Hayley Wickenheiser is on board with the idea of a women's hockey reality show. (Getty Images)
Reality TV shows: can’t live with ’em, can’t avoid ’em even if you faked your own death and moved to a Luddite-only locale.
But in every torrential downpour of cultural stupidity, there exists the wet seeds of something positive. To that end, I think I know how reality TV could help an under-promoted aspect of hockey.
Heavens no, I’m not suggesting the world ought to steel its stomach in preparation for Derek Boogaard: Chaotic, or Who Wants To Marry An NHLer (Then Divorce Him Shortly Thereafter For Having A Small Army Of Floozies On The Down-Low)?
Instead, I’m talking about using reality TV as a rocket booster for the promotion of women’s hockey – particularly in non-Olympic years, when corporate cash and public attention is redirected from elite female players in favor of the same old slavish devotion to the NHL product.
“I think there could be something there,” said Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser when I broached the subject of a reality TV series on the women’s game. “It’d definitely be an interesting way to get some exposure of how hard the players and people behind the scenes work to grow the women’s game.”
Honestly, if the nitwit brigade from Jersey Shore and the tarted-up husks from Real Housewives of Every Major Urban Center can create public profiles out of thin air thanks to the magic of selective editing and embarrassing entertainment standards, why hasn’t someone established a platform for young women of admirable character and drive?
I know – it’s because admirable people don’t often make for the most compelling TV. But if the public had real insight as to how much sacrifice the world’s best female players made to play – not for any amount of money or fame, but at this stage, simply for free ice time – I’d bet they’d embrace them in a far more sustained manner than they do at present.
If the average boob tube rube had the faintest notion of the difficulties female players encounter while juggling their family time and school/work duties with their on-ice commitments, I’d bet only the nastiest misogynists could deny them their due.
Hockey’s first foray into reality TV – Making The Cut, from 2004 – was a ratings success. So was last year’s Battle Of The Blades series – a.k.a. reality TV that featured retired hockey players playing a game other than hockey.
But a reality TV program on the women’s game could run for years. If it focused on the Canadian national women’s team, for instance, it could run in all three non-Olympic years and focus on the drama as players jockey for a roster spot while competing at international tournaments such as the Four Nations Cup. Then – with some negotiated participation from the International Olympic Committee, of course – the series could culminate in the next Winter Games.
Or what about this suggestion from Wickenheiser: “I also think each year you could build up (a reality show on the women’s game) through the (women’s) club championship with the Clarkson Cup, or whatever the ultimate championship is, so that people can see what the players are fighting for. I think that’s something hockey people would find interesting, and getting to know the girls certainly would raise the exposure hugely for a lot of these women.”
Some might contend a reality show would intrude not only on female players’ personal lives, but with Canada’s national hockey program itself. This simply isn’t the case. Any TV production company could work with Hockey Canada to ensure the final product would be respectful toward the participants and emotionally engaging all at once.
“Not everybody wants to be a complete open book,” Wickenheiser said. “But there are aspects of the game and of the program, and the national team and women’s hockey camps, that you could spotlight in terms of how players approach things and how their lives are affected by the game.”
If there had been a reality show focusing on Team Canada’s female players leading up to the 2010 Olympics, I’d bet the ludicrous outcry regarding their post-gold medal win festivities in Vancouver – in which the women drank alcoholic beverages and lit up a celebratory cigar – wouldn’t have registered a cursory blip on the public’s radar.
We would’ve known who they were and been very pleased to see them whoop it up after so many unseen, thankless hours toiling at the rink.
But let’s forget about that nabob of negativity and keep the focus on what a properly produced reality series could bring to female players.
“If it’s done properly,” Wickenheiser said, “it could only be a positive.”
This article originally appeared in the March 29 edition of The Hockey News.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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