Do you have what it takes to be the newest Islanders Ice Girl?
Do you have a trim body you can show off in a crop-top and form-fitting clothes? Do you have a pretty face and/or lots of makeup? Do you have a figure skating background? Do you have time to spend working out to maintain that pretty figure slightly inebriated straight males will spend intermissions and TV timeouts ogling at?
Well, tryouts are August 12, so take advantage now.
If I sound bitter, I’m definitely not trying to. Nor am I meaning to take away from the pressure these women face as entertainment for the men who come to NHL arenas. I can’t imagine they get very well compensated for their time, and virtually everything depends on how they look. (Why else would you have to arrive at tryouts “photo-ready”?) They have to watch their weight and appearance, they have to be on their best behavior (no fraternization with players, for one), and if they make even one slip-up, they’re out. It’s a meat market, and it’s not exactly the women’s fault. (Key phrase: “not exactly.”) It’s a legitimate argument, and it’s been made every time there’s a debate about the Ice Girls’ role in the league.
The issue I take is that there’s very little emphasis on women in the world of hockey outside of this capacity. The Isles, for example, have a “Lady Islanders” girls’ league, but the most recent information on the Isles’ website is from a year ago — even though the Lady Isles’ website says they’re taking tuition payments later this week.
That’s right. The Isles have recently done more to promote their Ice Girls than their own girls’ hockey system.
Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bothersome to me if I knew there was at least a comparable women’s league to watch, but — wait for it — there isn’t one. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has five teams; the NHL has 30, plus TV deals across the continent. Comparing the websites’ content and quality, we can see the NHL wins by a mile. We’ve already talked about some women covering the NHL, too, and how “While the Men Watch” seemed to be the acceptable take on the “female perspective” of the game (plot twist: it’s not).
Women’s hockey wasn’t an Olympic sport until 1998, either, and players had to fight for a place in Vancouver in 2010; 2014 remains an uncertainty, and there’s been the constant argument over the “lack of parity” between North American teams and the rest of the world (which is due in no small part to the lack of funding other programs have… and I wonder why that is). As it is, the Olympics is the only time women’s hockey is shown on such a large scale, and if that’s taken away… well, good luck, girls.
All of this, and yet Ice Girls are so necessary. Hmm.
Let’s face it — while I give these girls credit for working hard to have some fun during the games, it’s just as entertaining to watch a game without them. The Buffalo Sabres, for example, use a fully-clothed ice crew of all genders and ages to clean the ice, and Sabretooth runs around First Niagara Center with his drum. Sometimes the Buffalo Bandits and local businesses join in the fun and games as well (one Isles/Sabres game I went to featured John Tavares, our JT’s uncle, shooting tees from the 100s). No Ice Girls or cheerleaders. And you know what? No one was complaining about their absence, which shoots a hole right into the theory of “but people WANT to see them!!!1!!1!1!”
The Ice Girls are present for little reason except eye candy, and the organizations that have them in place know that. It’s a little saddening that the Islanders are one of those teams, as it suggests that a team needs pretty girls to distract from its on-ice product (which shouldn’t be the case). Whatever the reason, there is no place in hockey for semi-clad young women skating up and down the ice, nor should there be. When women have a stronger voice in the league and something to say outside of “Come on everybody, clap your hands and screeeeeeeam!!!”, I won’t mind them. Until then, however, I’ll be rolling my eyes at the “insider” videos the Isles have on their websites about these girls.
Until next time.