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Playing Dirty

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I’m getting a little tired of guys talking trash when they play hockey against women—and lose.   By Hannah Wallace     The mother of one of my teammates recently ran into a guy at work who mentioned playing hockey. “My daughter plays hockey in Ellenton,” said Dallas’s mom. “She’s on the Ms. Conduct.”   […]

September 25, 2007


I’m getting a little tired of guys talking trash when they play hockey against women—and lose.
 
By Hannah Wallace
 
 
The mother of one of my teammates recently ran into a guy at work who mentioned playing hockey. “My daughter plays hockey in Ellenton,” said Dallas’s mom. “She’s on the Ms. Conduct.”
 
“Oh, those girls are dirty,” he said.
 
To her credit, Dallas’s mom responded, “You play on an all-men’s team? You must be pretty bad if you’re getting beaten up by a bunch of girls.”
 
Hee. I generally try to avoid the kind of trash talk that assumes women should normally be less skilled than men, but kudos, Dallas’s mom. And also? Shut up, whiny dude.
 
But it seems we do have a bit of a reputation. I’ll start by saying that if “dirty” means jabbing people with the butt-end of your stick and cup-checking (taking your stick to a guy’s vulnerable bits), the Ms. Conduct players don’t deserve to be called dirty. The problem, though, is that everyone is so damn conscious that there are a bunch of women on the ice.
 
Skill level, height and weight would all vary tremendously even if no women played. But for now, sex trumps all other hockey variables.
 
CCB, playing as a substitute with the Ms. Conduct this past Sunday, got an earful from a particularly bitter little man on the other team about how “the refs never call anything on these girls.” (Despite the Ms. Conduct logo on CCB’s jersey, the little man mistakenly thought the brotherhood was a stronger bond than their opposing teams.)
 
Bitter little man (actually a B-level player sandbagging in the novice league) should first remember that referees all have different takes on how to call these lower-level games: Some think skill factors in (not being able to stop leads to a lot of accidental rough play from newcomers, while skating well enough to keep your feet may mean you won’t draw as many penalties). Some refs take size and weight into account: If Coach Mr. Harrible, who’s a biscuit under 300 lbs, merely steps in front of a 150 lb. 18-year-old pseudo-hot-shot, said 18-year-old looks like Wile E. Coyote riding his jet pack into the side of a mountain. Coach Mr. Harrible may get a penalty, even if he did nothing illegal.
 
Sometimes we gals simply get the benefit of (and fall victim to) those kinds of calls. And whether it really is a size thing or a give-the-poor-dainty-girl-a-break thing, some people will always assume it’s the latter.
 
It sucks, but I’d rather get mugged and not have it called than trip over the blue line and get a power play. Bitter little men will always assume the girls have an unfair advantage from the officials, but let’s not fan the flames, OK?
 
There are some girls (as well as guys) who are small and can’t skate and thus earn some pity leeway. On the other hand, someone like Lefty, bless her, dominates the men, daring refs and opposing players alike to treat her differently when sex is the only difference. Her game speaks for itself, and her game says, “You wanna take it easy on me? I’ll pummel you. You wanna get rough with me? I’ll pummel you. You wanna cry foul? I’ll give you something to cry about.” Nothing blurs the lines (and your vision) like a pissed-off Canadian.
 
Donovan McNabb was just in the news (er, SportsCenter, that is—the news I watch) saying that African-American quarterbacks undergo tougher scrutiny than white quarterbacks. Younger black quarterbacks around the league politely downplayed that opinion, but Keyshawn Johnson, of all people, raised an interesting point: Every quarterback undergoes incredible scrutiny, he said, but never for the same reasons. McNabb happens to get a constant earful about race. It is, unfortunately, the way his particular scrutiny is manifest.
 
Every hockey player is going to draw negative attention from peers for one reason or another—falls down too easily, skates too well for this league, gets away with checking ‘cause he sucks so much he can’t stop. But instead of complaints about girls getting the breaks, I just wish from time to time I heard, “Those damn refs take it so easy on that awkward native Floridian.”