Columnists, Ice Hockey, Sports

CUMMINGS: W. hockey's success merits attention

What an amazing season our women’s hockey team is having this year. It took me awhile to come around (and by “awhile,” I mean the entire season. Oops), but I’m here now, and that team  looks downright unstoppable.

Why, you ask, am I just writing about this dominant team now, three games away from the end of the regular season? To be completely honest, other than the fact that I’m completely clueless, I think an explanation can be found in that women’s hockey at BU is constantly playing in the aggressive shadow of the men’s team.

Such is the nature of the beast when you have a perennial top-25 men’s team on campus whose players have a distinct possibility of being drafted into the NHL and are led by an intelligent  and well-liked coach. Couple this with the fact that fanship for women’s college sports is essentially nonexistent, and voila! There’s your women’s hockey team’s following in a nutshell.

Look, I know that most sports fans don’t particularly enjoy watching women’s sports in general, let alone women’s college sports. And that’s fine – devote your sports-watching time as you see fit. I also know that I’ve already complained about this multiple times, so I’ll spare you my reiteration of complaints.

But it’s worth wondering about, isn’t it? On a campus where the women’s team, as far as records are concerned, is clearly the superior squad, shouldn’t that team get the most attention, regardless of gender?

Take a look at some of the statistics, starting with our women’s team. They’re 24-4-3 overall and 14-2-3 in the Hockey East (No. 4 in the country) and hold the top spot in that conference, two games ahead of No. 7 Boston College. Five of the top 10 Hockey East scoring leaders are players from BU, including junior Jenn Wakefield, freshman Marie-Philip Poulin (known as the “female Sidney Crosby,” by the way), graduate student Catherine Ward and seniors Jillian Kirchner and Holly Lorms. They’ve also only been defeated twice at home, meaning the home fans are essentially guaranteed to go home happy at the end of the night.

The men’s team is a different story. They’re 14-8-7 overall and 11-5-5 in their conference, and are fourth in their division behind No. 1 Boston College, No. 8 New Hampshire and No. 6 Merrimack. Meanwhile, every player in the top 10 scoring leaders hails from a school not named BU.

The women’s squad may not win a head-to-head matchup with the men’s, but they definitely win games more frequently, meaning they should gain popularity, right? Not necessarily, because a lot of people (including myself) spend more time wondering what’s wrong with the men’s team than focusing on what the women’s team done right.

Now I’ll be the first one to admit  that I’ve never watched a women’s hockey game, so maybe I’m missing out on something that makes it exceptionally less entertaining than a men’s game.  I have, however, watched plenty of professional and college men’s hockey teams play, and I know that violence is an inherent part of the game that, by all accounts, makes the sport that much more exciting.

Checking, a large part of men’s college hockey, isn’t legal at any level of women’s hockey, taking some of the violence out of the game. As sad as it makes me to admit it, the most dominant interest in sports comes from the male gender, meaning that their interests and desires, as far as what they want out of a sporting event goes, are the most sought-after demographic by networks like ESPN.

Why exactly is this relevant? Because for some odd reason, male fans get a testosterone high from watching other men hit each other with as much force as humanly possible, meaning  women’s sports that don’t engage in such activities might get the short end of the stick.

It isn’t right, but that’s how it goes in the sports world, and that’s probably how it’ll always be, unless more women miraculously gain an interest in violent sports like hockey and football. (Never going to happen, by the way. Not unless we enact a law in Congress that says every female born child must be brainwashed from the age of five years old until she lives and breathes  football. It’s the only way mutants like me will be a common species in the world.)

So yes, men’s hockey is top dog on this campus, and probably will be for a long time. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a more successful, and possibly more satisfying, women’s team. A couple more seasons like this (and a couple more female Sidney Crosbys), and they could take over BU. I’m certainly on board for that.

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