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Women watching hockey: An actual guide

 

Oh, hello. Some of you might remember me from such things as "While The Men Watch HNIC segment drawing ire," in which I took down Hockey Night in Canada's inane attempt at getting the female demographic to watch hockey by introducing sex tips and God knows what else into the mix. Women are a pretty large and coveted demographic, so at least people are trying, right? I'd rather them not try if it's going to come across like WTMW or whatever the heck Blueshirts United published (and then promptly un-published).

In case you blinked, they put up a post geared toward women watching hockey for the first time — or as it came across, how to put up with other people around you watching hockey. It was authored by Mirna Mandil, presumably someone with nil background and nil interest. How can I tell that? 

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You need to sense the tension at certain points in the game and let them do their jumping, screaming and cheering thing. You can tell if something huge has happened by their reaction, and if you're absolutely lost, wait for the replay. There's always a replay after a major play.

Still confused? Wait until a penalty or other whistle to ask. The clock stopped so there's a pause in the game, and at this level you won't need to know why a penalty was called anyway (unless there's a fight, which is pretty self-explanatory). Everything else? Not important in your world … yet.

Just read that and let it sink in. "Your world" is different from "their world." You don't need to know things like "penalties" or "why people have the puck." Just sit there and wait for the game to get over. Lie back and think of Manhattan, as the case were. This is a bunch of bunk. If you're a woman and you'd like to get into hockey regardless of the reason, here are things you really need to know, as written by a hockey fan that happens to be a woman.

And yes, I enjoy the game on my own, not because my boyfriend is making me. I've been a fan since I was 8. Women hockey fans who get into the sport on their own do exist, and we're the ones that you ladies who want to learn should really talk to. 

Anywho, what you need to know/do:

1. Drink. Now, I get it if you're a teetotaler because of moral reasons, or religious reasons, or health reasons. That's fine. But if you're not, then what're you waiting for? if you want to fit in with hockey fans of all backgrounds, grab a beer. No, not Coors Light or Molson (those do in a pinch, though). Grab a real beer. If you're an oenophile, this is actually easier than you think. Each beer has characteristics and pairing abilities just like wine! IPAs, ESBs, lagers, stouts, wheat beer, Belgian style tripels, you name it. Just drink around, see what you like, and there you go. Step one complete.

2. Ask questions. Sure, don't ask questions when other people are obviously excited about an important play getting ready to happen, but it's all good if you ask questions right afterwards. If the people around you love hockey, they'll want you to know all about it too. They'll explain. Some of the rules and penalties are confusing to newcomers, and if you don't have one of those handy guide to penalties handy it's ok – none of the refs do either. 

3. Buy a real jersey. I like the ladies' cut jerseys. They're flattering, and they're cute — but if it's cold outside you can't really wear anything under them. You don't want to have to bring a coat to a hockey game unless you absolutely have to, and this is where guys' jerseys come in. I would own a few in different sizes. I have a very large Thrashers practice jersey that fits fine over hoodies for super cold weather. I have smaller jerseys that are comfortable over an undershirt and a long-sleeved shirt. Hockey season is basically September (for pre-season) through June. You need a few things fit for layering. That, and if you wear it long enough, I bet you'll like your traditional jersey most of all.

4. Do learn the team, but don't learn it based on who's cute or who's available or whatever. That makes you come across as vapid, and when you do have a question to ask, no one will actually want to answer it. Just look at your team's stats page. Sort by goals to find the top scorers, +/- to find the defensive studs, and penalty minutes to figure out who the bruisers are.

5. Read, read, read. I know for some women this might seem odd — reading about sports? Think of it this way — people read about everything that they're interested in, and that includes physical activities. Check out some blogs like Puck Daddy, Puck Drunk Love, or the team blogs on SB Nation. Other than attending games, reading is the best way to learn about the sport and learn about the opponents.

6. Just play around. Experience stuff on your own. Don't be dependent on someone to explain everything to you. Go to a game by yourself (it's not scary, trust me), grab a program, and read. Watch the game. Immerse yourself. If you have questions, ask someone sitting near you. In no time, you'll be a pro. Hockey's really one of the sports that this works best with, because it's very interest catching to begin with. The best way to learn is by doing, and instead of joining a league, this is it. If you can't attend games, watch them on television alone, listen to the broadcast team, and hey, if you have a question, hit them up on Twitter. You'd be surprised by how friendly most of them are.

So, there you have it. Straight-forward from an actual hockey fan who is a woman. Why this is so hard for teams and networks to do, I'll have no idea. Hockey's a great sport, and it's way more enjoyable when you enjoy it as it's intended, not what some of these women boil it down into. Just follow my rules, and you'll be fine. Or follow your own rules. There's no right way to fall in love with hockey, but trust me ladies — there's a wrong way.

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About Laura Astorian

Laura Astorian is the head editor for the SB Nation blog St. Louis Game Time and has been a Blues fan from childhood. She promises that any anti-Blackhawks bias will be left at the door. Maybe.

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