WATCH THIS HOCKEY WANTS YOU

WATCH THIS HOCKEY WANTS YOU (to write for us and stuff)

We’re looking for more writers! We particularly want writers to cover the new NWHL teams, but we’re always open to more writers to cover the CWHL teams or international play. We’re looking for both reoccurring types of posts (such regular updates on teams and how they’re doing, etc.) and also one-off types of posts. (In-depth special on a particular player or upcoming tournament? Analysis of the Beaut’s systems? Funny jokes about current women’s hockey events?) If you think you’d like to write some stuff and you like us, send us an email!

We’d also love to get more photos of games! If you’re planning on going regularly to CWHL or NWHL games, and you’ve got a decent camera and a yen to work on your action shots, please drop us a line!

Unfortunately, this is a hobby website. We don’t have any forms of revenue, which means we can’t offer any kind of payment.

A Clarification of the CWHL Player Equipment Situation

Over the past season, we’ve seen a lot of incomplete and sometimes contradictory information on what the CWHL players get from the league, in terms of player equipment. Things on Twitter and other spaces came to a boil when Janine Weber, who won the Clarkson Cup for the Boston Blades in overtime, was asked to donate her stick to the Hockey Hall of Fame. This put Weber in a bit of a quandary– if she donated her stick, she’d only have one left when she went to play at Worlds for the Austrian national team.

Weber’s story has a happy outcome– STX, a hockey equipment company, reached out to her on Twitter, and sent her several sticks and a pair of gloves. Weber will take the ice with Team Austria at the Div. I Group A Women’s World Championship on Sunday in Rouen, France.

So, why did Weber have only one stick left? What, exactly, is the equipment provided to CWHL players?

We reached out to the CWHL, and were told that the league provides helmets, pants, and gloves to players, in addition to team jerseys and socks. Notably, those are skater helmets, pants, and gloves. Goaltenders, whose equipment is notorious for being much more expensive than skater’s, appear to be on their own. Players also had the option buy sticks and skates as a discount from Bauer, a league sponsor. I was kind of surprised to hear that Bauer was a player equipment sponsor– I feel like I never see them mentioned by the league, nor have I seen Bauer mention the CWHL. Digging in the archives, I found a couple brief mentions of Bauer as a sponsor, but not a lot.

When we reached out to Bauer for some clarification, we got a lot more information. Turns out, Bauer provides the league with the aforementioned helmets, pants, and gloves, but also bags. All of this is at no cost to the league.

According to the rep I talked to, they work with the players to make sure that they have the best gear for them from Bauer’s various lines. If you’re not familiar with the intricacies of buying hockey equipment, it’s exactly like buying clothes– everyone has their preferences for how they want things to fit, according to their specific body and the needs of their specific style of game. The way Bauer handles this kind of thing is by having different lines of equipment with different cuts. For example, there are three lines of pants– Supreme, Nexus, and Vapor– each with their own cut– an anatomical fit that is tighter at the waist, a classic fit that is looser through the waist, and a tapered fit that is tighter at the hips. It works similarly for the rest of their gear, for gloves, etc.

gloves
Bauer’s fit guide for gloves [Bauer]

Bauer's fit guide for pants [Bauer]
Bauer’s fit guide for pants [Bauer]
Bauer has had this program in place with the CWHL for the past three seasons, and plan to continue this partnership in the future. What they get out of this deal is that they are the league’s equipment supplier– the CWHL mentions them sometimes, and in league advertisements, Bauer can be the only featured brand. Under the terms of their contracts, players have to wear the provided Bauer gear unless they have a paid endorsement with another manufacturer. If a player does have a paid endorsement for equipment, such as Hilary Knight’s deal with STX, the league does ask that the supplier attempt to keep the product consistent with the team’s branding. No custom red, white, and blue breezers for Hilary Knight. 🙂

So, Bauer, one of the biggest and most well-known hockey equipment companies, is supplying some, but not all, of the equipment for skaters. Goaltenders are apparently on their own, answering the question of why Britany Ott is still rocking those baby blue pads from her time at the University of Maine.

Brittany Ott, in her baby blue pads, playing for the University of Maine. [University of Maine]
Brittany Ott, in her baby blue pads, playing for the University of Maine. [University of Maine]
Aside from goaltenders, this still leaves a lot of gear uncovered. What about shin-pads, chest protectors, and elbow pads, among others?

