Tusinski: CSU’s women’s hockey team deserves your support, not sexism

As someone who grew up playing hockey, I can tell you firsthand that the sport has a real problem with sexism. It’s time we talk about it.

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Collegian | Chloe Leline

Dylan Tusinski, Staff Reporter

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

First and foremost: Yes, Colorado State University has a Division I women’s hockey team, and they’re really good. The team is currently sitting at fourth in the standings with an 8-5-0 record to start the season. They’ve won multiple games with points in the double digits, including a 16-0 blowout against rival University of Wyoming.

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Even with all their success, the team was the subject of sexist harassment that underscores a problematic culture within the hockey community.

During a game against the University of Jamestown in early November, two men showed up with signs attacking the CSU women’s ice hockey team. “NEW GOALIE STILL SUCKS,” one read in all caps. “2300/YEAR TO LOSE,” read another, alluding to the fact that hockey isn’t a recognized sport at CSU, meaning players must pay to play.

The signs were targeted at the CSU players. These grown men showed up at the women’s hockey game and targeted the team in a personal — and frankly sexist — way.

As someone who grew up playing hockey, I can tell you firsthand the sport has a real problem with sexism. It’s time we talk about it.

Hockey is a demographically unique sport. Its fanbase is whiter and more conservative than any other major sport in the United States, according to Morning Consult. Perhaps not surprisingly, hockey and the culture surrounding it are facing retribution regarding racism, homophobia and sexism. Chirping players in-game is common in hockey culture, but there’s a difference between a chirp and a slur.

While all of those are bad in their own right, hockey’s sexism problem is perhaps the most deeply rooted. More than any other sport, hockey has a massive gap between the number of men and women playing the game. USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body within the U.S., reported it had 459,458 registered male players in the 2021-22 season compared to 87,971 female players.

“In the face of the sexism ingrained within the sport, female players need support. Especially at a school that lacks hockey culture like Colorado State University, it’s important to build a community that supports its teams through hardship.”

Those numbers alone both exacerbate and indicate a huge problem within the fabric of the game: Women, apparently, just aren’t welcome.

It’s an issue that’s been seen on both a national and international scale. Just weeks before the signs appeared at the CSU game, it was revealed that Hockey Canada, which governs the sport in Canada, had worked to cover up a sexual assault allegedly committed by its players years ago.

In the U.S., ESPN introduced Leah Hextall as the sport’s first female national play-by-play announcer. After her first season announcing, she came forward about the violent sexist harassment she endured from hockey fans.

The reports have brought hockey’s cultural problems further into the mainstream, with women hockey players coming forward to publicize and call out the toxic behavior in the sport.

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Much like the scandals and harassment seen within the sport, the signs at the CSU women’s game are only symptoms of hockey’s underlying issues. Despite each of the team’s players paying large sums of money to play the game they love, the team’s stellar performance and the hardships each player has survived to play collegiate hockey, they were still attacked by a couple of men on the sidelines.

If that’s not the most perfect example of what’s wrong in hockey, I don’t know what is.

In the face of the sexism ingrained within the sport, female players need support. Especially at a school that lacks hockey culture like Colorado State University, it’s important to build a community that supports its teams through hardship. Not only does the CSU’s women’s team deserve support amid sexism, they deserve support for being a flat-out good team.

The Rams will be back home for a set of rivalry games against the University of Wyoming Jan. 27 and 28, 2023, at the Edora Pool Ice Center. It seems like a perfect time to go support the team, if you ask me.

Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @dylantusinski.