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Birth of Women's Hockey in Canada

Discuss about the Gender & Hockey in Canada for Thesis Statement.
 

The research has been conducted to understand the Canadian women and hockey together. The birth of women’s hockey in Canada is understood with the focus on gender discrimination which happened in the place which is considered as the birthplace of hockey. From the point of being considered as a manly sport to the point of the formation of the first women’s hockey team, all the struggles associated with this development, which the women had to go through. The pressures from different places, especially from the family and society. The insult which the women players go through for their hockey dress to be considered to have a masculine orientation. The gender discrimination which the women players have to go through is extremely immense, and when compared with the men’s hockey team of Canada, it is way beyond that extreme. This discrimination discouraged a lot of women’s, who had an interest in the sport. Hockey is considered to be a unifying factor in Canada, as it helps in building relationships between people of the different generation. The research provides a deeper view of the different factors which demotivated the women hockey players and also contributed towards slowing down the growth process of women’s hockey in Canada. 

Women’s have continuously faced a lot of struggles, to make their niche in the sports world. The struggles can be due to fewer facilities for women, societal pressure and personal struggles too. A number of former Canadian Ice hockey players have transformed into a coach, as they want to encourage girls to participate in it and also don’t want them to go through the same struggle they have been through (Fisher 2012). Even after making a mark in the sports career, many players have to go through troubled married life, and the reason was their association with the sport.

Angela Jones is a former Canadian hockey player, who played from 1998 to 2000. She played at the highest rank of senior hockey. As a kid, initially, she had to face certain struggle due to her mother, who supported her to pursue swimming over hockey. This was due to the scarce facilities which hockey had and thus did not promise a positive future. She started playing hockey in a boys’ team. When she was eight, she played in Flemingdon Park boy’s house league and played ball hockey (Blair 2015). But she was later excluded from the team when her mother threatened to take a legal action against the coach of the team. Later, she started playing in different leagues and convinced her mother to let her participate in Flemingdon Park league. Due to her strong skills which were above her age, she was nominated as the star player. Her association, with the Flemingdon Park League, ended, due to jealousy factor in boys. The president’s son of Flemingdon Park League was offended when he heard about a girl overshadowing all the boys of the team. He forbid James from playing in the league, by bringing a change in the team policy, of not allowing any female player to play in the boys’ team (Bowering 2012).

Challenges Faced by Women Players

The society initially never considered hockey as a girl's sport. These sports were considered masculine and to associate a girl with them, was not possible for the society. The society considered sports like golf and swimming, more appropriate for women. The Amateur Athletic Union of Canada, until 1914, forbid the involvement of any female in any athletic activity which was under their control. Some of the players have to go through many marital issues in their life. This was due to the societal norms and the main struggle in marriage was due to the false and invalid perceptions associated with pregnancy and motherhood (Hemond 2012). 

The discrimination which has been happening since ages between different genders and their association with the hockey is incomparable. The facilities which were provided to the boys at the very beginning of their career is completely different when compared with the girls’ team. The men are prepared for the sports and are provided with the facilities to build physical and mental knowledge to deal with the hurdles which they might face in a sport. The thought of women participating in the sports which were considered ‘masculine’, created a lot of disturbance in the social surroundings and order (King 2006).

The women’s primary role was associated with being a mother, wife and a homemaker. A number of females used to enjoy playing hockey, but the obstacles which used to come in front of them were very difficult to face. There was also a time when women were instructed and have to play hockey in isolation. At the McGill University, the women were allotted four hours to play hockey in a week, with a condition that three men will continuously guard the entrance. The freedom to play hockey came way later. The men are encouraged to play sports and were given a complete freedom, but women have to face obstacles at every step (Behar 2007).

The rules of the ice hockey have been through major changes. Initially, if a woman showed more aggression on the field, then she would be removed from the game and was regarded as a bad girl. The community initially wanted to make hockey a feminism game and built rules accordingly. This attitude exists now also, but not in the same level as before. The intentional body checking also comes in this scenario, whereas the men’s hockey is played with full-contact. The structuring of the sports is conducted by keeping the men as the priority and the perfect example, whereas the women are sidelined. By following such practices, the sport hockey is considered to be equivalent for all the genders, even after practicing such discriminating activities (Rhine 2011).

Efforts of Former Players

The women who were part of the hockey in Canada, in the early times, were mostly encouraged by their parents if their brother also had an interest in the game. The girl’s interest never mattered. A lot of players have male siblings who are associated with the male hockey team and due to their interest in the game at an early age, their sisters also built an interest in hockey (Johnson 2011). 

There are no doubts about it, that the women hockey players in Canada had faced a lot of hurdles, to make a professional career in this sports industry. The struggle was not limited to the rule or but the women players have to face a lot of criticism due to their dress codes for the game. The women used to wear bloomer for the game and this brought a lot of brickbats. It was stated that, women wearing bloomer in the field will create a lot of corruption in boys and which will be even more than a city full of seductive dancers. The women hockey team dress was changed from heavy long skirts to bloomer, to provide the women players better freedom of movement. The male hockey team has been wearing shorts and they never faced any criticism for it. This is sheer discrimination between genders (Kale 2011).

The influence of sports also had an impact on the sexuality of women, which become a major concern too. Hockey has the reputation of making women masculine, and many players were also teased to be men for their physical appearance. The hockey players were questioned for their sexual preferences too. The masculinization of female hockey players also sparked a fear of “sexual transference”. According to this, a hockey player who is masculine or women who had an interest in masculine activities, then it was considered that the male has to build interest in the female activities, like taking care of babies and family (Langley 2003). This was also termed as “Feminization of Men”. The approach in itself is dividing the males and the females. This gradually changed, but the thought of men to adapt to female activities is very disturbing (Adams, Mason and Robidoux 2015).

