Less Time on the Ice for Girls Hockey

As students and coaches alike gear up to finish the winter sports season, it’s hard to overlook some of the glaring discrepancies between the Boys and Girls Ice Hockey programs: most notably, their unequal practice times and the initial decision to cancel the Girls JV Hockey team. 

According to the Winter 2021 master practice schedule, the Boys Varsity Hockey team has five 90-minute practices during the week and an additional slot on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Girls Varsity Hockey team has a Saturday practice slot at noon, but only four 90-minute practices during the week. Similarly, the Boys JV Hockey team has four 90-minute practice slots while the Girls JV Hockey team is only allotted three.

Women’s hockey has historically been underfunded, insufficiently covered in the media, and subject to harsh criticism from the likes of Sports Illustrated journalist Andy Benoit, who, in 2015, said, “Women’s sports in general [are] not worth watching.” With bankrupt leagues and an average pay gap of over 34,000% between male and female players (as reported by Chatelaine, a Canadian media brand), limited career opportunities exist for young, aspiring female players. So, some community members were upset when the Athletic Department gave Boys Hockey 90 minutes a week more time on the ice.

However, Ms. Corey Cooper ’08, head coach of Girls’ Varsity Hockey, is not bothered by the practice time, noting her players’ commitment to excelling in multiple sports. Specifically, she spoke to the positive impact of cross-training and its fostering of holistic growth: “We requested to have five practices a week, as almost every Varsity hockey player is a two or three-sport Varsity athlete. We wanted to give our athletes the ability to practice and contribute to their other sports on their off days.” 

Because of budget cuts due to COVID-19, ice was only put down on one rink this year, causing logistical challenges that initially forced the Athletic Department to cut Girls JV Hockey. Captain Victoria Chen ’21, one of the Seniors who spearheaded the team’s reinstatement, expressed her discontent with this decision, saying, “Over my four years here, it’s been pretty clear that boys teams are often favored over girls teams. I don’t think you can limit this situation to an indication of how boys and girls sports are valued at just Hotchkiss. Gender equality in sports is a massive, world-wide issue that everyone needs to work on.”

Co-Athletic Director Robin Chandler ’87 played a vital role in reinstating the Girls JV team and complimented the Seniors who took initiative to keep the team going. She stressed that decisions made with regard to the team was purely logistical: “Since the Boys JV team is a feeder program to the Boys Varsity team, we decided to keep them and cut the Girls JV (not a feeder program to the varsity) and the Club team for this year only.” 

None of the school’s ice hockey teams will compete this season due to COVID-19, but practices resumed the week of March 7.