Once members of the Canadian and American shinny sides collect their shiny gold and silver trinkets tonight in Brampton, those of us who give more than a passing glance toward Ponytail Puck will ask the obvious question.
To wit: What’s next?
Surely it can’t be status quo for women’s professional hockey.
I mean, members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association have been flitting hither and yon for the past four years, participating in glorified scrimmages and dressed up in hamburger chain and bank logos, and their fervent hope has been for the Premier Hockey Federation to make like summer wages. You know, disappear. That, in turn, would inspire the National Hockey League to adopt the PWHPA orphans, and Ponytail Puck would live happily ever after as one Super League.
The PHF (nee National Women’s Hockey League) continues to disappoint the PWHPA by its mere existence, and it recently concluded its eighth season, with the Toronto Six emerging as the first champion north of the Canada-U.S.A. boundary. Most noteworthy, there’s no indication that the seven-team loop is inclined to vamoose and, more to the point, it shall drop the puck again next autumn with a bulked up salary cap ($1.5 million per club) and bulked-up benefits.
The PWHPA, meanwhile, is…well, that’s the mystery.
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League went up in flames on May 1, 2019, and the PWHPA rose from its ashes 18 days later with high chatter of a helter-skelter Dream Gap Tour, but there’s really no there there, unless a bunch of now-dog-eared snapshots with Billie Jean King is a bragging point. In a way, it’s like LIV Golf: When are the tournaments, where are the tournaments and, say, does anyone know if they’re on TV or where we can find them online?
There’s no argument that PWHPA membership represents the elite of Ponytail Puck. All but one player (Rebecca Gilmore of the PHF’s Boston Pride) on the current Canadian and American rosters at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in Brampton are Dream Gappers (or American college kids), but the crème de la crème has nowhere to go once the final buzzer sounds in the gold medal match tonight. Unless it’s back to the drawing board to find a solution to Ponytail Puck’s split personality that’s in “shambles.”
That’s Kendall Schofield Coyne’s word, not mine.
The former U.S. captain made that statement in a natter with the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2019 and, unless the PWHPA has something hidden beneath its bonnet and plans to spring some glad tidings on us post-world tournament, Ponytail Puck will remain in “shambles” with one legit league and one sideshow, both of which will be largely ignored by mainstream media.
Make no mistake, jock journos and their editors have seldom done women’s professional shinny any favors, and a strong case can be made that they ignored the CWHL out of business, a disinterest that did not go unnoticed by league executives.
Calgary Inferno GM Kristen Hagg described her team as “Calgary’s best-kept secret,” and added: “We live in a society where people do not value women’s sport. Most of us have been socialized to accept men’s sport as dominant and somehow automatically more interesting. The problem is that once society internalizes falsehood, it’s not easy to correct it.”
Sami Jo Small, once GM of Toronto Furies and now president of Toronto Six, was singing from the same songbook: “People are supportive of women’s hockey. They love to watch it, but they don’t know how to watch it. That’s one of my biggest battles, to get people to know where to watch these games, how to watch these games, where to buy the tickets, and get them into the venue. Not just watching the Olympics.”
Looks like it’s deja vu all over again.
- When the Six won the PHF title in March, TSN slotted the story into the 40th minute of a 60-minute show, while Sportsnet gave it bottom-feeder play in the 53rd minute.
- In advance of a quarterfinal skirmish between Canada and Sweden on Thursday, the Toronto Sun could only find room for five paragraphs on the hockey game—in its sports briefs package on the 12th page of a 12-page section. It was bunched in with copy on UEFA futbol, NASCAR racing and, get this, an NFL player assaulting a women. (Running copy on women’s hockey together with the assault of a woman is some kind of sick joke or extremely lame news judgment.)
- In a quick scan of sports sections on Our Frozen Tundra yesterday, seven of nine had zero (0, as in zilch, nil, nada) mention of the world tournament, which had entered the semifinal round.
- At the Beijing Olympic Games slightly more than a year ago, Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star delivered this harsh assessment of Ponytail Puck: “Women’s hockey doesn’t belong in the Games. It’s a cheap medal, in no way comparable to the paramountcy that some nations historically enjoy in a specific sport—like the Norwegians and cross-country skiing or Jamaicans and sprinting. There is at least some semblance of competition—gobs of it actually — with scads of elite athletes to make a challenge.” She closed her column with this remark on the U.S.A.-Canada rivalry: “Honestly, I’m getting sick of this mythologized rivalry and everybody else an also-ran.”
Hmmm. It’s either scant press or bad press.
None of this is to say it’s solely on mainstream media to spread the good word, and it’s important to note that the PWHPA doesn’t do Ponytail Puck any favors.
Never mind the hit-and-miss nature of their glorified scrimmages and the great divide they created with the PHF. I called up the Dream Gappers’ website this morning, and the most recent posting is dated March 3, even as a healthy portion of the PWHPA constituency has been front and centre at the World Championship for the past 10 days. What their membership is doing isn’t worth noting?
I’m sorry, but they can’t make mainstream media give a damn if they don’t give a damn themselves.
No matter what’s next for women’s professional hockey, there has to be more to sell than U.S.A.-Canada if the PWHPA membership expects to earn a living wage at their preferred craft.
FYI: If you’re wondering, and you probably aren’t, there are 10 PHF players on rosters at the world tournament.
