Many rules and regulations in sports differ depending on which gender is on the playing field.
In volleyball, the net is lower for women (7 feet, 4 inches) than it is for men (8 feet). The same goes for basketball. This is justified because on average women tend to be several inches shorter than men.
Women in professional golf play on shorter courses than the men do. That’s because the average driving distance on the LPGA tour is just over 40 yards shorter than the PGA tour’s.
What wouldn’t be vindicated is if in basketball, women weren’t allowed to jump when they shot like the men do. It wouldn’t make sense if men were given carts while playing golf and women had to walk the course. How would you explain having a regular volleyball for men, but making the women play with a 15-pound medicine ball?
But in all competitive levels of hockey – minor, professional, college or Olympic – bodychecking is encouraged in men’s and it is banned in women’s.
Yeah, that seems fair.
The main reason there’s no bodychecking in girl’s hockey is because we, as a people, are socially flawed. Boys are seen as tough, aggressive individuals who should “suck it up” when they get hurt. Their female counterparts are looked upon as dainty, fragile souls that shouldn’t play in the mud or fight because “that’s what boys do.”
Not allowing there to be bodychecking in girls’ hockey simply because they aren’t boys is a subtle sexist attribute that hockey associations around the world continue to maintain.
An uneducated argument that attempts to hinder the presence of bodychecking is that there would be a huge increase of injuries.
First off, if that’s your complaint, then why not make the same argument for boys’ hockey?
This statement is completely untrue. If anything, it would be easier to decrease injuries from bodychecking in girls’ hockey than it would be from boys’ hockey. It’s scientifically proven that girls start puberty earlier than boys and therefore mature faster, making it a whole lot easier to teach them the proper way to deliver a good hockey hit.
The reason for most injuries in boys’ hockey is because of dirty hits and reckless collisions. If it’s easier to rule out injuries directly involved by improper hits in girl’s hockey, then why the worry?
Another common argument is that introducing bodychecking to girls would scare them away from the game.
Once again, not true.
Just like there are in boys’ hockey, girls’ hockey has a competitive level and a recreation level. It’s simple. Just like boys’ hockey does, add bodychecking to the competitive level and negate it at the recreational level. Parents and players can have the option of going into the recreational level if bodychecking isn’t quite their thing.
Professional Leagues & Colleges
Plain and simple, women’s professional hockey leagues are almost non-existent and at the college level, they barely ever get the same attention as the men do.
The WNBA is becoming more and more prominent in the U.S., the LPGA continues to exponentially grow and NCAA sports like softball and volleyball are being televised a heck of a lot more often. Though, women’s hockey only seems to be a hit when the Winter Olympics are approaching.
Making the game more exciting is exactly what enabling the bodycheck could do. Without it, the games have turned into penalty-filled, stop-and-go games.
“I like it when they let us play. Nobody wants to see a game of power plays and penalties.” – Angela Ruggiero, U.S. Defenceman. (The Globe and Mail)
Because of the lack of hitting, women’s hockey features an abundance of stick infractions. And what else should we expect? The defencemen have their hands tied. The only way they can seem to strip their opponents from the puck is by using their stick. It becomes a competition of who’s the best at Operation.
The most penalized action in women’s hockey, behind hooking and tripping, is bodychecking.
They’re already doing it. Just make it legal.
Not Ready for the International Stage
The women’s hockey we’ve been treated to over the years has been nothing but great competition filled with dramatic flair. The only problem is, the only games that contain those elements are when Canada and the U.S. face off. Which is two times every tournament, if we’re lucky.
International tournaments just aren’t ready for a game involving bodychecking. The competition is too lopsided.
In 1990, the first ever IIHF Women’s World Championship was held in Ottawa. To date, it is the only international women’s tournament that has included bodychecking.
At the time, women’s hockey in Europe was played with bodychecking and thinking they would gain a slight advantage against the North American teams, the Europeans actually requested for the tournament to have bodychecking.
Accompanied by the pure physical domination, Canada and the U.S. combined won five games by a margin of 13 goals or more. The biggest win of the tournament was Canada’s 18-0 annihilation of Japan.
After the tournament was completed, the IIHF banned bodychecking in women’s hockey and has kept it that way ever since.
It’s unfortunate, but Canada and the U.S. need to wait for other countries to improve before bodychecking is allowed back in by the IIHF. Russia, Finland and Sweden are continuing to inch closer to the North American compete level, but we’re still years away from any respectable competitiveness on the European side.
Would I like to see hitting in international play? More than anything. But there have been numerous rumours of women’s hockey being taken out of the Olympics because the competition isn’t equal enough.
I don’t think enabling the Canadians and Americans to literally “squash the competition” is going to help that right now.
You show me one person who doesn’t think women should be able to throw a bodycheck, and I’ll show you a hundred who disagree.
But it’s not just the fans who want it. It’s the people inside the game, too.
“I’d freaking love to hit. You don’t know how frustrating it is. Players’ heads are down all the time and all I can do is poke-check.” – Angela Ruggiero. (The Globe and Mail)
“I just think it’s so old-fashioned to say ‘Girls can do this, but they can’t do that, Women are doing the full Ironman [triathlon]. So what’s this about women not being able to do what men can?” – Peter Elander, former Swedish National coach. (The Globe and Mail)
Maybe bodychecking in women’s hockey isn’t ready to be implemented at international play, but there’s no reason not to introduce it to minor hockey, professional or college levels. Why not include it when Canada and the U.S. play an exhibition game?
You wonder why we hear countless stories of Canadian and American women who have excelled at the semi-professional and professional level of men’s hockey. It’s because they have the ability to play a physical game.
The women, they want to be able to hit.
* originally published in Feb. 2015