The IX: Hockey Friday with Erica L. Ayala, July 10, 2020

Hire women, eliminate male gaze - Interview with Shannon Miller - must-click 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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Hire women, eliminate male gaze

While scrolling through LinkedIn I read the following:

“Pro #hockey has been gaslighting women for far too long.”

Things like this are the reasons I’m glad to be connected to Dan Harbridge. Dan questions why more women aren’t holding leadership roles, despite women being part of the game since 1890. He uses the same logic to question why no woman has even been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder.

I’ve made the argument here before that better stats for women’s hockey will make it easier to — whether a long-standing professional league exists or not — consider women who’ve had amazing post-graduate careers but have not played on their respective National Team.

I still believe stats will help, but you know what else may help? Hiring women!

Why? Well, apparently, women’s sports is a philosophical thought experiment: If Blake Bolden fires a shot and no white men are around to see it, did it even go in?

Think that’s harsh?

Well, imagine living it. I spoke to Saroya Tinker about white gaze on the Social Justice in Women’s Hockey series. This notion that everything BIPOC people do is judged and measured from the white experience, by what white people expect, comprehend, and enjoy.

Unfortunately, women’s hockey (especially now) is not limiting this male gaze. But, what might help refocus the frame is to hire women. Hire women and leverage their Olympics, professional, and NCAA experience across all levels of hockey. Further, keeping everyone’s favorite Olympian in the hockey space — on broadcasts, coaching, etc — will keep her fans engaged.

I don’t watch the NHL by choice, expect to support Blake Bolden (LA Kings), Alyssa Gagliardi (Carolina Hurricanes), or Black Girl Hockey Club events. Women aren’t gimmicks, far from it. So, give them real opportunities to stay in hockey and bring their fanbase along with them.

I mean, isn’t that what we do for men?

Here is another great post by Dan, which includes two articles I’d never seen previously.

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This Week in Women’s Hockey

Ivy League postpones the start of the hockey season.

Elena Orlando and Cailey Hutchison spent the offseason on the frontlines.

NWHL OG’s Kiira Dosdall-Arena and Alyssa Wolfeiler return to season one teams.

The University of Minnesota tries calming fears of its foreign athletes.

Dynamo St. Petersburg drop out of ZhHL.

Tweet of the Week

I’m offering this and the original article for readers to consider. There are a lot of things at hand and I’d guess some that may be lost in my (Google) translation. I’d like to come back to this in another hockey edition.

Sofia Reideborn’s original article.

Five at The IX: Shannon Miller

For those who may not know, Shannon Miller was the first coach of the Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey team. She had great success at UMD, but probably best known these days for her massive victory in court. Miller settled her discrimination lawsuit against UMD for $4.53 million in 2019.

I had a great conversation with Shannon Miller about the first-ever NCAA Women’s College Championship. Excited for that story to drop soon. Here are some of my favorite quotes from my conversation with Miller.

What was exciting to you about bringing women’s hockey to Minnesota Duluth?

Well, you know, anytime you get a chance to build something from the ground up, it’s really, it’s a huge responsibility and a real honor. And those are the two key words because that’s what you feel and it’s kind of what you live by every day. Because you accept that responsibility and you know what a big honor it is, and so you really want to do a good job.

So I took it seriously. I embraced it with great enthusiasm, but I also had a great deal of fun with it. I had just come off coaching at the Olympics, and I was the first woman in the world to be a head coach for an Olympic hockey team. And I just got hammered by the media, for being a woman for being young, for being gay, for a lot of reasons, and it wasn’t exactly the most relaxed atmosphere and experience.

And so as I moved to the United States, and specifically, Duluth, Minnesota, which is a smaller community, a Division II school with Division I hockey, I really had a healthy perspective of, this is just sport (laughs) … I really didn’t feel pressure and if I did I really didn’t take it that seriously after what I had been through. This was a fun challenge for me. And I think that was a really big part of I guess why I enjoyed it and maybe why so many others that joined me in that adventure, enjoyed it and that we have so much success.

Shannon then walked through her first impressions of Duluth and then gets into her role, including overseeing the club team

The University had to have a plan and their plan was incremental, and for us to get better every year and grow and so you only got so many scholarships each year. We’re, we’re planning in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Minnesota for sure was already at a full complement of 18 scholarships that year when we beat them.

Here’s the other thing. This is important, actually, Erica. UMD had a club team. So I don’t want to minimize the role of the club players. I did not know I had to coach the club team until I got there. And then they said, “By the way, you’re recruiting staff, and players and you have to coach club team at the same time. And I was like, “What the hell?” Wow.

None of the other coaches that were starting programs that year had to coach their club team. And I was like, Oh, my God, how am I going to do this, I need to be on the road recruiting. So I had good assistant coaches with the club program. But the long and short of it is this. That club program helped us that those first, say three years. Because they were part of the team, not all of them, but some of them made it and they were there for either no money or very little money. And they got to be on a Division I team.

And then, of course, every year as I got to add scholarships, either they were those kids were graduating or I was asking them to step aside. It makes room for stronger players, which the majority of them did, and they all understood that the beginning anyway because I’m very transparent. And so they were a key part of us winning early, they really were. Because they were as much a part of the team as a Maria Rooth, even though they may not have played as much as her or scored as much as her. They were still on the team rowing in the boat.

Talk to me about your coaching staff and the staff that you had there in those first few years to help you kind of navigate the ship?

Yes. So a young woman from Duluth, Minnesota. Her name is Shawna Davidson, she played for Team USA back in the day when I coached against them. And she had applied to be the head coach. And so there was some turmoil, that she didn’t get the job. There were people in town that were upset. And they asked me if I would be open to talking to her to hire her as my assistant and I said, ‘Sure.’

At first, she wouldn’t talk to me. And we laugh about it to this day. At first, she wouldn’t talk to me because I was the big bad wolf from Canada coming in. And she didn’t want to be my system. I said, “Why don’t we just get together and get to know each other.”

I just said to her, “Listen, I’m not a big bad wolf from Canada. I’m not the bitch that you might think that I am, that people portray me as. Let’s get together and talk and get to know each other. And if we like each other and think we want to embark on an adventure like this together, let’s do it. And if you don’t like me, don’t join my staff. What did you have to lose?”

So she finally gave in … and the first meeting right well, and then the second meeting went even better. And so as we got to know each other, she decided to join my staff, which was good. And I loved it because we had a local young woman on our staff and someone who played for Team USA, for God’s sake, invaluable!

And then I recruited Stacey Wilson, who had been the captain of Team Canada. And at first, Stacy also said she wasn’t going to come. And Stacy was going to go to Detroit … I just kept bugging her. And I just said you don’t want to live downtown Detroit, your small-town girl from the Maritimes come and help me build this international program. Anyway, in the end, she called me one day and she’s like, “I’m gonna come and join you.”

So it wasn’t exactly easy to hire good staff. Well, right out of the gate. People have their own reasons for not wanting to do it. And I understand that rumors and just bullshit really. And so both of them decided, “Hey, I’m going to do what’s best for me and not worrying about what other people think. And that was my coaching staff and they were awesome.

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