hockey players are getting that, you know, Angela James is just as deserving right to be, you know, part of an NHL team, but those opportunities weren’t there. So a lot of doors have been opened and you know, people like myself in my generation and Haley’s generation we’ve been pretty fortunate of the people that have been there before us and you know, knock down some doors and it’s great to see her jump in and get the opportunities and and continue to do what she did as a player which is work hard and be consistent and be professional. And those are skills that I think is going to take her a long way.

Do you think that the women’s game has reached that level where we can realistically start to see players from other countries (not just North America) enter?

I know Riikka Nieminen (Valila). I know her name has changed, it’s a different name now. She’s been married but, #13 from Finland. I mean, that to me is a no-brainer. I sit on the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, so I have to be really careful what I what I say. But if I was to put a name forward outside of Canada in the US, there’s no question she’d be the first one for me. 

And, you know, it goes through a process. And it’s, there’s a lot of us in that room. But I have to be honest with you, I had my first selection committee meeting this last June and it’s one of the most thorough processes I’ve ever been part of, and it was pretty neat. And they want women they care, they want to listen, they want to learn and they educate themselves. And so, but I think Riikka would definitely be one that I think would be the first European in. 

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Stephanie Livaudais,
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @Elindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala