On Growing Women’s Hockey, and Why We Do What We Do

Recently Harry Plumer, the communications consultant for College Hockey Showcases (CHS), posted a piece on the CHS website about how those involved in women’s hockey make up not just a community but a family. Harry is the son of Jim Plumer, currently the head coach for the University of Vermont’s women’s team. In his piece, he discusses how he grew up very much surrounded by the game, and how having that kind of unified outlook is a core value at CHS.

Plumer also notes how this sense of unity among those involved in the women’s hockey stems from the common desire to grow the sport.

This is an interesting point, one that I think we have to examine from time to time because it raises the broader question of “Why?” Why do we do what we do? And where are we going with it?

As someone who has covered women’s hockey for two years now, and who hopes to continue to do so, I consider these questions on a personal level quite a bit. This is fun for me, sure, and I love writing about hockey. But why is this something that I want to continue to do, and why do I think it’s worth doing?

Starting the Conversation

(Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)
(Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)

For starters, I’m not doing much here. I write a couple of times a week during the season. I tweet out news and I live-tweet games. I get angry sometimes (O.K., maybe more than sometimes) about women’s hockey not getting its fair share of coverage and support from news organizations, governing bodies, awards shows, you name it. I pretty much provide a place where people can go for coverage and analysis of women’s hockey. I’m not changing the sporting world sentence by sentence, no matter how Do-You-Hear-the-People-Sing-esque I get when I’m busy crusading for the sport. But what I am doing is starting a conversation.

I am far from the only person who recognizes that there is a certain amount of power in that. Plenty of coaches and players and SIDs and media representatives understand how important it can be to start a conversation about women’s hockey and market themselves properly. In fact, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that very often the teams that win are the teams that make themselves accessible, that work hard to make themselves visible in all forms of media, particularly social media, and that actively promote  content about themselves and the sport.

This isn’t to say that those types of off-ice efforts are responsible for on-ice success. But I think you often see those efforts from programs that are dedicated to winning because they are dedicated, period–to both the smaller communities of their teams and the larger community of women’s hockey as a whole.

In providing content on women’s hockey and starting that conversation, I am trying to connect the people in the sport with an audience, and it’s just as important for that audience to respond and join in, too. Fans play an absolutely crucial role when it comes to growing a sport, because they are integral to having a conversation in the first place. It might seem pretty simple, but sharing an article or voicing an opinion or just talking about watching a game or meeting a player goes a long way. It’s one thing for someone like me to start a conversation; it’s something else for others to engage in that conversation so that it can spread, and hopefully continue to reach more and more people.

It’s hard to tell exactly what all of this accomplishes, because tangible evidence of progress when it comes to growing a sport is hard to come by. In some ways, you can see a direct, measurable effect–I can count up how many times a certain article was shared on social media, for instance. But it’s almost impossible to tell whether or not this type of work will have a notable and lasting long-term impact. I have to think, though, that starting a conversation is worth it in the long run because fans will undoubtedly engage in it and only help to create more interest and a bigger audience. At any rate, trying at all is almost assuredly better than doing nothing, because it at the very least gives a potential for growth where there otherwise would be none.

Why We Do What We Do

But this isn’t just trying for trying’s sake. I don’t think any of us do what we do just so we can say, at the end of the day, “Well, at least we tried. At least we gave it our best.” There are a lot of great people in women’s hockey doing a lot of great work. But I don’t believe in women’s hockey solely because of the efforts that everyone makes to grow it. I believe in women’s hockey because of the quality of the sport itself.

In my short time watching and covering the game, I’ve seen some special things. Triple overtime NCAA Tournament games. Jocelyne Lamoureux doing this. Marie-Philip Poulin, in any Olympic gold medal game ever. 50-, 60-, 70-save performances, do-or-die penalty kills, an incredibly long winning streak and an undefeated season. This post could stretch on and on for miles if I listed all of the great plays and performances I’ve seen, and if I wanted to detail just how hard those players work to get to that level, I’d probably break the Internet.

The bottom line here is, this is an awesome, awesome sport, one that I’m absurdly lucky to cover and to be a part of in some small way. And although a lot of people are working really hard to get women’s hockey to be successful, women’s hockey deserves to be successful anyway–which is why I fully believe that it will be.

I don’t play hockey. I don’t coach hockey. I don’t analyze video, I’m not majoring in athletic training, I’m not an equipment manager, I’m not a scout. I don’t benefit the game in any way. All I do is write up a post a couple of times a week, and give coverage to a sport that deserves it a hundredfold.

So, why do I do this?

I do this because I think there’s something to be said for starting a conversation. I do this because, like Harry Plumer says, we’re all trying to grow the game, and because this is the best way I know how to help to do that. I do this because these players are well-worth watching, and they work really hard to be worth watching. I think it’s worth it to get you to know their names, because as a hockey fan, you should want to know their names anyway, and to me, that’s what’s going to win out in the end. At least I owe it to them to think so.

2 thoughts on “On Growing Women’s Hockey, and Why We Do What We Do”

  1. Entirely agree with this statement…”There are a lot of great people in women’s hockey doing a lot of great work. But I don’t believe in women’s hockey solely because of the efforts that everyone makes to grow it. I believe in women’s hockey because of the quality of the sport itself.” I do what I do, in terms of coverage of the CWHL and advanced stats for it, for the same reasons. I believe in the quality of Women’s Hockey and if my writing leads even one more fan to the game I have accomplished my goals. Great read Gabriella!

    • Thanks Mike! That’s the biggest thing for me, too. This is a great sport that people should want to know about and want to watch. Your advanced stats work is awesome, by the way.

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