In a little experiment, I went to HockeyMonkey, a large online retailer for hockey equipment, and pulled together a cart of what I would consider a full set of equipment for a skater, including two sticks. I stuck within the Bauer line when possible, and tried to pick not the cheapest but also not the most expensive options. In addition to the typical protective gear, I also included a mouth guard, a neck guard, and a jill.

Retrieved from HockeyMonkey on 4/10/2015
Retrieved from HockeyMonkey on 4/10/2015

The total price of the equipment all together was $2,069.87. The total of what Bauer/the CWHL covers entirely is $489.97. We’re not sure what the discount on Bauer sticks/skates is, so we did a couple different scenarios to calculate possible cost to the player.

  • If the player bought similarly priced sticks and skates from a non-Bauer retailer, the total equipment cost to the player would be ~$1500.
  • If the player didn’t buy sticks or skates (not really practical, but maybe they have a deal with someone else) the total equipment cost to the player is $600.00.
  • If the discount on Bauer sticks/skates is 20%, a number that we totally made up, the equipment cost to a player is $929.92.

Now, that’s not going to be the cost a player faces every season, but a full season of professional-level competition and practice is going to put wear on gear, FAST. Also, two sticks for a season is possibly optimistic for some players, depending on how they play.

Some players have a stipend from their national team for gear and training, but most non-Team USA or Team Canada players don’t. Hockey ain’t a cheap sport, and while the Bauer equipment deal is a start, I sincerely hope the CWHL expands what player equipment is covered in the future.

The IIHF, Concussions, and No-Check Hockey

IIHF promotes the history of women’s hockey, makes sweeping proclamations about the impact of the ban on body checking

The IIHF did a series on the top 25 stories related to women’s hockey as a lead-in to the Women’s Worlds – the final story, on Canada winning gold in Sochi, was released on the day of the championship game. This is fantastic – the international federation is promoting women’s hockey and sharing the history of the women’s game with the world. I hope this keeps happening, and more organizations follow suit and publish interesting series that chronicle the history of women in their respective sports and locales.

However, some of what the IIHF wrote comes off as nothing more than propaganda defending their own decisions while making sweeping, unsupported claims. The 14th story details the removal of body checking from women’s hockey and the continuation of that rule change. As noted in the article, body checking used to be allowed in women’s hockey – it was banned internationally for the 1992 Women’s World Championship (after being allowed in 1990). It had been banned in some places (mainly North America) prior to this tournament, under the auspices of increasing participation and making the game safer. ((Etue & Williams, 1996: On the Edge: Women Making Hockey History))

The rationale was that by taking checking out of the game, players of different skill level could play against each other more easily without as much of a fear of injury. As the sport has grown and evolved, both in terms of participation numbers and level of play, the rule has held constant. As noted in the article, the game is known as one of more skill and finesse than the men’s game, but body contact is still part of the game, and the difference between body checking and body contact is a fine and very gray line. And here is where my issues with the article begin.

The article makes sweeping statements about the current state of the game, and how checking impacts it, that are not supported by or are seemingly contradictory to the data that does exist. In their discussion about the skill and finesse of the women’s game without checking, they state that “Players must use positioning and speed to gain puck possession. The use of the boards for body-checking is almost non-existent.” Yes, the women’s game is about speed, positioning and puck possession – Jack Han showed the increased puck possession of the McGill Martlets in the CIS, though unfortunately, there’s very little other women’s hockey analytics of this detail. However, their statement about body checking is unsupported in their article and possibly contradictory to the data. I cataloged all of the penalties from the Sochi Olympics and ran some basic frequencies. Body checking accounted for 26 of the 180 (14%) of the penalties, and if cross-checking (8) is included, checking accounted for 19% of the penalties. That’s almost one in five penalties that were for checking.

[A]lmost 1 in 5 penalties were for checking [at the Sochi Olympics].

While this is down from the 1998 Nagano Olympics, where body checking was 21% of the penalties and checking (including cross-checking and checking from behind) was 28% of the total penalties, it is still a significant amount of checking penalties. In this year’s IIHF tournament, body checking (19) and cross-checking (5) accounted for 24 out of 187 penalties (13%). These numbers represent only what is called, and not the above-the-angling and other physical play that occurs without being formally called.

[At this year’s Women’s World Championship,] body checking (19) and cross-checking (5) accounted for 24 out of 187 penalties (13%).

