The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, July 17, 2020

Hockey Canada shows up, finally — Interview with Anya Packer — must-click WoHo links

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets have been cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.

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Hockey Canada finally shows up

On July 13, Hockey Canada announced all players and staff will be required to register for one of four mandatory diversity and inclusion training that took place from July 13-16. The training seminars were facilitated by Tina Varughese, Indo-Canadian of first-generation East Indian parents. She serves as president of t Works Inc., a company that specializes in cross-cultural communication and work-life balance seminars, and provides customized cultural diversity training to the public and private sectors.

In the public statement, Hockey Canada said the organization has “acknowledged it needs to do more, Hockey Canada remains committed to continuing to listen and learn, and being open to change in an effort to take action around diversity.”

However, Hockey Canada, several times, declined to participate in conversations about racism in hockey hosted by Queen University and Dr. Courtney Szto. Most recently, Hockey Canada declined an invitation to the virtual Q&A on the Implementing Anti-Racism in Hockey in Canada policy paper.

It could be that Hockey Canada already had their virtual seminars planned and wished to stay the course. However, that doesn’t fully explain why Hockey Canada declined an invitation to the Roundtable on Racism Queens University hosted last March.

Further, conversations about diversity and inclusion should be… diverse and inclusive. No one approach should be seen as superior and no one voice should be uplifted.

I cannot speak to any private conversations or explanations Hockey Canada gave for their absence. I do, however, think any goals, the pedagogy, and/or theories of D&I initiatives should be transparent. Perhaps now that HC has wrapped up their first virtual trainings, they will uncover their long-term plans. Public conversations about anti-racism facilitated by Hockey Canada would go a long way to lifting the veil and leaning into difficult but necessary conversations.

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

From When Women Inspire: Marie-Philip Poulin – A Canadian Hockey Hero.

The University of St. Thomas joins WCHA.

Mike Murphy named a WoHo stat after Kelley Steadman and its pretty awesome!

The NHL, NHLPA, Hockey Canada, and USA Hockey are sponsoring DREAM BIG, A Conversation with Olympians (Sarah Nurse, Brianna Decker, Natalie Spooner, and Kendall Coyne-Schofield).

The Los Angeles Kings announce Inclusion Initiative, hear is what NHL scout Blake Bolden had to say about it:

“The Kings Executive leadership has responded quickly and are working diligently to prioritize the eradication of racism and inclusion in our game. Personally, these initiatives give me tremendous hope for the future … I am honored to work closely with an organization that has been and continues to do great work to create systemic change.”

Hockey Canada still hasn’t made a commitment to engage with Dr. Courtney Szto’s policy paper, but they have hired Tina Varughese to lead mandatory diversity and inclusion training for the organization.

Anne Tokarski on why Michigan deserves Division I women’s hockey:

“The only reason we kept staying was because there were some people just saying, ‘Oh, come on, you guys are going to be the pioneers. Next year. We’re going to get the team next year … and then, oh, there it goes.”

The University of Providence (Montana) announced it will discontinue its program. The women’s hockey team was announced in 2017 but never played a single game.

Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Kim St-Pierre weighs in on women’s hockey.

Dan Rice with a great conversation with Kaleigh Fratkin, NWHL Pillar and Trailblazer.

Tweet of the Week

Let’s get Ruthy to a WoHo game!

Five at The IX: Anya Packer

Earlier today, Anya and I had a talk about women’s sports spearheading the return to play amid the coronavirus pandemic, having difficult conversations about racism in women’s hockey, and ‘wubble’ baby cuteness! Catch excerpts from our 15-minute chat below, you can watch the full interview here.

Anya, I want to first talk to you about women’s sports returning with all that is happening in the world.

I think that women’s sports returning is so exciting because I think it reminds people when they want and hunger for sports, that women’s sports are sports. And I always try to say this, women’s hockey is hockey. Women’s Basketball is basketball, and women’s soccer is soccer. I can go down the list … women’s sports are so interesting.

