A few months ago, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced that it would be inducting three women hockey players into the IIHF Hall of Fame. While it is overdue, it Is a big step forward for a sport that is relatively young on the world stage (the first women’s hockey World Championships were held in 1990).
But, while the IIHF should be commended, the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto should be scolded. It is absolutely ludicrous that there are no females inducted as players. The Hall in Toronto does have a space for women’s hockey accomplishments and their TSN broadcast booths in the Hall of Fame also have women’s hockey highlights to announce.
The biggest misconception about most Hall of Fames, whether it be baseball, football, basketball or hockey is that it is not a Hall of Fame for the professional league, in this case the NHL. It is a Hall of Fame for hockey. The football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio is actually the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but isn’t limited to the NFL. Last I checked, they didn’t call it women’s hockey for nothing.
After all, if you had to play in the NHL to be inducted, then why is Vladislav Tretiak an inductee? What about Valeri Kharlamov?
People involved in the decision process are such hypocrites; it’s hard to put into words. Women’s sports, not just hockey, are stuck in a vicious cycle that makes it hard for them to grow. The powers-that-be aren’t as serious about women’s sports, so the fans aren’t as passionate about it and then the powers-at-be use the general fan’s disinterest as a reason why they aren’t serious about it.
So when the IIHF announced that Angela James (who is known as the Wayne Gretzky of women’s hockey), Geraldine Heaney and former Concordia Stinger Cammi Granato were to be inducted at this year’s IIHF Men’s World Championships in Quebec city, it should have come as a wake-up call to the voters at the HHOF in Toronto.
Probably the biggest problem is the Hall’s own by-laws. Under the admission requirements stated on their website, it clearly states a player “must have concluded his career as an active player for a minimum of three playing seasons.”
Times have changed, however the selection committee, which is a who’s who of the NHL probably doesn’t realize it.
“I am immensely happy that we have reached the phase in hockey history when we rightfully can induct women to the player’s category,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “Almost two decades have passed since we started with the IIHF World Women’s Championship and the first pioneers have retired which means that the selection committee could, with perspective, evaluate their contributions to the game.”
The pioneers of the game have helped make the game what it is right now. Women’s hockey leagues around the world are growing and the game, while in its mainstream infancy, is definitely taking off.
Women’s hockey international competitions were usually a battle between the United States and Canada. In fact, no other nation has ever won a gold medal. However, at the 2006 Olympics, Sweden dethroned the United States in an upset win, and finished up with the silver medal after losing to Canada.
Concordia University had a connection in that game as well, because former Stinger Cecilia Anderson was on the Swedish national team.
Led by former director of athletics Theresa Humes and others, including current women’s hockey coach Les Lawton, Concordia has taken women’s hockey seriously and played a tremendous role in making the game what it is today.
For the game to continue to grow, however, everybody involved – from the media to the IIHF and everyone in between – has to make a bigger deal about women’s hockey and not just every four years at the Olympics and not just at the World Championships.
So, next year when the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto gets ready to induct its next great class, the obvious names like Adam Oates and Doug Gilmour will be brought up for consideration. It would be a shame if Angela James, and other pioneers of the women’s game weren’t brought up as well.
And if that leaves the fans saying “Who?” then it’s obvious that the media and others involved aren’t doing a very good job of recognizing the sport.
A simple change in the selection committee’s by-laws wouldn’t hurt, either.