She’s4Sports – Hockey is Her event recap

By: Brittany Ramsay

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Beyoncé said it best.  Who run the world?

 

Girls.

 

Wednesday night, the Hockey is Her event, held at the Hockey Hall of Fame, proved just that.

 

Presented by She’s4Sports, Hockey is Her brought a diverse group of women together to celebrate their achievements, share their experiences, and discuss the ongoing issues women face in hockey and sport.

 

A Toronto-based organization, She’s4Sports is changing the narrative on women in sports through digital content and events, allowing females to engage and have a bigger voice in sports.

 

Founder, Ainka Jess, mediated an engaging panel discussion that represented women who are passionate about hockey and are dedicated to creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.

 

The panelists:

Kim Davis – Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives, & Legislative Affairs, NHL

Christine Simpson – Reporter, NHL on Sportsnet

Sarah Nurse – Olympic silver medalist (Team Canada), CWHL player, Toronto Furies

Jennifer Chefero – Assistant Coach, Scarborough Wexford Raiders

Jessica Platt – CWHL player, Toronto Furies

Angela James – 4X IIHF World Women’s Championship gold medalist, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee

 

Through their stories and opinions, these six women shared a range of experiences, some glamorous, some not, and provided the audience with hope for the future of women in hockey.

 

“There’s no other place to go, but up,” said Angela James, one of the first women, and the only one of colour, to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  “The more we get out there, the better it is for everyone.”

 

James, along with current members of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies, Sarah Nurse and Jessica Platt, discussed how difficult it is for women to make professional hockey a full-time career, as the pay grade is well below a liveable income.  They’ve all witnessed teammates forced to give up hockey as a result. 

 

Nurse said she’s been questioned her entire life as to why she plays hockey.  She is thankful for the support of her family, including her cousin Darnell Nurse, current member of the Edmonton Oilers, who has been on her side since day one.  She chuckled as she mentioned all the doubters and questioners over the years, but Darnell and herself are the only ones playing at a professional level.

 

Both Nurse and Platt said they get asked why they still play hockey all the time.  To that, Nurse wonders why her male counterparts don’t get asked the same question.

 

For Platt, the first transgender woman to play in the CWHL, the answer is simple.  “For love of the game,” she said, admitting that during her time away from the sport to deal with personal matters, she missed the feeling of being on the ice.

 

Coverage of women’s hockey was also a point of discussion.  This just days after the first ever CWHL weekend was broadcasted nationally on Sportsnet.  Perhaps a foreshadow of change?

 

With CBC’s Ron MacLean in attendance, a huge advocate for women’s hockey himself, Christine Simpson mentioned MacLean’s interview with three-time Olympic gold medalist Marie-Philip Poulin this past Saturday.  Following the national broadcast of the CWHL Toronto Furies and Les Canadiennes de Montréal, MacLean mentioned this event to Poulin and the two discussed the growing support of women’s hockey in Canada.

 

Simpson, who has been with Sportsnet since it’s launch in 1998, has undoubtedly paved the way for female broadcasters.  There are now more opportunities than ever for women in broadcasting and Simpson reminded the audience that it’s about being bold and creating your own path.

 

“If you can dream it, you can make it happen,” Simpson said.  The public is still in this mindset that females on a sports broadcast is ‘weird’ or ‘odd’, but why?  It’s finally becoming more common and as Simpson pointed out, it should be the norm, so let’s make it the norm.

 

Speaking of the norm, Jennifer Chefero hopes that women in management and coaching roles will soon be the norm for the NHL.  Chefero’s goal is to be the first ever female NHL coach.

 

Kim Davis, of the NHL, confirmed that not only herself, but the entire league, is committed to change.  The NHL is constantly discussing initiatives for inclusion, diversity, and growing new audiences, not just with gender, but race as well. 

 

Davis shared some of her experiences currently working with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, as well as previously with the great tennis-star Billie Jean King.  She reminded us that, for women, it’s important to have men as allies and to help them understand some of the issues that women face.  “Bringing up the conversations that sometimes men just don’t think about,” Davis said is also important, “just go for it!”