The female gum flappers on TSN really need to refrain from calling U.S.-Canada the “greatest rivalry in sports.” It’s pure nonsense. Everyone knows the “greatest rivalry in sports” is Tiger Woods’ legal team vs. any of his ex-wives/girlfriends’ lawyers.
Some Masters tournament leftovers: For those of you scoring at home, this is Woods’ scorecard for golf majors since he drove his vehicle into a ditch two years ago:
PGA: Quit after 3 rounds.
U.S. Open: Did not play.
Open Championship: Missed cut.
Masters: Quit in third round.
Did you catch Patrick Cantlay’s slow-poke play at last weekend’s Masters? He took so much time between shots that Aaron Rodgers changed his mind about where to play football next season another dozen times.
I swear, if Moses had been as slow as Cantlay, we’d still be waiting for the last three Commandments.
This from Steve Simmons of Postmedia Tranna: “I do love watching the Masters, but I wonder: Can we edit out the bird chirping that’s heard in the background?” Oh, yes, by all means let’s get those pesky birds to shut the hell up. Perhaps we can take a weed whacker to all the azaleas, too. Good grief.
Just wondering: What does Simmons shout at on those days when there are no clouds in the sky?
I note F1 racing plans to put the brakes on the hazardous practice of team crews climbing the pit wall to wave their cars home. Meanwhile, Toronto Maple Leafs fans are expected to start climbing the walls any day now.
Six teams in Major League Baseball have called for a changeup on beer sales and are now serving into the eighth inning. So we’ve gone from the Juiced Ball Era to the Juiced Fan Era.
I’ve been following and watching baseball since the mid-1950s (go Brooklyn Dodgers!), and I feel obliged to say Shohei Ohtani is the best ballplayer in my lifetime. Go ahead and argue Willie Mays if you like, but the Say Hey kid never did what Shotime is doing.
Department of Dumb: Cody Bellinger of the Chicago Cubs returned to his old haunt, Dodger Stadium in L.A. on Friday night, and the faithful at Chavez Ravine acknowledged their former outfielder/first sacker with a warm ovation. Bellinger stepped out of the batter’s box for no longer than it takes to say “Jackie Robinson,” then home plate umpire Jim Wolf promptly slapped him with a pitch clock violation while the applause continued. Hey, it’s great that the pitch clock has put some lickety-split into MLB games, but this was buffoonish Barney Fife giving Goober a ticket for helping an old lady walk across Main Street in Mayberry.
Some among the rabble wonder why the Winnipeg Blue Bombers continue to make friends while folks are abandoning the Winnipeg Jets. I think it’s quite simple: Sticker price. I mean, you can purchase an 11-game season ticket package to watch Adam Bighill and the Big Blue take another run at the Grey Cup for anywhere from $150 (youth) to $1,209, whereas it’ll set you back $2,554 to $8,002 to watch Logan Stanley lumber around the freeze with the Jets. Do the math.
I don’t know about you, but Mackenzie Zacharias’ retreat from elite curling to pursue “other passions” for at least a year caught me by surprise. Mackenzie, 23, is a rising star among Canada’s Pebble People and she’s already been to two Scotties Tournament of Hearts—one skipping her own Manitoba team and, two months ago, throwing second stones for Jennifer Jones. It’s never good to see our fine, young curlers walk away from the game, but here’s hoping she finds what she’s after.
So tell us, Brent Laing, how do you think you and your bride, the aforementioned J. Jones, will get on at the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship beginning next weekend in South Korea? “I’m old enough to remember what it was like to compete at the world championship and it used to be that Canada could go over and play pretty well and win,” Laing tells Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun. “That’s just not the case anymore. It has nothing to do with Canada being worse. It has everything to do with there being more teams at the top level. There are a handful of teams over there that I know if we play our best, we may still not win. That never used to be the case. If we went and did that 10 years ago, I’m pretty confident our best would beat everybody else’s best. That’s just not the case anymore.” In other words, spare Brent and Jennifer the cheap shots on social media if they come up empty in Korea.
Looking for some curling memorabilia? Well, check out the For the Love of Curling online auction that offers items from nick-nacks to apparel signed by some of our elite Pebble People. Bidding closes at 2 p.m. Eastern on April 23.
Toronto Argos quarterback Chad Kelly has been flapping his gums again, which means we should probably give a listen since Swag’s hot takes are entertaining, even if very self-indulgent (he’s quite fond of himself). Last November, you might recall, he appeared on Pardon My Take and informed the natterbugs that he’s better than “50 per cent” of starting QBs in the NFL. Now, he has an issue with the chump change the Boatmen are paying him. “Obviously, I was on a shit contract and still am,” he says. “I mean, it’s not a shit contract, but it’s all incentive-based. Whereas guys want guaranteed money, guys want base salary. You shouldn’t want to just hit the incentives, you want to make more.” Well, okay, he collected $91,000 last season, plus bonus money, and his haul for the upcoming Canadian Football League crusade will be somewhere between $87,000 and $239,000. That’s for seven months of work. And it’s “shit” pay? Geez, maybe the 36 fans of Rouge Football in the Republic of Tranna can fire up a GoFundMe page for the poor guy. That ought to fetch at least $3.95.
And, finally, out here in Victoria, we count flowers at this time of the year. Back in Good Ol’ Hometown, they count potholes—more than 22,300 filled to date in 2023. Just wondering, do city work crews play The Beatles’ Fixing A Hole as background music when they’re on the business end of a shovel?