Will gender bias be kind to a new generation of hockey lovers? A story about what happened to one little girl’s love of hockey.
Earlier this week, my hockey-loving brother sent the family a picture of my niece, which he’d captioned “Daddy’s Girl”.
She’d dressed herself that day.
Among the colourful array of mismatched garments she’d picked a Montreal Canadians jersey to top off her look.
The Habs are my brother’s ride-or-die hockey team. There was no doubt in my mind as to the level of pride he feels seeing his three year old pull it over her Disney’s Frozen Dress and Paw Patrol pyjama pants.
I grew up watching hockey. When I was four years old, my mom went back to university in Edmonton, and we went with her. It was the Age of Gretzky, and we became Oilers fans.
I have memories of sitting with my brother, as close as we were allowed to get to our tiny family television.
With an 11 inch screen, there was not the most spectacular of views of the players zipping up and down the ice, but we watched, enthralled, nonetheless.
I recall my brother and I jubilantly waving little bear bells–the kind we pinned to our t-shirt when hiking at home in Whitehorse–whenever the Oilers scored, even though it was impossible for The Great One to hear us from our living room.
I also distinctly remember sitting on the stairs, waiting for my dad and brother to come home from seeing the Oilers play live.
My dad didn’t intend to be mean. Chances are the family couldn’t afford more than two tickets. To take his son to a live hockey game would have been a choice made without thought. I have a hazy memory of my dad saying he didn’t know I’d wanted to go. I might have imagined it.
However, a door closed that day for me. I’d watched the same games. I’d rung my little bell enthusiastically. I shook my little fist on the inside when Pocklington traded Gretzky to L.A. Yet somehow, this wasn’t for me.
I was a girl. I was shut out.
This is not to say I never watched another hockey game. In fact, dad took my brother and I to an NHL game when I was a teenager, and I went to another with my freshman roommate, and her family, in college. I’ve watched my nephew’s Timbits games–if what five and six years olds do counts as hockey. But I don’t watch it on television. I can’t name half the teams in the NHL and I can count on one hand the number of players names I know.
Does my niece like hockey or does she just enjoy dressing like her dad? I hope it’s the hockey she enjoys. That she feels like there is room for her and that a door won’t shut thoughtlessly on her just because she’s a girl.
The Family at the Hockey Game (hover for captions)