We all understand and recognize that there a differences between men and women both physically and mentally. This is a good thing and I’m not looking to change that for sure. But when it comes to sports we need to continually look at the old ways and assess if we are doing the right thing for women and each individual sport in modern society.
In the Toronto Star on November 21st 2015, an article was posted titled “Cross Country running on even ground” This article faced the same controversy as there a difference between men and women regulation wise. It was stated that Women run the same distance as men on the track and on the road. So why are they getting the short end of things in cross-country?
Why do people think women aren’t capable of the same requirements as men? Are men more superior?
The fight for gender equality is a recurring theme in sport and spans across a range of sports including; hockey, rugby sevens , bobsled and cross-country running.
When it comes to body checking in women’s or girl’s hockey you will often find yourself in the middle of a heated debate. In the early days there was body checking, and in order to grow enrolment the governing bodies at the time felt it best to remove it from the game. Many will hold onto the traditional arguments that not having body checking grows participation, girls are less experienced and they can’t handle it but I’m not buying that. Participation in women’s hockey did in fact grow dramatically over the last decade but so has the skill, coaching and level of overall play. The game has changed and it’s time the rules to do the same for women.
Here’s the thing.
Men’s and more specifically boys hockey has recognized the dangers of body checking and removed it from several levels of the game, primarily at the younger ages. Now only competitive levels include body checking. I get that and think the same rules can apply to girl’s hockey. No contact at the early ages but as you advance and decided to play at higher levels then body checking should be taught and be part of the game. Why not, heck, when I played competitive hockey, we were faster, stronger, more skilled than a lot of the boys our same age, and some people never even believed that?
The key is education and training. Boys are taught how to body check and to take a hit properly from high performance instructors. They practice how to prepare for a hit and recognize vulnerable situations. When boys are playing you will often hear a coach or a teammate call out ‘keep your head up’. This is what needs to happen in girl’s hockey and not hold girls back from body checking because they are not taught these key skills.
Some might think it’s odd for me to promote body checking in hockey after having three concussions from unsafe play. What if I knew how to take a hit? Would I have gotten a concussion still?
However, I agree with one of my former coaches, Kim McCullough and she once shared with me something she wrote, “The reality is that the majority of injuries in girls’ hockey are happening from incidental contact and are not due to intentional checking. Girls’ hockey players are not getting hurt because their opponents are trying to hip-check them through the boards or lining them up at the blue-line for the big hit. Girls are getting hurt battling for the puck along the boards and in front of the net.”
One of the big reasons why girls are getting hurt by this incidental contact is that they lack the awareness that they are going to get hit. When a men’s hockey player is skating down the ice, he is always thinking, “I am going to get hit.” For girls’ hockey players, this thought rarely crosses their minds. They tend to skate with their heads down, looking and “fishing” for the puck, as opposed to playing the heads-up style of hockey that is critical for survival in the men’s game. If girls aren’t playing with their heads up, they are oblivious to what’s going on around them and aren’t going to be ready for contact.”
Girls don’t want to be ‘babied’ or treated as a weaker species when it comes to the game,” –Krista Prins, head coach of Vancouver Girls Ice Hockey
Women are stronger, faster and better hockey players than ever before. They want to play the real game just like the boys and we should let them. Are we not allowing body checking in girls’ hockey simply because they aren’t boys? Is this a subtle sexist issue that hockey associations around the world continue to maintain? Why hasn’t this been changed, especially in Canada and North America where hockey is so prominent?
The main argument that seems keeping body checking out of women’s/girls hockey is that there would be a huge increase of injuries. This statement is completely false. If anything, it would be easier to decrease injuries from body checking in girls’ hockey than it would be from boys’ hockey.
New Castle University scientists have found that Girls’ brains can begin maturing from the age of 10 while some men have to wait until 20 before some of the same structural developments take place.
We train like boys, we play like boys, use the same equipment as boys, so why don’t we have the same rules as boys?
For example if the defenseman in front of the net has her hands tied up, what is she gonna do? She can’t body check them? So she takes a stupid penalty to get the opponent away from the puck. This would not been the case if body checking was in place and used responsibly.
If women are being forced to take body checking penalties or other ways including using their stick to stop their opposition. The game has become so quick and skilled at times there’s no other option.
Why can’t it just be legal?
Even the referees have a hard job in hockey because how do you determine if little body contact should be penalized. It creates a ton of controversy when a referee makes a call that seems unreasonable to some and not to others.
The world is changing and changing rapidly. So has women’s hockey. It is not just a boys sport that girls play it’s a girls sport too. It’s time to teach girls the proper ways to take a hit and make a hit. It’s time to provide girls different levels of competition that include body checking or not. It’s time to stop treating girls hockey differently, because its girls.