Editors' Note: As some of you remember, Chemmy put out a note a while ago opening the door to provide a platform for some female voices to write about hockey and the Maple Leafs. We got some good responses and you'll see the outcome roll out over the next little while. Katie Flynn is the first to make her debut. You can follow her on Twitter via @flynnkatie or read her work at The Score. Please welcome her to the community as she will be providing a weekly post.
Sportsnet announced their broadcast team for their first season as majority rights holders of NHL broadcasting in Canada. The 12-year, $5.232 billion-deal announced in November will change the way fans watch hockey, or at least that's what Rogers says.
There will be more games to watch on more channels, more talent to watch and listen to during said games. More, more, more.
When a major shift happens in such a public way, there will always be push back, criticism, and sympathy for those who will likely be left off the new team. Some rightfully so, but you think about the hosts and faces that frequent the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts, surely they're safe.
Elliotte Friedman is one of the most intelligent minds in the game on the other side of the fence. Ron MacLean has hosted the program since 1987. Don Cherry is a staple of Hockey Night in Canada, no matter how offensive or discriminatory his Coach's Corner segments can be. Andi Petrillo... right. She wasn't taken care of.
The first female full-time in-studio host made her debut at the Chevrolet i-Desk in 2012. It was a step in the right direction that took far too long to come about, but Petrillo was the right woman for the job. She had the experience in broadcasting,expansive knowledge of hockey, and charisma. She wasn't taken care of.
More than ever, this offseason stories about female inclusion cluttered twitter timelines. From "How to cater to female fans" to "How the NHL can welcome women", the articles were borderline offensive. Who wants to tell the old boys club women don't watch a sport for different reasons than men? Women are humans, not exotic birds. We don't need to be handled with kid gloves.
The articles stated gender specific clothing at the NHL store needed to go. Yes, pink bedazzled jerseys were the only ones available to women that were fitted. If you wanted a replica jersey you had to be the size of a man or be willing to swim in a jersey that needed tucking, folding, and endless tweaking. Sure, that's a pain.Sure, being a female fan and not being able to buy merchandise that fits you without gender specific colors is a tough go. Worse, than an inability to think of women as equals when marketing and manufacturing merchandise, is thinking of them as models.
Petrillo stood in heels every Saturday night, dressed to the nines in designer clothes. Jewelry, makeup, hair, lightning; the set had it all. She stood beside a desk with a laptop as she read scores from other games and gave player updates as needed. When she was called upon for an update, the camera came swooping down as to give a clear view of what she was wearing before the highlight packs started rolling. She was literally put on a pedestal and ogled. That exact premise catered once again to the male viewer.
The i-Desk was exactly what it was the last season before Andi's inclusion. Jeff Marek and Scott Morrison sat in suits side-by-side doing the exact job Andi does, but they sat. They sat at a desk to do their job while Andi had to stand beside the desk and look pretty while doing her job.
Petrillo hosted the day-time portion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup broadcast on CBC,and did a fine job just the same as the overnight host at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Without any insider knowledge, it's hard to say if Andi wanted to move on from Hockey Night in Canada, but the impression from all the jumping around she did in the offseason was that she wanted to stay with the CBC. She joined TSN's EPL coverage and the NHL Network recently.
"I don't know what you mean by things being harder or different for women, maybe the past, but not now."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained the quote above as it came from her best friend Louie. He couldn't see there was a problem with the way women were treated, he couldn't fathom that women were treated as less than men even in the 21st century.
What did PJ Stock do during the offseason to show he deserved another season on the main panel? While Andi was honing her skills and working tirelessly as many women and men do to maintain a high level of performance, Stock's position on the panel remained safe. Friedman hosted a panel at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. David Amber worked as a reporter for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil as well as the Sochi Olympics, count Carly Agro in on those events as well. Both rink-side reporters were left off Sportsnet's lineup.
The two rink-side reporters that made the cut are Sportsnet's Christine Simpson and Canadian hockey legend Cassie Campbell-Pascal. Just two, of the many,Sportsnet could have included in their broadcast team that is comprised of 43 members, three of which are women.
It wouldn't have been a stretch for Campbell-Pascall to be bumped up to play-byplay as she did for the Olympic games during women's hockey. She has the knowledge, the experience, and the respect of those watching to do the job just as well as any man hired ahead of her. If she didn't want to promotion, that's completely fine, but the exclusion of women to the extent of two rink-side reporters and a new host who worked with NESN and is the cousin of Ron Hextall reeks of injustice.
Andi stood on a literal pedestal doing her job season after season and was wholly capable of a hosting job on the main panel. If Rogers was looking for a younger feel and wanted to move Ron MacLean aside, making Andi the primary host would have been the best option. She would have been great and would have been the first of many women to aspire to those heights. Throwing Campbell-Pascall on the panel would have been a great addition as well.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai said, "The higher you go, the fewer women there are." She continues to be right, even in 2014 where the NHL is trying to cater to women as if they're any different from men.
The NHL workforce comprises just 11% women according to team websites. That is 36% less than the percentage of women in the workforce in a survey from 2010. With 89% of the NHL's employees being male, the disconnect between women and men in not only the teams, but the media which cater to the teams isn't going to be repaired. There is no incentive to include.
Getting into the business of sports is competitive. Men and women have to work endlessly to get their foot in the door, then they have to find another level. This is truer of women who want to rise through a company as a reward for working seemingly 24/7 towards a dream job. The impression in many workplaces is that women, from the beginning, don't know as much as men and they can always learn a thing or two from their male coworkers. It's rarely the other way around.
The hateful replies I have received on twitter from opinion pieces I've written or simply news stories made me realize if I was a man, there would be a conversation.This wouldn't be an attack. I may be "clueless" because I don't agree with another's opinion. Because I'm a woman, I'm not just wrong, I'm brain dead. It's cut and dry for me, but for a man there would be banter before there was an assertion knowledge was absent from independent thought.
If Rogers wants to be taken seriously about its intention to cater to a younger audience with the addition of George Stroumboulopoulos, it's bringing up a younger audience with the idea that men are fit for the job, and the women can"smile and throw to break" as Katie Nolan noted in her personal essay. As long as women remain out of positions of power and off a panel where they can give their educated opinion in their area of expertise, another man at the helm isn't going to cater to anyone new.