Sports were never considered to be the main ambition of a female’s life, except sports like golf and tennis. The parents did not use to encourage their daughters due to the fewer opportunities and facilities available to the women in comparison to the males. The growth in the advertisement of sports and their products, with women kept as the center attraction, came very late. But this attempt of spreading the correct awareness about it, was one of the biggest steps towards, providing women with the freedom and the power to pursue their dreams in all the sports, especially hockey (Dorland 2018). The men always got that center attention from the society and many different aspects which contributed to encouraging them to build a career in sports. 

Struggle for Acceptance of Women in Sports

In Canada, hockey has a reputation which is more than just a sport. It is considered equivalent to a religion in Canada. The sport has not only made a contribution to the society, but also contributes to the economy on a very large scale. The sport hockey unified the population of thirty-three millions, which might be divided politically and with different originality (Watson 2016).

In Canada, hockey is an identity, which was initially considered to be an important involvement between fathers and sons, but now after the traditional gender boundaries have been removed it is considered as an important step of building relationships between mothers and daughters too. In Canada, hockey is a tradition, which has evolved over the years. From listening to the scores and commentary on the radio to building a Sunday night tradition, with friends and family. The sport hockey is worshiped in Canada (Kobierecki 2017).

It is due to this approach towards the sport, which has helped in building unity between people and also in resolving conflicts too, between people of different origins. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), describes the sport as ice hockey, whereas in Canada it is regarded as simply “hockey”, and the country also considers it as it birthplace too (Parr and Leyland 2010). In Canada, it is the biggest source of entertainment and the country considers it as its own “National Drama”. During the time of popular tournaments like the Olympics, the followers go crazy, and any loss or win for the country, have extreme reactions, from people being in tears, to celebrating it madly.

Conclusion

Though the game has evolved over the years, bringing new opportunities for the women. But the struggles which the women had to face, especially due to their family and husbands was immense. The societal pressure was associated with every aspect of women’s hockey, and it was due to the fear of disturbance which hockey will bring in the social order, which the men’s hockey players were unaware of. This pressure, slowed the growth of hockey, which could have evolved at a higher pace. The women’s hockey team of Canada participated in the Olympics for the first time in 1998, and the formation of the first hockey team happened in 1933. This big gap depicts a strong discrimination and the hurdles which the women’s hockey team has to face. After 1970, there was a bigger decrease in the participation of women in hockey, due to the fewer funds which were provided to the team and which further lead to very slow development. The major issue which the women faced was to fit in a prototype. Women’s were viewed as a motherly figure or person who exhibiting elegance and peace. The women of Canada have to break such mold and have to work forward to build a new image of women, who excelled in all fields and especially sports like hockey.  

References

Adams, Stephen, Courtney W. Mason, and Michael A. Robidoux. 2015. "‘If You Don’T Want To Get Hurt, Don’T Play Hockey’: The Uneasy Efforts Of Hockey Injury Prevention In Canada". Sociology Of Sport Journal 32 (3): 248-265.

Behar, A. 2007. "Hockey Playoff Noise". Canadian Medical Association Journal 176 (10): 1462-1462.

Blair, Kelsey. 2015. "Hockey Sticks And Heartstrings: The Men’S Gold Medal Hockey Game And The Affective Legacy Of The 2010 Olympic Games". Canadian Theatre Review 164: 83-88.

Bowering, L. M. 2012. "Injuries In Minor Hockey". Canadian Medical Association Journal 184 (3): 325-325.

Dorland, Michael. 2018. "Editorial: Hockey Night And Other Canadian Myths". Canadian Journal Of Communication 43 (2).

Fisher, C. M. 2012. "Injuries In Minor Hockey". Canadian Medical Association Journal 184 (3): 325-325.

Hemond, C. 2012. "Hockey Concussion: Is It Child Abuse?". Canadian Medical Association Journal 184 (8): 861-862.

Johnson, L. S. M. 2011. "Concussion In Youth Hockey". Canadian Medical Association Journal 183 (10): 1175-1175.

Kale, R. 2011. "Stop The Violence And Play Hockey". Canadian Medical Association Journal184 (3): 275-275.

King, W. J. 2006. "Should Bodychecking Be Allowed In Minor Hockey?". Canadian Medical Association Journal 175 (2): 163-163.

Kobierecki, Micha? Marcin. 2017. "Canada – USSR Hockey Exchanges. Between Positive And Negative Sports Diplomacy". Historia I Polityka, no. 18 (25): 19.

Langley, Sandra. 2003. "Gender, Talk, TV, Hockey, And "Canadian Identity": Feminist Takes On "Television Rejection"". Canadian Journal Of Communication 28 (4).

Parr, Grace, and Nicholas Leyland. 2010. "The “Hockey Stick” Sign In Appendiceal Endometriosis". Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology Canada 32 (5): 421.

Rhine, D. 2011. "Concussion In Youth Hockey". Canadian Medical Association Journal 183 (10): 1175-1175.

Watson, Scott D. 2016. "Everyday Nationalism And International Hockey: Contesting Canadian National Identity". Nations And Nationalism 23 (2): 289-308.

  1. Ubcatlas.Files.Wordpress.Com. https://ubcatlas.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/2004-raine.pdf.
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