If You Can Cheer, You Can Cheer. No Matter Your Gender


I know by now this story is old news. But considering every day when I wake up, I am a hockey fan and a female; it’s always news to me. Last week Sports Illustrated decided to post a slide show featuring female hockey fans or as they said “aka Puck Bunnies.” Yes, they actually said Hockey fans come in all shapes and sizes, but few are as passionate as the league’s female fans (aka – Puck Bunnies).” If you would like to go look at this slide show, I can’t point you in that direction. Sports Illustrated finally removed it after much backlash. I would like to think it was removed with an apology to all female hockey fans, but I know that did not happen. I’ve read Sports Illustrated since I was a kid and it never occurred to me that I shouldn’t because I was a girl. It also never occurred to me that I would be included in a group of fans labeled with a derogatory term just because of the set of chromosomes I was born with. To add insult to injury, this story came on the heels of International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the contributions of women to society.

Right now the big talk in the hockey world is the You Can Play campaign created by Patrick Burke, brother of the late Brendan Burke, who was an openly gay athlete, and son of Brian Burke, President and GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The campaign has a simple message; “If you can play, you can play.” The campaign was created to fight homophobia in hockey and make the environment safe for LGBT athletes to come out and still participate in their sport of choice. NHL players are signing on like crazy and participating in the public service announcement campaign. The cry for equal treatment and a non-hostile atmosphere makes my heart sing and the campaign is something I fully support.

I can’t be the only person thinking about the juxtaposition of these two issues though. This is the hot campaign. THE campaign to attach your name to if you want to be considered a stand-up guy in the NHL. But yet women are still being called “puck bunnies” and no one seems to blink an eye. Yes, the slide show was removed. But someone allowed it to be posted in the first place. And someone was ignorant enough to think that term categorized all female fans. Or sadly, they knew exactly what it meant and they just didn’t care.

(I am not a Caps fan but I want to hug this video by Russian Machine Never Breaks. No I have never hugged a video, but I feel confident that I can make it happen.)

Women are constantly singled out for being “female hockey fans” as though we are different than any other fans. We show up, we cheer, we buy merchandise. We know our stats and rules and some of us even spend hours of our free time blogging about the sport we love. I could list all of the things I know about the sport of hockey to “prove” myself and tell you how being a female fan is just being a fan, a regular fan. But I am not going to do that. Frankly I am tired of doing that. I am tired of defending my knowledge and being called a puck bunny. I am tired of watching half naked women scoop ice off the rink and dance in low cut tops as a means of entertainment during a sporting event. I am tired of the hockey community lauding people like Paul Bissonette for their “sense of humor” when he is really just a sexist. I am tired of the sports community, hockey included, thinking it’s okay to mistreat women. Misogyny my friends is not cool.

I am glad the NHL wants to make everyone feel safe to play regardless of their sexual orientation. But I wish someone would acknowledge that not all fans of the sport feel equally welcome to cheer. I maintain if you can cheer, you can cheer and my money and fandom is just as important whether or not I do my cheering while wearing a bra. Hockey is for everyone. But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. What would an NHL arena without female fans be? I contend the answer is fairly empty.

  • Make sure to check out Hockey Broad’s commentary on the Sports Illustrated slide show here.* She includes a screen capture of the text from SI.
  • Learn more about the You Can Play campaign on their website.
  • Hockey Against Hate fights for equal rights in the sport. Check out their good work and cool merchandise here.
  • Elena Palmer, fellow Caniac blogger over at Eye on the Storm, had a nice post on this as well.

Sick of having your fandom labeled because of your gender? Any menfolk with mothers, daughters, wives or sisters want to chime in? Leave us a comment! Find us on  Facebook and the magic Twitter machine: @Esbee92, @CardiacCaneFS@peacelovepuck, @caniaccaz and @caniac176.