Sexism and the All-Star Fantasy Draft


Dreams really do come true.

Last night the NHL held the All-Star Fantasy Draft for the second time. While it gives adult fans an opportunity to play Statler and Waldorf on Twitter after each pick, it is really meant for the children. As last year’s Guardian Project demonstrated, the NHL sees the All-Star game as an opportunity to sell the game to its younger fans.  The Fantasy Draft sent a very sexist message to those kids last night.

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Young fans, boys and girls alike, tune into the draft to see their favourite players and which team they get drafted to. James Duthie specifically mentioned that the idea behind the draft is to evoke the memories of when the players were young, “tossing sticks into the middle, choosing Captains, and picking teams.” Kids watching at home can imagine themselves up on stage being drafted and putting on an All-Star sweater. Well the boys can. If you’re a young female hockey fan your options for daydreaming are slightly more limited. You can imagine yourself on-stage, dressed in tights and heels silently handing each player their sweater.

There were exactly three women visibly involved in the Fantasy Draft: the two aforementioned sweater shuttles, and Alyonka Larionov. Alyonka was relegated backstage to read off tweets that the Athletes were sending during the draft.

Being a man I’m obviously not the most qualified to speak on these things. And I don’t presume to speak for an entire gender, but what I saw last night bothered me. Female hockey fans have it tough. Their opinions are often marginalized due to their gender and the assumption that they are “Puck Bunnies” who only follow the sport because they have a crush on every player.

Watching last night’s coverage of the draft suggested that TSN feels the same way. While it may not have been TSN’s intention to use Alyonka solely as “eye candy” a quick scan of her mentions on Twitter show that many male viewers did.

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Fantastic stuff there. 

This may not bother you; it may not even bother Alyonka Larionov. Adults can decide for themselves what they find offensive or objectionable. Children cannot. To the boys and girls watching at home last night the NHL sent a very strong message: female hockey fans and their opinions are not to be taken seriously. Female hockey analysts and reporters are under-represented in the MSM. There are many excellent female bloggers who are passionate about the game and offer insightful commentary. They have no representaton on nights like this. I don’t think that’s right. 

What’s worse is that girls watching at home dreaming of playing in the All-Star game one day were given two choices for when they grow up: handing out sweaters or reading tweets. 


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  • Danny Gray

    The, so far, overwhelming response by females supporting your article and demanding equitable treatment must bring a tear to your eye. It appears that you certainly have your finger on the pulse of the hockey world and an insightful grasp on the issues that matter to the fans of hockey. Population of Gray World….one.

  • Thanks for writing this.

    It’s a sad reality that messages of discrimination and oppression will always be taken more seriously when delivered by a straight white male.

    This is nothing new, although people (who aren’t women) being bothered by it might be. It’s the same thing in martial arts: in North America, UFC is king, and with no women’s division, no female referees or commentators, only ringgirls in bikinis, their message is clear: women are not allowed *inside* the octagon, and their only value & worth lie in their youth, beauty and sexuality.

    That seems to be the message in sports in general, though. From female reporters and journalists who actually get air time to the obligation to wear skirts in some sports (badminton, olympic boxing) to the abomination that is lingerie football… sports are clearly still marketed, owned and run according to a patriarchal system.

    There isn’t a whole lot we can do: none of us want to stop watching sports or going to games. We LOVE sports. I mean jeez, women still have a hard time finding jerseys and hats that aren’t pink bedazzled and sparkly. That’s not to say no one wants that; it’s just that we’re put inside a box by the NHL, without nuance or appreciation for women as humans. Women are seen as body props, accessories and eye candy.

    So I guess what we can do is keep calling out this behavior when we see it, and I think the blogging community is pretty damn good at that, but also supporting women who are involved in sports, and just in general not describing women in gendered ways. It might not seem like much, but at least it’s *something*.

    Thanks again — not for being bothered by sexism and the misrepresentation of women, but for speaking up about it. A lot of the good guys remain silent about this stuff. It’s enough. So thanks.