The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, July 26, 2019
Language matters, especially as we seek equity and inclusion — Allie Thunstrom interview — Must-click women's hockey links
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Language matters, especially as we seek equity and inclusion
Hello from Las Vegas!
I’m here for equal part business and leisure, but today we get started with the 2019 WNBA All-Star Weekend. I’ll leave the details to Howard on Basketball Wednesdays.
As for women’s hockey, things are slowing down. My guess is this might be the case for another several weeks until we inch closer to September.
This week, I enjoyed reading about Monique and Jocelyne Lamoreux’s new foundation. The twins are looking to work with communities in North Dakota that are historically priced out of hockey and/or where hockey is not marketed.
I’d like to take this moment to emphasize the language I chose to use, as opposed to the language traditionally used — impoverished, under-served, etc. — to describe a population that is primarily poor and/or comprised of people of color. Language matters and even when we want to uplift communities, how we talk about others can activate the wounds of systems that often do not work for the poor.
Naturally, I am not opposed to hockey being more inclusive. However, I do ask that when the collective “we” of the media and the hockey population discuss inclusion and diversity, we think of the language used. Words like “minority” or “underprivileged” carry very heavy social and societal connotation that are anything but inclusive or understanding. The same goes for heteronormative or homophobic language used in sports.
I say this as someone who has had to learn to change how I speak about others, as well as how I personally identify. It’s not easy work, but it is what successful communities do in order to achieve inclusion. It’s not a destination, rather it is a process of learning.
I hope to explore this conversation further here at The IX. I have learning to do and I hope our community here will offer insights when and where I fall short.
This Week in Women’s Hockey
I posted an extended write-up of my conversation with Bryan Hicks on my Patreon page which is now unlocked for everyone.
The Ice Garden spoke with Shannon Szabados and Alyssa Gagliardi about the PWHPA, including the aforementioned membership fees.
The Buffalo Beauts and the Minnesota Whitecaps held free agent camps.
Cassie Campbell-Pascall weighs in on women’s hockey with Sportsnet host Rob Kerr. Come for the WoHo talk, stay for the Canadian perspective on the USWNT (SPOILER: Rapinoe still “classless”) and how the FIFA Women’s World Cup somehow fueled a US vs. Canada rivalry (um, what?).
Dan Rice chats with Allie Thunstrom in a new series for NWHL.zone
Laura Stacey on why she remains optimistic as things remain unclear.
Shirley Cameron was induced into the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame. LISTEN to her on the Pinder & Steinberg podcast.
Tweet of the Week
After a tough season with the Whale and an injury to boot, Meeri Raisanen will be headed back to the ice, but this time in the SDHL.
Five at the IX: Allie Thunstrom
Earlier in the week I spoke with long-time Minnesota Whitecaps player & speed skater Allie Thunstrom about transitioning back to hockey, returning to the NWHL, and more!
Erica L. Ayala: It is well documented that you are a hockey player and a speed skater. Growing up, was skating one of the first sports you participated in?
Allie Thunstrom: Yeah, I was on the ice first. I have two older brothers and they were playing hockey and I begged my parents (to play hockey). At this time, girls hockey certainly wasn’t a thing and so my parents finally gave in but they signed me up for ringette. I was probably, I don’t know, four (years old) maybe and I did not like it at all.
That was the first sport I played, and I was like, ‘Please, can I play with a puck? I want to play with a puck.’ The next year, my parents let me play hockey and it was kind of history from there … I might have played soccer first, but my first memory of actually being on a team was hockey.
ELA: You went on to play hockey at Boston College and in the USA National Team program, so were you also speed skating at the time?
AT: No, actually I did not take up speed skating until 2012 or 2013. It was after I graduated college and I played one year with the national team and then got cut or whatever you wanna call it. And, I was like, what do I do now? I’ve played sports my entire life and now I don’t.
So, I went to a try speed skating event in Minnesota … most people that go to that are typically people that have never skated before, it’s almost a Learn to Skate.
It’s so funny when people ask me this because, the fact that I stuck with it is just mind-blowing (laughs). My first experiences were, I joined this club and they were wonderful, I owe a lot to them, but it was me as an adult, 24 years old, and kids from ages 5-16. They all knew how to speed skate and I didn’t
I was faceplanting in the middle of the straightaway, it was a struggle. I was so embarrassed … but somehow I decided to keep trucking through and eventually got the hang of it.
ELA: What are the main technical difference between hockey skating and speed skating?
AT: Probably the biggest thing is going to be the blade length. When you talk to people about speed skating, you hear a lot about technique … typically in hockey you’ll hear people say, ‘Get on your toes, get on your toes’. Generally you’re trying to have quick feet.
In speed skating, it’ a very long stride and it should be efficient and I actually struggled mightily with that because I naturally liked to (have) quicker feet. But, because that blade is so long, I was toe picking a lot. The way the blade sets down on the ice, you’re more on the back of your foot rather than the front. Then when you’re crossing over, you have to account for the blade length so you’re not clipping yourself.
Also (in speed skating) it’ more aerodynamic to have your back rounded and skate really low. Whereas in hockey where there is a puck involved, you have to have vision and your chest is a little bit more upright.
ELA: Let’s go back to your decision to sign with the Whitecaps last season. What went into your decision to enter the NWHL along with the Minnesota expansion team?
AT: Ever since the NWHL started, it’s always been something I wanted to be a part of, to be a part of the first professional league (in the United States). It’s kinda bothered me in the back of my mind that I wasn’t out there (for the first three seasons). But, at the same time, having graduated from college for quite some time, don’t age me too much, and having a career, and doing the speed skating, it wasn’t something I was willing to move across the country for.
I loved watching it from afar and seeing my friends continue to play and be competitive and that was always something that felt like it was missing. Speed skating is great and I love it, it’s an awesome sport but it’s an individual sport. I’ve grown up my entire life playing team sports and so that was a really big change for me. So in addition to wanting to be a part of the first (American) league and be a part of watching this game grow, I also really missed that team component and working towards a common goal with 25 of your best friends that your with every day and going through the ringer with.
So, when the Whitecaps decided they wanted (to join the NWHL), I was super jazzed about it and just wanted to get back out there. It was different at first to go back into that type of atmosphere, but these are women I’ve grown up with, and played with, and respected for my whole life. So, when the opportunity came, it was like absolutely!
ELA: There is at lot up in the air for the next women’s hockey season, but you have re-signed with the Whitecaps. Talk about your decision to come back in light of the #ForTheGame movement.
AT: Everybody at the end of the day has the exact same goal. Everybody wants to grow the women’s game … that’s ultimately what I want to do. And, even bigger than that is Jack Brodt and his family and the Whitecaps organization have provided me and countless others a place to play competitive hockey for the last 14-15 years. The amount of effort and time that has gone into making the team what it us and running it for the last decade without a league to play in, you can’t walk away from that. Everything that he’s done for us and that the organization has done is something that, if they were going to have a team then I was going to play with them, if they’d have me.
Additionally, we had already had our fan celebration and they had already sold so many season tickets and so many people were excited to come and watch us, and maybe people that didn’t get a chance to come last year or caught onto us at the end of the year, there was just so much excitement. That’s what it’s about, these kids coming to games and getting to see us, and getting to meet us. That helps them form their dreams as well. Knowing that there were so many people behind us and knowing there were people that wanted to be a part of it, I just wanted to have something in place for them to support.
That’s kinda what it came down to.