Alright, I have to do it. I’ve had this topic pinned to my to-do list since October, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it, yet I’ve kept pushing it back.
So I’m going to publish this and then prepare for the backlash.
Wait, that’s not right, is it? That I’m afraid to write about a topic that’s pertinent to so many people in the hockey community?
Well, it’s the truth.
You see, in my head, this post could just as easily be titled Why Writing About Male Hockey is Keeping Me Up At Night, but that would be worthless, right? Because every post is about male hockey, or so I’m told.
Well, not exclusively. Most bloggers in any sport do their best to avoid gender-specific pronouns, that’s why we write things like “your son or daughter” or “your child”, but sometimes it’s unavoidable.
I do a lot of work with the female hockey community at the North Shore Winter Club, and like it or not, boys’ hockey is different from girls’ hockey.
Just like one male hockey player is going to be different than the next male player. Each individual player is just that - an individual. It’s the responsibility of the coach to break the ice and try to create a lasting impression regardless of gender.
Are there trends? Sure there are. In my experience, initially, it’s easier to achieve the attention of a female hockey group as opposed to a male hockey group of the same age. Why? I’m afraid to speculate too much, but it’s mostly due to the fact girls mature earlier than boys, both mentally and physically, but mental ability is much more important to the early connection between team and coach. This is also an important reason why girls in predominantly-boys groups do well - science and the chemical composition of their brains makes them smarter relative to their male peers.
I did not make this up. My minor was in physical education, after all, and a significant portion of our studies were spent determining specific techniques for training children on both sides of the fence.
After that, however, there are further differences that change the way a group mostly comprised of girls will be taught as opposed to a group mostly comprised of boys.
Any time you write about a sensitive topic, there’s going to be backlash, both positive and negative. Truth be told, it’s why I’d rather write for a living as opposed to making decisions on a grander scale.
Oh man, my heart is beating now.
But this is what I truly believe: hockey is hockey. The game is played differently by the two genders as they get older because their bodies are different, but so are their minds. This was obvious to me once I finished playing hockey in college and I started watching my sister play in college more often. The game was cerebral, everyone was trying to outwit the opponent.
And it was vicious. Anyone who says female hockey is contact-free isn’t paying attention. One of the best hockey games I’ve ever seen was when Team Canada beat Team USA a couple years back in the Olympics. It was 10am on a Friday and the lounge at the North Shore Winter Club was filled with our female youth hockey community. It was incredible.
The Canadians prevailed, and the crowd roared, and patriotic passion began to flow.
And that’s when I realized that hockey is hockey. On the outdoor rink, in Northern Alberta, in North Vancouver, boy or girl, AAA or house league.
Hockey is hockey and gender doesn’t matter. We all have our heroes.