The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, September 4, 2020

"It requires the best of us from all of us" — Interview with Liz Knox and Sarah Nurse — Must-click links

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“It requires the best of us from all of us”

Last week I was very frustrated. My coverage of women’s hockey compared to women’s basketball at a critical time for racial injustice conversations blows my mind, literally, if such a thing were possible. (Editor’s note: the science is unclear on this.)

Since then, I’ve been in communication with WoHo leaders and players. We’re all frustrated but we’re all trying, and that’s what gives me hope. Some of the things I wrote about last week were also on the minds of the NWHLPA and the PWHPA. Both organizations put out statements and have taken some next steps.

In today’s newsletter, you’ll learn more about the PWHPA statement, and hear about a special partnership between the NWHL and Utah Royals rookie (NWSL) Tziarra King. In the wake of a long yet completely dissatisfying NHL statement, I continue to be hopeful women’s hockey can step in the right direction and set pride when missteps are made. And they will be made!

I started watching the Netflix series Away before sitting down to write this edition of Hockey Fridays. It had me at Hilary Swank! Swank plays the commander on a mission to Mars. At the end of Episode One, she makes a speech to the world as her team prepares to leave the moon.

Enter “overcoming racism” for “getting to Mars” and this is how I feel:

Getting to Mars might be the hardest thing that humankind has ever tried. It requires the best of us, from all of us.

And maybe it’s not our nature to work together, but the future demands otherwise. And we will come together now in pursuit of a dream that was once thought to be impossible.

And if we can do this, we can do anything. We’ve been grimly reminded of the extraordinary challenges that await us. But we will reach the surface of Mars, and we will return home.

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MORE COVERAGE FOR WOMEN IN SPORTS? Good, click these links and show decision-makers that if you post it, we will read it! If you have any hot tips for great stories or voices you’d like to see in The IX, email me:

Emily Kaplan sits down with Liz Knox and Sarah Nurse about PWHPA statement and Sarah’s appointment to the board.

CT Whale rookie Kayla Friesen Q&A by The Hockey Writers.

A new series Socially Distant Diaries kicks off with USA Hockey player Cayla Barnes.

CBC interviews Renee Hess of Black Girl Hockey Club.

The Minnesota Whitecaps officially inked four, still behind most other teams when it comes to roster announcements.

NWSL rookie (Utah Royals) Tziarra King has collaborated with the NWHL to create a new merch line.

Here is a good summary of why the recent NHL statement is still a mess. I’ll only add, “White Men as Full Diversity Partners” was the best you could do? Really?

Tweet of the Week

Five at The IX: Liz Knox & Sarah Nurse

Sarah Nurse. (Via Nurse’s Twitter)

The PWHPA added their voice to the ongoing conversation about social injustice. They also added Sarah Nurse to the PWHPA board, making her the only BIPOC player in leadership. I sat down with Nurse and Liz Knox, who stepped down from the board to make space for Sarah.

On the timing of the statement

Liz Knox: I definitely think from a PR standpoint, would we have liked it to be a little bit earlier? Definitely. You know, just from everything that was happening, as a board, we want to make sure that we had everything we want to tackle, all the issues that we had in mind, right? And part of that, obviously, was talking to some of our BIPOC players.

We don’t want to put the work just on Sarah to speak for all the BIPOC players and women’s hockey. So there were some bigger conversations that happen, that’s like a little bit of a teaser of things to come. And of course, we reached out to people that we trust and writers and scholars that we trust to be like, you know, let’s not just throw out some hollow words, let’s not just say something. Let’s make sure that there’s action behind it.

Sarah Nurse: Obviously, as was mentioned, the timing of our statement was far too late. We would have loved to have gotten that out sooner, but with all the moving parts and what we actually wanted to accomplish, it did take a little bit of time. But I think even with us taking the action and myself getting put onto the board, I hope that when these things continue to happen, and the next time things need to be done, we can be quicker. We want to be proactive in that approach. And so with the PWHPA statement out, we wanted to take action. And we wanted our statement not to be empty words because that’s not meaningful.

I know when I read statements like that, they really ticked me off. And that’s why we as Players Association worked very hard on the statement, we worked on it for hours. And I think with my own addition to the statement, I was able to bring up points that may not have been thought of if there were only the seven other women working on it, right? Because I have a different perspective, I have a different experience. And so I mean, by Knoxy bringing me in, we’ve been able to have great conversations, not only in the last few months, but we’ve been able to establish a pretty good and open relationship. And I think it’s been pretty mutually beneficial. Because, again, if there’s something that I haven’t been happy about Knox has kind of been my connection to the board. And so it’s just opening up those lines of communication so that we can ultimately like make our women’s hockey world a better place.

Liz Knox. (photo courtesy of Markham Thunder)

Liz on the structure of the PWHPA Board and stepping off

Logistically, we have to have an odd number so that when certain things go to a vote there’s definitely a majority. So that was one thing that was taken into consideration. I mean, honestly, our law team was amazing. They were open to any idea of how we can make this happen. But I also felt that there was something powerful about saying like, I hope that other people look at this action and really self-reflect … it’s a sidestep in my opinion for me, it’s just me stepping aside. I’m still active in the conversations on the board. I don’t have a vote. So that’s why Sarah would take over my contracts and fulfill that.

But I mean, at the end of the day, Sarah’s vote is going to reflect mine anyways, so the vote really isn’t going to change and at the same time, now it’s not me going to Sarah [and other BIPOC players] saying, ‘How do you guys feel about this?’ It’s like, let’s just hear from Sarah, you know?

Sarah on joining the board

I think it would have been very easy for [the board] to bring me in on that advisory side and not actually put me on the board so that I actually get a vote. And so the fact that we actually made this swap, I think, is something very important to note. Because ultimately, they bring me into an advisor role. It’d be coming in doing extra work for them. Do you kinda understand what I mean?

Erica L. Ayala: [Laughs] Sure.

And so pretty much for my entire life, obviously, when I’ve been brought someplace, it’s like, man, am I the diversity vote here or how’s it going? But I think I’ve come to terms and had confidence in myself as a leader, both on and off of the ice and really wanting to prove that my accomplishments are from my own merit.

Ultimately I want to step in in this leadership role and help change and help show little Black girls, little Indigenous girls, little girls of color that they can step up and be a part of the hockey world. Like that’s my ultimate goal because I know if I would have been able to see a woman color in a leadership role in hockey at all, I would have been pumped for it.

The full interview is available now on Sports Talk ELA YouTube page and the Founding 4 Podcast starting Saturday, September 5.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Erica L. Ayala