This is something that started to bother me when it Noora Raty announced that she was going to retire from international hockey, perhaps hockey in general if she can’t secure a professional deal. Raty, a meagre 24-years of age with her best years still ahead of her, both in life and between the pipes. I don’t wish to knock women’s hockey, but while there are talented players, there is not a professional league in north America where the best of the best could compete against one another, which is a shame. There is a professional women’s league in Russia and I only heard about it when Raty went there to play a few games before the Olympics.
Raty could potentially be one of the best goalies at the moment (regardless of the gender tag) and is vying for a professional contract with a men’s team. She had a stint in the Russian women’s league, but feels that the level of competition would not push her forward as a player. The obvious stigma is similar to what Hayley Wickenheiser faced when she signed played with Mestis and Suomi-Sarja teams. Can women be competitive in a men’s league? Where an outfield player might be out muscled, or sized by a man, if she is skilled enough, surely they deserve a shot?
Signing Raty to a professional try out contract or a professional contract would not be a PR stunt from a team. Signing Raty means that the team is serious about her and the opportunities to succeed Raty would provide the team.
The way I see it is that regardless of gender and if a player is capable of meeting the demands of a league and competition they should have a shot at playing at the highest possible level. In case of women – and I don’t wish to sound sexist – they have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to meet the physical aspects of the game. Surely a player that is committed to make those levels of sacrifices for a professional career deserves a shot? Obviously there are arguments for and against women’s role in men’s hockey, but from my point of view I don’t have a problem with it. I have played on teams and against teams where we have had women in the roster. The women I have played with have been equally treated. Some changed in the same room as the guys, even if they were offered a private room. They felt that way they were part of the team.
Few summers ago I was skating with a women’s team in the lead up to the season and I tell you, they really put me through my paces and during scrimmages I had to fight for every puck.
“Women’s hockey doesn’t matter” – I call bullshit!
That was a comment by some irrelevant mouthpiece that considers himself as a mouthpiece for hockey, that said that women’s hockey doesn’t matter and usually I let things slide, but this really struck a chord with me. Mainly because my wife plays and as a Finn we have enjoyed success on the international stage in the Women’s game.
The comment may have been attention seeking, but when you think about it, women’s hockey does matter. I have seen some great women’s games on the international stage and on the grass roots level. In another ‘golden nugget’ from this mouthpiece said that he had held this view for 25 years, a clear indication that said person has not gotten on with the times.
Women’s hockey has some of the most fierce rivalries, just as the men’s game. While there are nations that are still developing their women’s programmes and there are skills gaps between nations, given the time things will develop. Look at countries like Slovenia in the men’s games. Through dedicating enough resource to the game will ultimately lead to a balanced competition. Just because there are few countries stronger than the others is not a valid reason to say that the women’s game doesn’t matter. Some of the top women’s national teams could give a men’s pro or semi pro team a good run for their money.
The women’s game has as big of a place on the hockey map as the men’s game.