There’s such a different push on social and what digitalization and virtualization means for women’s sports and how much access we’ve always had versus how much more we’re getting. Now you know, you’re seeing the wobble and you’re seeing all these different things. That, you know, Sky Blue is doing their coffee runs like it’s crazy to watch women’s sports on primetime and really getting the clout that it deserves. And so the fact that the arms race was won by women is not shocking to me, but also like, I’m hyped, and I’m here for it. Because it reminds people that it’s just as entertaining, and it’s just as exciting, and there’s no difference. So I think that’s something huge with women’s sports coming back.

Coming up on season six … how do you think that will instruct what happens in the fall?

Yeah, there’s a lot of committees that we’ve added. One of the main committees that we’ve added is a COVID-19 support committee. And that’s from a lot of different partners that we have some of our insurance providers from our partner in NYU, as well as the PA, the league head office, some private ownership groups, board members, we have some players on it. So it’s actually a really, it’s crazy to get us all scheduled. But working with that group, what we learn every day is that it’s a moving target. So how do we constantly innovate? How do we take others’ missteps and create opportunities?

I’m excited about the way that we’ve handled the negotiations and the conversations to get back to play, that return to play model … I think what we’ve done really well is A) been lucky like there’s a horseshoe in the end of Rachel’s pocket right now, because we like wave and then our whole offseason was during the majority of the scary outbreak and now we’re starting to watch leaks phase back in. But what we’ve also have done really well is listen, and as much information as we can get, that’s what we need. So I think we’re, like I said, still aiming at that moving target, so it could change 15 times to Sunday. But it’s been a really interesting conversation and we’ve had a lot of very brilliant minds.

There is also another conversation that’s been happening recently, certainly in the United States. And that’s regarding social justice, racism, the movement for Black Lives, particularly through Black Lives Matter, etc. What have those types of conversations look like from the PA perspective and in conversation with the league itself?

Yes, it’s been another thing that’s been spearheaded by other PhDs, because as we watch different leagues return to play, we watch what they’re doing, and we watch how that is creating the positive conversations. And I actually thought it was very interesting. You tweeted about it. How sometimes we can derail the conversation by saying, well, she may be kneeling and she may not be kneeling. What does that mean? Instead coming up with a cohesive plan that says this is what we believe this is a social justice that needs to be enacted. And this is how uniformly, we’re creating it and deriving that change. So women’s hockey, you know, we’re not in the same space as the W(NBA) where we have a large majority of our athletes in the Black community. But what we have is players in the Black community, and then also players that can be allies for the Black community. We also have a large number of LGBTQ+ athletes that know what discrimination kind of feels like. And I always say kind of because … you can’t take off your Blackness but I can take off my gayness and say, Oh, my husband, Matt, instead of my wife, Madison, so you can kind of normalize yourself.

Anyway, so what we’ll do in all of these is just host honest conversations. Like we want to speak out on this, or like Angel McCoughtry did in the W, this is how we want to say her name … we’ve empowered a lot of our Black athletes to speak out to us, to the league office (and say) this is what I want to see. And then we’ve identified how we can support. So I think there’s a lot of social justice that needs to be taken on by athletes because they’re the front of the conversation.

There is an opportunity to have an important conversation, but also the vulnerability of knowing that the important conversation will be difficult and that there will be people that will misstep. How does that guide perhaps the supports … you offer to players as you open up for them to share their experiences?

It makes a world of difference, right? Because what you think you’re doing the support could actually be detrimental … so I think that there’s a lot that we can provide in terms of actual Black voices to educate our athletes and not coming for me it’s just in genuine coming for me to be able to educate on a Black voice but also appreciating that that person doing the educating doesn’t have to or shouldn’t have to, and so it kind It becomes this dichotomy … I’ve done a lot to educate myself and find the right tools that we can plug in to create a forum where our athletes are learning and understanding and further appreciating that it’s not about them. You know, it’s not about not saying that all lives matter. Because if you’re saying that, you agree that Black Lives Matter.

You’re not understanding and in that lack of understanding, you’re being hurtful and … our athletes need to be comfortable to speak out because there’s going to be challenging conversations, especially throughout the hockey community who haven’t been racially inclusive for a long time.

Want to know who Anya Packer is rooting for in the Challenge Cup? Watch the full interview here.

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