Let The Girls Play

LKCS Cardinals Hockey - Social Issues in Hockey

Local high school girls hockey action. A LKCS Cardinals player charges the net against North Lambton in SWOSSAA playoffs last season – Photo by Wyatt Williams/ CKSN.ca

I had a strange moment the other day. I close friend of mine called me something I’d never been called before. It’s not a word I’d ever heard before in reference to myself, nor was it something I’d ever related to my identity. But here I was, sitting face to face with someone who I’ve known for years, whose opinion I respect, hearing her call me a “feminist.”

The funny thing was, after I tried on the phrase…let it ring around in my ears and permeate through all those chauvinistic stereotypes I had ingrained in me through sport for years, I realized two facts. First, she was right, I was a feminist, and second, I liked it.

How did this come to be? Well, I’ve been reading the constitution of a variety of hockey leagues in the area, and across the Province, and found a fact that didn’t make sense to me: girls play shorter games.

Why? Beats me. On average, those differences equated to 6-10 minutes less per game for the girls, compared to boys of an equal age. I couldn’t, and can’t, understand why that might be, unless as a society we’re placing less value, or less importance on girls sports. Unless we don’t think girls deserve equal time. Or worse, that we don’t think girls are equal, period.

Let’s start by debunking a few things first. If a game is 6-minutes shorter, that equates to 2-minutes less per period. I guarantee if I asked any girl on a team with three lines, if they could play one extra shift per period, they’d say yes. Ok, so it’s not that girls can’t handle it.

Is it that girls “don’t need” the extra time in a game? Well if a boys team can score in the final 6-10 minutes of a game, so can a girls team, that’s just simple to understand. In terms of development, some of these girls we’re restricting will be heading off to play University hockey, while we give more ice time to some boys teams who won’t even make a local beer league team.

Maybe parents of girls hockey teams have less money? I don’t even need to waste time on this one, because it makes no sense. Sure, more ice time will need to be booked for longer games, but if parents of male athletes can pay, surely those same parents can pay for their daughters.

So what is it? I have to think there is a little misogyny involved. A belief that female athletes are more delicate, or less capable of strenuous competition. Let me tell you, as someone who coaches and trains both boys and girls hockey players, in my experience, teenage girls are often more intense, more dedicated, and more willing to push themselves physically to improve than their male counterparts.

This inequality exists at nearly every level; in junior loops, our local high school league, and minor hockey. But why? It’s not even restricted to hockey either, there are shorter quarters in sports like basketball as well.

Admittedly, my head has been in the sand for years. I didn’t know this inequity in ice time existed, which makes me even more mad.

And don’t give me any, “calm down, it’s only two minutes crap.” It’s not about the time, it’s about a feeling of being limited.

These girls can play, so let them play. Our local female athletes are of equal importance, and have equal aspirations of playing at a higher level (and if you say just because they can’t make millions in the NHL, those dreams of earning a hockey scholarship are less relevant, I’ll jump through this screen and take a cross checking penalty unseen in any girls or boys league before).

This is one of a handful of social issues in hockey, and rules I’ve learned about, that don’t make any sense, except to tell girls that their game, their passion, is less important. That the boys version of a game is more important. Worse, it’s just another example of ingrained societal chauvinism, telling our young women that in general, they are less important, not just their teams or sport.

If you have any involvement with a local team or organization, I suggest you start saying “let the girls play,” again and again, until someone listens, I know I will be.

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  • comment-avatar
    Laura MacKinnon 5 years

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been involved in organized sports since I was 4 I am now 44 and as a women my limitations were always thrown in my face rather than people supporting my efforts and I do think it was because I was a girl. I have been spit on, put down and harassed for my beliefs. Some organizations truly put more emphasis on the male teams and the female teams get the “leftovers” . I could go on forever on this topic, no one should be made to feel less as important by anyone.

  • comment-avatar
    Filly 5 years

    YOU GO MR. KENNEDY!!!!!

    Girls deserve the same time. I play travel and my brother plays house league and his games are longer then mine!

    Thanks for sticking up for us!

  • comment-avatar
    laurie 5 years

    Great article. This is especially true for girl’s houseleague. You must travel out of town to play another houseleague team for a total of 32 minutes. And, because you’re on the bottom rung of the hockey ladder, they try and hand you an hour for practice and expect you to split the ice with another houseleague team at a different level. I have met very few girls who ever wished a game was over.

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    Danielle L. 5 years

    I completely agree that girls are marginalized when it comes to sports, among many other things. Girls are assumed to not be as coordinated, as strong, as fast, or as capable of being really talented in athletics. Society needs to come to terms with the fact that there are females who have the capability of being the best of the best. Think about the NHL – we have no equivalent league for women, and this is largely due to the fact that as kids, these girls aren’t given the same opportunity as boys to completely expand their talents and reach their full potential. This is due to a lack of teams, players, leagues, and opportunities! This needs to change so that women can be perceived equally as men and get the same recognition for the same talents.

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    Suzanne 5 years

    First of all I want to say I totally agree that when it comes to playing time in sports the games should be equal for all regardless of gender. I think being older I understand where the culture of the past decades felt the need to protect women and sometimes in an unnecessary way. It could easily be misunderstood in it’s intention as an attempt to devalue them when it really was a misguided attempt to be considerate of them. women have proven themselves in business, sports, politics etc. there are still areas where things need to be reexamined and balanced..

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    Eric Riedstra 5 years

    Great article, I couldn’t agree more! Thanks Ian!