The commentators, including former players, during the last Olympics mentioned that there is a higher level of physical contact allowed now within the women’s game than previously, which is something that I have anecdotally noticed as well. Compared to these numbers and comments, the IIHF statement is seemingly trying to hide the fact that checking does occur not infrequently in women’s hockey games (unless they’re being overly specific and only talking about checks into the boards and not counting open ice hits in that statement, information the game summaries don’t tell me).

The IIHF statement is seemingly trying to hide the fact that checking does occur not infrequently in women’s hockey games.

I will also note that in the IIHF game summaries for this tournament, body checking penalties are being listed as “illegal hits.” The past Olympics (organized by IIHF) have listed them as “body checking.” While I do not know what prompted this linguistic decision, it could be perceived as another way of hiding the reality that checking does occur in women’s hockey. By calling it an illegal hit, unless you are aware that means body checking, it is not clear that this is what this call means. Without denoting it as checking, how are we to know the difference between an illegal hit and roughing (which is defined as an illegal hit, generally after the play or overly aggressive, in the IIHF rule book). Renaming the penalty seems to serve as another way of advancing the IIHF’s apparent agenda of blindly maintaining the rule, as it hides the fact that it is actually a penalty for an action allowed – and expected – within the men’s game.

The IIHF piece continues on to discuss the argument regarding correlation between checking and injuries. They state, “Critics of the women’s game argue that hitting is an inherent part of the game, and recent studies which show that women are more prone to concussions in sports also perhaps suggest that a cause for this is the lack of practice with physical contact (if one expects a hit, one is prepared for it; if one isn’t expecting a hit, the results can be more damaging). However, in ice hockey the injury rate is lower for women than for men also due to the no-hitting rule.” There is a debate about whether banning checking decreases injury by taking some of the physicality out of the game or increases it as players do not expect the hits when they do happen. Both sides make sense in theory.

However, the final statement regarding injury rate does not makes sense, and I do not know where they are getting that statistic from. If they are talking general injuries and using something like the Olympics, they are comparing men that are in the middle of an NHL season to women who are solely preparing for the Olympics and two totally different games. Unfortunately there is no way to get good data on this because there are no full check women’s leagues to compare statistics with. I would also argue that due to size, strength, and general difference in playing style it is inappropriate to unquestioningly use male statistics, particularly when men in non-check leagues were still likely to have training in full check hockey and thus better prepared to receive unexpected hits.

Even if the general injury rate is lower, as they claim, they have no evidence of the causation between the rule and the injuries, and are thus exaggerating their claim to defend their decision to maintain the rule. However, if the sentence is referencing the concussions mentioned in the first line of that quote, it is a straight up lie. The most recent data coming out of the NCAA shows that the varsity sport with the highest rate of concussions is women’s hockey. Women’s hockey experiences more concussions than any other sport, more than men’s hockey, more than football, etc. at the college level.

Women’s hockey experiences more concussions than any other sport, more than men’s hockey, more than football, etc. at the college level … Nobody is quite sure yet why.

Nobody is quite sure yet why women experience more concussions; there are only some theories and ongoing research. But as of right now, in ice hockey, the concussion rate is higher for women than for men, even with the no-hitting rule. In the next article of the series, the IIHF tells the story of Kessel’s concussion, which was the result of an uncalled hit. While they talked about the seriousness of concussions, they again seemed to ignore the frequency of concussions in women’s hockey, despite the no-hitting rule, with statements like “Kessel’s has brought home a worrying fact in women’s hockey – that concussions can also happen in the women’s game.”

I applaud the IIHF for trying to raise awareness of women’s hockey and teach people about some of the history of the game. However, I wish they would not use this as a place to make sweeping statements that they cannot, or choose not to, back up with facts. This is a disservice to the women’s hockey community, who deserve to know the reality of their game. The IIHF is obviously invested in maintaining the rule, and thus looking at the impact of it through rose-colored glasses is beneficial to that cause.

This is a disservice to the women’s hockey community

However, doing so may be misleading to the public, including their players, prospective players, and their supporters, and does a disservice to their cause and to the continued growth of the game. While it could be argued that talking about concussions could make people wary of playing hockey, I argue that if the IIHF stuck to the facts and eschewed these sweeping statements, there would be more awareness of the issues, and the IIHF could help to support the ongoing research and discussions on prevention and treatment of concussions.

[T]he more organizations that actively engage in the research and discussion [of concussions], the more able we will be to grow all sports in a safe manner.

