A Not So Good Day For Women’s Hockey: What Were the Canadian Women Thinking?

26 02 2010

Canada's Meghan Agosta (2) and Jayna Hefford (16) celebrate with cigars after Canada beat USA 2-0 to win the gold medal.

So I woke up this morning still thinking about the gold medal women’s hockey game between USA and Canada. What a great game! Before I could fully open my eyes and drink half a cup of coffee, one blog reader alerted me to the breaking story and pictures of the Canadian women celebrating on the ice after the arena had cleared. At first I thought she was referring to the fans celebrating with cigars and beer, not the player’s themselves. After I’d woken up a bit and clicked on the link she sent (Thanks Cindy!) I thought I was having a nightmare! What were the Canadian women thinking? Is this a way to portray one’s sport and your team? Here is a full slide show of the “celebration”. These pictures are really quite unbelievable for so many reasons, the least of which is that one of the players is under the legal drinking age (Poulin. Follow up: In Poulin’s providence the legal drinking age is 18, in BC it is 19).

I suppose one could make the argument that men do this, so this can be seen as progress for women’s sport, but that is a real stretch. Obviously athletes–male and female alike– celebrate when they win big games, but this type of public celebration in an Olympic venue is just not appropriate. Celebrations of this type typically happen (and should happen), in the locker room, or at a night club, or in private. I get the athletes were excited and proud to win the gold over their biggest rival, and win in their own country…but this is disrespectful to Canada, hockey, women’s hockey, their teammates who weren’t there,  coach, and the Olympics in general.  It certainly is not good for women’s sport! If I thought women being sexualized on the cover of Sports Illustrated was bad for women’s sport, I’m not sure where this ranks! I’m really stunned.

I’m not against women smoking cigars (to each her own), although I’m sure this will be critiqued by many because cigar smoking is typically thought of a male activity and not “ladylike” (and remember the male commentator throughout the game referred to the women as “ladies”). Also, I’m not saying I believe it to be ladylike or unladylike. That isn’t my point, like I said, to each her own.  However, if you are a gold medal Olympian and want to smoke a cigar, drink champagne or beer or double fist it, don’t do it on the ice of an Olympic venue (regardless of if you are male or female!). I do wonder, as have others, what the reaction would be if male athletes engaged in the same behaviors?

I also wonder how long it will take people to start with homophobic/lesbian/dyke comments and speculation (in fact it has already started). Remember it is a common pattern of marginalization that whenever females are great athletes, and particularly when they play a sport characterized by strength, speed, & power which encroaches upon activities traditionally and historically only reserved for/associated with males (like sport/hockey, and cigar smoking) they are usually immediately labelled lesbian. Pay close attention to how the media will construct this event in addition to the public reaction.

Lastly, these pictures are going to be seen by thousands of young girls and boys, who look up to these great athletes as role models. We somehow construct female athletes as better candidates for positive and “family friendly” role models than male professional athletes, so when “girls behave badly” or out of character to this prescribed norm, the outcry is loud and swift. What makes me sad is this lapse in judgment will probably forever taint their great play. They are now at risk to be remembered, not for their great play on the ice, but for the partying that ensued after the horn blew. What an opportunity lost.

Note: Read the Byline To Finish Line blog as well which outlines some similar perspectives, but raises other issues pertaining to this event.



8 responses

26 02 2010
dave c.

I have to agree with you that this probably will do some harm for women’s sports, which is too bad. I have nothing but sympathy for athletes who make bad decisions(and in the scheme of things this isn’t that bad a decision) while celebrating a win. We’ve all been there. They do look like they’re having a good time don’t they? And that makes me smile.

26 02 2010

Good afternoon Nicole (long-time, first-time),

Do you think that your post (particularly the bits about alcohol) is a particularly American, even Americanist, attitude towards the post-gold medal celebration?

The whole lesbian/dyke meme is not something that should be laid on the Canadian hockey players. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this meme is common and probably will likely be in circulation whether beer and cigars are involved or not, no?

It is not any individual player’s job or team’s job to circumscribe their behavior to allay heterosexist, prejudiced, and ignorant accusations. Nor is it their responsibility to bring their behavior into some sort of hetero-normative or gender-normative compliance. In fact, the more those sorts of expectations can be broken down, the better. I actually appreciated the joy that is evident in the Canadian team’s post-game celebration.

The Canadian women won gold – the biggest game of the year (or the quadrennial – there is no real equivalent of Lord Stanley’s Cup for women). They celebrated – and they celebrated in the context of a long standing tradition of Canadian hockey which they grew up watching and playing.

As for the Olympic Committee looking into the celebration, I honestly don’t think that they have an ethical leg to stand on, especially after the disgusting manner that they blamed Nodar Kumaritashvili for his own death (for more on the Olympic committee – http://www.progressive.org/zirin022510.html).

26 02 2010

That’s a good celebration to have off camera.

26 02 2010

Great post and thanks for the shout! I am sorry it will likely be their legacy, but undoubtedly people will learn from this.

27 02 2010

For a counter view and one that you’ll find reflected across Canada today…

27 02 2010

Thanks for providing this perspective! I was aware the perceptions of the team’s actions were very different in the US than in Canada. Admittedly, in the US the reaction was a bit xenophobic. I appreciate you taking the time to post this link. -nml

1 03 2010

I have to say, this is similar to the Vonn controversy – the more we dwell on their celebration, the less attention their performance gets. In continually damning their celebration as unsportsmanlike we are manifesting our own disapointment, and detracting from their talent. We don’t want the celebration to be their legacy, but guess what? The more it is picked apart, the more it will become just that. Yes, it was unprofessional. Yes, at the Olympics, it should have been done off camera. But my god, they are human and…they just WON GOLD. THAT is what’s important. They got their scolding…enough. I firmly believe if this were a men’s team, the general public would be smiling a bemused smile and giving each other “ah shucks!” pats on the back. We should be doing so for the women, and that we are not is where the unfairness really shows.

2 03 2010

Emily- Your point is well taken! Thanks for offering your perspective. I agree that we should be primarily celebrating the great play of two great teams. The End. -nml

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