The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Calgary feminist scholar Maki Motapanyane states that until leaders step up and make a structural change, nothing will happen to correct the inequality between the men’s and women’s university hockey teams in Calgary.

The Crowchild Classic features back-to-back games between the University of Calgary Dinos and the Mount Royal University Cougars men’s and women’s hockey teams. For six years in a row since the Crowchild Classic first started, the men’s game has received the early evening time slot while the women have played in the afternoon.

As a women and gender studies professor at MRU, Motapanyane says in order to see any sort of change in our sporting systems, there needs to be a cultural shift.

“That cultural shift will not happen through awareness raising of these inequalities. There has to be a will across the board to start doing things differently. We have to see a change in practice,” she said.

Women’s forward Jordan Finnie says alternating ice times would be the right thing to do.

“The Crowchild ice times should be switched each year to make it fair,” says Finnie.

The Crowchild Classic is the most attended sporting event between the MRU Cougars and the U of C Dinos. According to the U of C Dino’s website, the combined attendance at the Jan. 25, 2018 games was 10,478. While there was no breakdown of the numbers between the games, the Saddledome was packed for the men’s game.

Womens Hockey LoganMens Hockey KateThe MRU women's game on Jan. 25 severely lacked attendance (Top) compared to the MRU men's game held later that same evening (Bottom). Photos by Amy Simpson & Logan Peters. 

“This pattern starts early, and by the time we get to university sports, it is already solidly in place. This happens all the time in athletics, and perpetuates a gendered inequality in sports. It is supported by funders, which is why the university continues to perpetuate it even as it claims to be supportive of women's athletics and women's equality in education more broadly,” said Motapanyane.

Men’s team bring in high numbers securing concession sales

The event’s success relies on high attendance rates in order to drive concession sales at the Saddledome. Higher concessions go the Calgary Flames who staff the event and charge nothing for the venue rental.

“The reality is our attendance for men's hockey outweighs all other teams,” said Karla Karch, director of Cougar Athletics and Recreation.

Katya Sodamin, marketing coordinator for Cougar Athletics and Mount Royal’s lead organizer for the Saddledome Crowchild Classic game, adds that the Calgary Flames are generous partners that allow both universities to organize and pull off the event free of cost.

“At the end of the day we are players of that event and [the Flames] are running it for us,” Sodamin said.

Sodamin sits on a committee consisting of representatives from U of C, MRU and the Calgary Flames. While time slots have previously been discussed, she said the committee has not seen it possible to switch the order of games so far due to the fact the event is free of cost for the universities and student attendees.

Karch adds that the teams are playing in the Flames’ domain therefore, their voice should be respected.

The Calgary Journal has requested a comment from the Flames Foundation. Andrea Ranson, the university’s director of communication said the Flames are cooperative partners however they do not get overly involved in the decision making process.

The underlying issue between gender and sports

Systematic gender beliefs in sports tend to result in more opportunities for men in comparison to women.

Karch acknowledges the issue is far larger than MRU and cannot be tackled overnight.

“As long as I’m the director, we will always consider equity,” she said.

Sodamin said Cougars athletics promotes the Crowchild Classic as a single event and does its best to ensure advertising opportunities are equal across the board.

“Especially this year we’ve actually done more arguably for the women’s team than the men’s team,” Sodamin said.

Despite MRU’s attempt to bring more exposure to the women’s team, Finnie sees room for improvement.

“The reality is our attendance for men's hockey outweighs all other teams.” -- Karla Karch

Mount Royal executive Lesley Brown was asked to respond, but a spokesperson said she wasn’t available and that Cougars Athletics was the right organization to contact.

The Calgary Journal also contacted the athletic department at U of C who did not respond.

Fans have mixed reaction

On the Facebook group, MRU Sociables, student Evan Trotchie, who attended the January event asked a pointed question.

“Why is it that only a third of the crowd showed up to the girl’s hockey team but as soon as the guys came on, all the seats were filled?”

Graham Esau responded, “Every sport is like that. It's because men are physically stronger and faster than women, it makes for more interesting entertainment.”

This is a common misjudgement in female sports.

While the Crowchild Classic decisions committee will continue discussing time slots, it is unlikely that the teams will switch ice times unless there is a staggering spike in attendance at the women’s afternoon game.

Even though her team will most likely be playing during their annual time next year, Finnie says young girls and women in the hockey community need to keep pushing for change.

“Stand up for yourself. If you won’t, no one will. Call out inequality and fight for equality. It can get extremely frustrating but use that fuel to promote change,” said Finnie.

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