Sports currently need more information on all aspects of concussion, and the more organizations that actively engage in the research and discussion, the more able we will be to grow all sports in a safe manner. By moving beyond the sweeping statements, the IIHF could also consider conducting research on the actual impacts of the ban on checking on the current game and the growth of the game moving forward.

The Boston Blades’ Twitter Got Suspended

The CWHL needs to step up its Twitter game.

So, as you may have noticed, at some point recently the Boston Blades’ Twitter account got suspended. We don’t know exactly why this happened, but we can guess. Twitter suspends accounts for violations of the Twitter rules which happen to include spamming. It’s really hard to say that the Boston Blades account hasn’t, in recent months, become rather spammy. They’ve been aggressively re-tweeting everything even vaguely related to Boston, including old or off topic material. It’s been really off-putting, to the point where I actually blocked their RTs on my phone and other Twitter clients. And the spam hasn’t gone unnoticed by other fans.

 

Look, CWHL, Twitter and other forms of social media aren’t the most important marketing in the world. But they’re a great way to establish a brand and convey information on a budget. The kind of fans who’ll follow you on Twitter and avidly look to you there for game times and scores, those are also the kind of people who’ll pay for an internet stream. You want those fans, CWHL, if you want to grow outside your very specific geographic locations. It’s also a way to provide insight and accessibility to fans, as in the case of Annie Chipman, the University of North Dakota back up goaltender who live tweets game days.

It’s also not that hard to learn how to do social media competently. There are six million resources for people new to social media on how to build a brand and maintain it on Twitter, etc. I’m not saying they’re going to turn you into an amazing, funny Twitter master– but they’re going to give you guidelines to get your information out there, and not, say, get suspended for spamming.

But okay, say a team doesn’t have someone with the aptitude or time to learn how to run the Twitter account properly. That’s when you look to your fans. Put up a “help wanted” ad on your website for volunteers, ask on Twitter– there are many possibilities. Decide beforehand what you want the Twitter account to look and sound like, sure, but get someone onto that account who has the time and interest in maintaining it.

At the very least, CWHL teams, put a volunteer with a camera phone and the Twitter account out there on game day. Get some pics, put them up on Twitter– and stop spamming with the retweets!!

Weekly Link Roundup: Worlds, NWHL, & more!

NWHL

  • According to Kate Cimini of the Hockey Writers, the NWHL will be providing visas for international players! There’s already some questions about this, like will the players be able to hold down other jobs as well, as the league is only promising a part-time salary at best. But it’s still a new precedent in North American women’s hockey leagues, as the CWHL does not provide any sort of visa help. We’re doing some research on how this sort of thing could work out, and will hopefully be able to provide more information in the future.
  • Dani Rylan will be on 102.5 The Game this evening at 9 PM CDT to talk about the NWHL. The radio station does have online streaming, so you should be able to listen in! Rylan’s segment will apparently be on ~9:15.
  • The Globe and Mail has an article about the NWHL with some very interesting details! Apparently, home arenas have been secured for each team, and ice time was donated, as well as a partnership with US Coachways for bus transportation. Even more interestingly, Rylan told the Globe and Mail that multi-year deals with sponsors have been signed! No deets yet on who those were with, but hopefully soon!

Women’s Worlds

  • Quarterfinals are set! Russia will be playing Sweden for a chance to face the US in the Semifinals, and Finland will be playing Switzerland for a chance to play Canada. Sadly, this means Japan will face Germany in the regulation round– we were really pulling for Team Japan, who appears to have started pulling together their offense that was severely lacking at Sochi. They’ve won two games this tournament, tying their previous international record.
  • Blowout games are on the decline in international women’s hockey! Constantly cited as an indication of lack of parity, the huge margins of victory hung on teams by Canada and the US appear to be narrowing– non-Canadian or US teams are getting better.
  • Florence Schelling and Karoliina Rantamaki have both set some new records for international games! Rantamaki has set a new record for participating in the most Women’s World Championship at 13. Previously, she’d been tied with Canada’s Jayna Hefford and Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • POORMOLLYSCHAUS. But seriously, why so out of position there?

    Molly Schaus wipes out on a Russian breakaway. US won 9-2, shots were 49-5.

NCAA

  • This is slightly late, but better than never! In an update on the University of Minnesota-Duluth coaching situation, they’ve narrowed the search to three candidates, including UMD assistant coach Laura Schuler, Mercyhurst head coach Mike Sisti, and Harvard associate head coach Maura Crowell.