Vulgar Opinions: The NHL DOES Have A Vested Interest In A Women’s Hockey League
I was browsing through the HF Boards’ Olympic hockey subsection and despite the fact that HF continues its systemic misogyny by sticky-ing the Men’s schedule and not the Women’s the discussions on Women’s hockey that occur in the appropriate threads are actually pretty good. One of the things that stood out to me was this comment:
Not to pick on Krut here, but they’re dead wrong. Women have already played in professional Men’s leagues, including the NHL. A Women’s league absolutely has a chance of developing NHL-capable prospects. That having been said, it’s foolish to think that “economic benefit” is limited to developing future players.
The estimated populations for the United States and Canada are approximately 352 million and climbing. Roughly half of those people are female and according to the United States Census Bureau’s 2012 study on Age and Sex Composition in the United States, approximately 30 million of those women are between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, when most people begin and then define their sports fandom.
I would call engaging those women as new fans, in layperson’s terms, a serious economic benefit, especially since the NHL lags behind in female fandom vs. male fandom. (I’m assuming the columns in that link go in order of the text above (and that there is a typo in their first sentence) since they didn’t label them worth a sh*t, which makes the NHL fan split 58.7% – 41.3% in favor of men.) It doesn’t matter which of those columns is the NHL’s because they all show that they lag behind in engaging a demographic that is only less predisposed to following sports because men rigged the system that way from the beginning and Title IX can only undo so much of the damage.
The catch-22s are all over the place. Networks don’t televise or report on Women’s sports because they don’t get ratings. They don’t get ratings because women (and men) don’t follow them because they’re never televised or reported on. Women don’t get broadcasting jobs because men are used to hearing men call games. Men are used to men calling games because women never get broadcasting jobs. (You could probably repeat these for virtually any minority that has been legally or systemically pushed out of sports.)
Successful businesses can largely be put into two categories: being completely unique in the services or goods that are offered, or being the best at offering a common service or good. There is an enormous economic benefit to being the first sport or the first league to consider female athletes as equal to their male counterparts and to treat them as such. The NHL supporting a competitive Women’s Hockey League alongside the NHL stands almost no chance of decreasing the amount of male fans and a very good chance of increasing the amount of female fans. That has benefits for the NHL both because it would own a proposed WNHL, and because some of those fans would no doubt also be or become fans of the NHL (and vice-versa). It has benefits for USA Hockey because it would increase youth participation. It has benefits for the competitiveness of Women’s hockey as a whole, especially if coming to the United States and Canada to play professionally is a viable option for women overseas
And, most importantly, it has enormous benefits for women.