Winnipeg girls cut from hockey team

As a final follow up on the story of the Pasternak twins from Winnipeg, the girls received news this week that the were cut from the team. To refresh the stories I’ve blogged about previously, this past June Amy and Jesse Pasternak have spent the past few months arguing to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission that they should be allowed to try out for the senior boys team at their school. Last week, the HRC returned their decision, allowing the girls to try out for this year’s team. After going through the same tryout procedure as 25 other players, the Pasternak’s were cut, along with 9 other boys trying out for the team.

I added that last bit, because I think its important to remember that these were nothing more than hockey tryouts. 27 players skated for a few days in front of a few coaches, scrimmaging and running drills. Of those 27 players, it was always clear that 11 of them would go away, unable to compete with the 16 who were chosen, for whatever reasons the coaches happened to see. The fact that, this year, 2 of the 11 players cut happened to be girls is interesting from some perspectives, perhaps, but from a hockey perspective, all that happened was that 11 people were cut from tryouts.

Now that the girls have been cut, many people used that to try and reinforce old gender rules, to question the decision to allow the girls to try out. Jose Rodreguez, a columnist with the Calgary Sun, talked yesterday about the ‘failures’ of other women to play at the elite male level, using the ‘failures’ of the Pasternak twins to strike another blow to the notion that men and women are incapable of competing with each other. He brought up the 14 year old memory of the Manon Rheaume PR move by the Tampa Bay Lightning, noting that “She gave up two goals on nine shots during her pre-season game as part of the Tampa Bay Lightning.” He goes on to sneer that no other woman has played in the NHL since, but he fails to give us a list of other goalies who have let in 2 goals in 9 shots during their pre-season NHL debut. My guess is, there are PLENTY of male goalies who have withered under the pressure, unable to stop a single shot at the NHL level, sent packing from training camp with their heads hung low, having been given a TRUE taste of big league shots … no one suggests that because of their performance, their gender be held responsible.

Ms. Rheaume will perhaps forgive me for saying that although she was the first woman to play in the NHL, she won’t be the best. In 1992, she was the product of a painfully stunted girls hockey program, which barely existed in those days. While she was an extremely talented natural player, she didn’t have the same opportunities to play and develop that a male goalie of her ability would have been given. Yet, she did an incredible job with what she had, and while there’s little doubt she won the tryout as much for PR as for ability, a certain level of ability was necessary to even consider putting her on the ice. And in the end, she let in 2 goals on 9 shots, certainly not a stellar performance, but hardly a disgrace either … sure, she was no Ken Dryden or Patrick Roy, but how many men who make it to the try-outs turn out to be Ken, or Patrick?

Jose Rodreguez almost begs us “For the love of God, turn off the gender blender” to lead off his editorial. He wants to hide a simple fact about hockey by waving gender issues in your face. He brings up Rheaume, and golfer Wie, for the purpose of redirection, so that we won’t ask him the obvious question … when did hockey become about gender, and not about stickhandling, skating, and scoring? The decision by the Manitoba HRC this past week didn’t really have anything to do with gender … it was about ensuring that in the future, the 27 best players in the school would be allowed to try out for the elite team at the school, regardless of race, gender, or any other arbitrary factor.

There is certainly a place for gender specific training in schools, in systems such as house leagues that are designed to work with marginally talented students … that allows participation by everyone who wants to participate. But at the elite level, sport is about execution, and nothing more. As a hockey coach, your ONLY criteria in selecting a goalie should be the ability to stop pucks … if you find someone who can keep a .999 save percentage throughout the year, you shouldn’t need to ask if they are a boy or girl.

By all accounts, the Pasternak’s had the skill level to try out for the elite team … the fact they were cut doesn’t say otherwise, unless you also argue the 9 boys cut with them didn’t deserve to be there either. If allowing the best players in a school, without ANY restriction, to compete for its elite teams damages the development of female sports, we need top find a way to correct that. But ultimately, hockey is really only about one thing … hockey skills. If you can skate fast, and shoot the puck, if you have lightning fast reflexes to block a shot and leap on the rebound, you should be able to try out at the elite level, whatever its called … to deny that is to deny the whole idea behind competitive sports. Talent and ability is all that matters. What’s hanging between your legs shouldn’t matter … all that should matter is whether you can put the puck in the net, or keep it out.


One Response

  1. I believe that what the Pasternak twins have done is wrong and insulting. I have played female hockey most of my life and it is growing and developing the skill level and opportunity it has for girls with the drive and ability to persue it. Many of my friends that I played with over the years have since gone on to play at provincial and national levels or get scouted by elite universities all over the globe. I can fully relate to the twins wanting to play at as high a level as they possibly can but if they think that that means playing for a boys high school hockey team is that then they need to give their heads a shake. University and college scouts do NOT look for female players to recruit by watching male high school teams. Further more if their “ultimate goal” was to make Team Manitoba or even better Team Canada they are going about it all wrong. Playing high school hockey prohibits a player from even TRYING OUT for those teams. I have seen the WKCI guys team play against my own WCI boys team and they aren’t that hot. On top of that I know for a most definate fact that some of the previous ‘AA’ female teams I have played with in the past could blow many boys high school teams out of the water. No question. All the Pasternak twins have done is insult the talent of female hockey players around the globe. If they didn’t think that their own girls hockey team was “good enough” (which I highly doubt since that teams goalie was my goalie last season and we went on to the finals of the league) then why didn’t they try out for female AA, an elite league that has scouts showing up from all over Canada, the US and Europe. They would never get any exposure for those opportunities playing with the boys. WKCI is also a team within the C division, which I have learned coming from a school that is also an example of what the ‘C’ division has to offer, is basically a joke. How many bodychecks you get is more important to those players than how many goals you score. Good luck girls playing against 250 pound guys with no conscience who just want to see you carried out of the rink on a stretcher. It is ridiculous to compare Manon Rheaume to these girls. As you said in your article, she didn’t have the resources or opportunites that girls have today as girls hockey was still a young player in the sport world. I believe that girls can play with the boys when it comes to ability, speed, agility and overall skill, but when it comes to game situations we don’t stand chance in size or body weight which, lets face it, is HUGE in the male hockey world. In closing, I hope that the appeal goes through against these girls as they have insulted a game I have prided myself in being involved in since I was 10 years old. I’d like to see the goalie stop a shot by Jodi Charison, a GIRL I played with years ago who got a full ride to the University of Conneticut or the defenseman stop a one on one brought on by Laura Fridfinnson, another GIRL I played with and against who is now ranked in the top 70 players in the whole country. To Jesse and Amy, all you have done is burn bridges and opportunites that if you realy were “that good” at the sport could have taken you places.

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