An era is ending for the New York Islanders. No, I’m not talking about the death of Nassau Coliseum and the move to Brooklyn. Much of the Islanders’ folklore will come with them to Brooklyn. However, one recently established tradition will be left in Nassau County, the New York Islanders Ice Girls won’t be making the trip, according to Sports Illustrated.
The Isles were the first team to implement the use of the cheerleader-style ice maintenance team back in 2001. Now, they’re joining the teams who are backing off of the practice seen by many to be sexist in its exploitation of women’s bodies as a sideshow to what should be rudimentary ice maintenance in safe and adequate working conditions.
That seems basic, but often hasn’t been the case with reports — like this Mother Jones piece — that in many cases ice girls are forced to sit for hours in frigid conditions with insufficient clothing, face severe restrictions on makeup (Kings ice girls have reportedly been forced to buy their own supplies out of pocket despite low wages) and food, as well as making just above minimum wage (some reports have ice girls making $50/game over a 7-8 hour shift).
The push-pull on the issue of ice girls has not been insignificant over the last couple of years. The San Jose Sharks announced before last season that they would begin to have ice girls and the fan backlash was significant.
Around the same time, the Philadelphia Flyers appeared to be taking a step in the right direction when they announced that they would discontinue to the use of ice girls. A preseason game saw fans in the city that decapitated the HitchBOT boo their new male ice crew so fervently that the Flyers backed off and re-implemented the ice girls.
With the Islanders leading the way once before, one can hope that the Islanders will again be setting the tone as they move to a new co-ed ice crew.
The decision is significant, even if the Islanders are saying that they aren’t making the change due to the obvious sexism involved in the practice of many teams. Barry Baum, chief communications officer for Barclay’s Center, told Sports Illustrated, “We decided to go in a different direction… We held a number of meetings with our fans on Long Island to ensure we’d bring the best traditions to Brooklyn and we think they’ll be very happy with the result.”
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Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.