Dear USA Hockey: What’s The Deal With Women’s Worlds?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but USA Hockey is run by a barrel of baby monkeys, right? Ha ha, jokes! It’s clearly a barrel of confused human babies.

No, but seriously. Why isn’t Women’s Worlds being televised? The IIHF’s everything with women’s hockey has been baffling for a long time, I’ll grant you that. Their website design is subpar and finding any info on syndication of women’s games and so on is incredibly difficult. But that’s a gripe that’s pretty common with most women’s sports; there’s not nearly the incentive to sink money and time into making information readily accessible. Women’s sports are undervalued, blah blah. That’s not new. USA Hockey waffling so thoroughly on women’s games might also not be exactly new, but the Women’s U-18 games were streamed by USA Hockey, and Canada is televising games – and has been advertising that they’re televising them, even! So again: what’s the deal?

I understand that sports in general and hockey in particular loves being closed-mouthed like nobody’s business, but boy would some communication be good on this. In no small part because right now I’m left with some questions, such as:

  • Is USA Hockey aware that Women’s World’s is one of the only plus-18 international competitions that Americans can be remotely relied upon to win? Sure, referring to a national team as being reliable in that context is kind of messed up, but let’s be honest: USA Hockey wants to be Hockey Canada, with all the almost-monopoly over gold medals that that implies. Lack of competition sucks for the losers, but it only hurts the winners in the very long run. So, with that being established, why wouldn’t you at least stream – if not televise – games? At the very least, you’re not then sending talented girls who might get into hockey the unequivocal message of “no one cares and you should probably play a sport more people care about, like soccer or basketball”.
  • Is investment in women’s hockey at all a priority for USA Hockey? I know we talk about the CWHL a lot, but that’s really only part of the development puzzle. Women’s Worlds has been streamed in the past; is this new lack of streaming an indication that USA Hockey is going to step away from supporting their fastest-growing segment of players? I’ve met basically no one who had any hand in the public side of a business who thought that decisions about when and how to publicize their product didn’t affect the business, so again, I have to ask: is this the first step in removing investment from the women’s game? I’d be honestly surprised if it were – I personally think someone just dropped the ball – but by not saying a word about why they’re not streaming the games, USA Hockey is almost guaranteeing people are going to be wondering if they’re moving in a different direction.
  • Who is pancaking on this, USA Hockey? Why did a blogger (thanks, @gabfun) announce that the games wouldn’t be streamed instead of, I don’t know, an intern posting to an official twitter? This is a gripe I have at my inglorious office job as well as in the blogging world, so I get that this isn’t a USA Hockey-specific problem, but it’s just not that hard to put a line of text on the internet, almost anywhere on the internet, saying whether or not games will be accessible and if so, where to stream them. Women’s sports fans are decent at Google, okay? We kind of have to be. So throw us a bone.

The only thing I can think of is that there’s some kind of dispute that has led to USA Hockey publicizing NCAA women’s hockey on their Twitter, but not a tournament they’re directly involved in. But if that’s the case, then again, where are the professionals communicating access to fans in a way that doesn’t signal that something’s up?

My impression of hockey culture in general is that the overall culture is very do-it-yourself, rah-rah-pond-hockey. That culture, when applied to women’s hockey – a subset of the sport that very much does need support without the guarantee of profit the considerably older NHL carries – can be difficult to navigate. I might disagree with the CWHL not openly calling for volunteers and organizing and utilizing the talent of their fans, but I at least understand some of the rationale behind it. But I do not understand, at all, USA Hockey being so totally close-mouthed about Women’s Worlds. I have a FastHockey account specifically because I wanted to watch the tournament two years ago. Not saying anything and acting like no one’s paying attention to the tournament, when players are talking about it on Twitter and people like me want to watch them play, comes across as flat-out disrespectful.

All of us are aware that women’s hockey is not the most profitable business venture in the world. But either USA Hockey should commit to their players, and their product, and give what fans there are info – or they should own up to their comprehensive lack of interest in female players. It’s ten kinds of annoying to be presented with such a fundamental lack of information about one of the biggest tournaments for women’s hockey in the world. To be blunt and slightly NSFW: quit dicking us around, USA Hockey.