This isn’t going to be a popular blog post.

Yesterday, the hockey world found out that CBC has partnered with While the Men Watch, an online sports talk show hosted by Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso aimed at women. The hockey world, collectively, flipped out. You see, While the Men Watch is not really a sports talk show for women. It’s a sports talk show for women who don’t particularly care or know anything about sports. They describe themselves as “Sex and the City meets ESPN,” which should tell you immediately whether you will love the show or want to punch yourself in the face rather than listen to them talk.

My immediate reaction was similar to that of many hockey fans: I thought it was completely sexist. Female hockey fans are just as knowledgeable, fanatical, and obsessive about the game as male hockey fans. For that matter, female hockey fans can be just as ignorant, fickle, and indifferent as male hockey fans. The point is that hockey fans are hockey fans: gender, race, religion, etc. shouldn’t enter into the picture. At first glance While the Men Watch is perpetuating an outdated stereotype that women don’t like sports.

But the more I look at it, the more I think that it’s actually a decent idea that has just been presented poorly.

The vast majority of hockey fans, particularly female hockey fans, hate the entire concept of While the Men Watch. Well, yeah. The entire concept of the show is that it isn’t for fans of the sport; it’s for people who don’t care about sports but have significant others whose lives revolve around sports. It’s a way for these people to watch a game and enjoy it.

Now, I said “people” and “significant others” in the preceding paragraph on purpose, because this is where CBC and the two women behind While the Men Watch have made a significant misstep that has left them open to accusations of sexism. The show isn’t for women: it’s for anyone, male or female, who would rather talk about…whatever it is they talk about, while getting a small taste of sports talk, than listen to the play-by-play and follow the action on the ice with religious intensity.

What CBC is trying to do is attract an audience that doesn’t normally watch Hockey Night in Canada. Regrettably, they have given the impression that said audience is all women. That isn’t the case: their target audience with this partnership is people who don’t like hockey. Really, you have to applaud CBC’s audacity: they are literally trying to get people who don’t like hockey to like hockey.

The name is unfortunate: “while the men watch” immediately sets boundaries that shouldn’t exist. The implication is, admittedly, sexist: men watch sports, women don’t. Personally, I wish that they had chosen a new title for the partnership with CBC, but I understand that the name already has some traction and that they have built up a fanbase. Still, it’s a potentially alienating name that also has creepy voyeuristic implications that are best left unexplored.

Personally, I don’t get it. I read a few of the articles on their website and was left shaking my head. It’s definitely not for me. But I don’t get the appeal of Sex and the City, any of the Real Housewives shows, or celebrity gossip magazines either. Apparently, though, there are men and women out there who watch those shows and read those magazines and don’t give a rip about sports. If something like While the Men Watch can get those people interested in hockey, why not?

Are they saying that this is the only way that all women can watch and enjoy sports? I don’t think that is the case.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, my initial reaction was quite negative. It was my wife who got me to look at it from a different angle and re-evaluate my stance. It wasn’t too long ago that she didn’t care about hockey at all and only started watching hockey because she married someone who cares way too much about hockey. It’s not that she didn’t like sports: she grew up in Washington state, where hockey is well below the radar. She’s an athlete too: she played softball and volleyball, even playing volleyball in college, She’s a big Seattle Mariners and Seahawks fan.

My wife didn’t like hockey at first, but she watched it because I was watching it and gradually became a fan. The first moment that hockey clicked for her was watching the Washington Capitals back when they were a free-wheeling, flashy, offensive nightmare for their opposition and not a trapping, shot-blocking, amorphous blob. Then it was the Sedins, with their incredible creativity in the offensive zone. Then came the appreciation for the rest of the game.

She’s a hockey fan now, with fantasy hockey teams, playoff pools, and a particular love of going to minor-league and junior games (Go Aldergrove Kodiaks!), but it was tough for her starting out. I grew up watching hockey: I’ve never had issues following the puck or seeing plays develop because it’s been ingrained in me since I was young. I just know how to watch hockey. She didn’t. She had to develop the ability to watch hockey over time and it was a tough transition.

In fact, my wife told me that it would have been great if there was a blog from the perspective of a wife of a hockey fan that she could read or, better yet, an online community where she could find fellow newcomers to hockey and commiserate with them so that they could learn together. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find one. Would While the Men Watch be right for her? Not necessarily: she’s not a Sex and the City person. Or ESPN for that matter. But she does constantly comment on the quality (or lack thereof) of coaches and commentators ties.

It’s not a gender thing either: my best male friend in university never really got hockey. Though he likes basketball, he isn’t a big sports fan in general. He’s more into theology, comic books, and poetry, but that’s a much smaller demographic. It wouldn’t make much sense for CBC to target men who don’t like hockey with commentary that discussed Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Grant Morrison, and Robert Hayden. I mean, I’d listen to it, but I already like hockey.

As insulting as it may seem, the target audience of women who don’t like hockey but whose husbands and boyfriends really, really do is out there and it’s big enough that CBC wants them watching Hockey Night in Canada. The fact is that Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso exist. They are girlfriends of rabid sports fans who didn’t care about sports. And there are many, many women (and men) out there like them.

The issue of stereotyping is a tough one, but the fact is that anything that has a “target audience” is stereotyping to some degree. If the target market is 18-24-year-old males, certain assumptions are going to be made. If the target market is middle-aged housewives, different assumptions are going to be made. And if the target market is people who don’t normally watch hockey but whose significant others do, they’re going to make other assumptions about what those people would rather be talking about and listening to. This is simply a reality of marketing: any assumption of a broad swath of people will involve stereotypes.

The hardcore female hockey fans that are upset about While the Men Watch are not the show’s demographic. They don’t fit the stereotype that CBC is aiming for with their target audience for the show.

The problem is that wasn’t clear in the first place.

Comments (48)

  1. THANK YOU for finally saying something sensible instead of the knee-jerk, self-graitifying “sexist” tirade that’s been.

    Good idea, poorly executed. Let’s not go overboard here folks.

  2. “The first moment that hockey clicked for her was watching the Washington Capitals back when they were a free-wheeling, flashy, offensive nightmare for their opposition and not a trapping, shot-blocking, amorphous blob. Then it was the Sedins, with their incredible creativity in the offensive zone.”

    So the first moment she liked hockey wasn’t from listening to two women discussing how sexy Henrik Lundqvist is or whether you should have sex with your husband/boyfriend on game night if he thinks it’s good luck? She actually liked hockey because she watched it and found it entertaining? What a concept.

    • Yes, but my wife isn’t quite in their target demographic either, since she was already interested in other sports and has an athletic background. Some women may get into hockey because of chatting about which hockey player looks best in a suit. Hopefully they’ll grow to appreciate the game over time, but if that’s what they’re initially interested in, that’s fine by me.

  3. Can’t really argue with any of that, other than the logistics of it don’t make sense. For instance, my hubs is a HUGE football fan. While football was my gateway sport (and BTW, I learned it with my husband’s help because I actually wanted to know what I was looking at and not just vapidly stare at the glowing box in order to be in the same room with him). Now, though, hockey has spoiled me and I find football way too slow with too many stoppages to hold my attention.

    So, when he’s absorbed in football, I go do other things. I pop in and out, I appreciate an impressive play if he points it out to me and I’m in the room, and I’ll suck it up for playoff games because the stakes are higher, but generally… *I get a life of my own.*

    And to me, if you’re expected to be watching some webcast about the game on TOP of having the game on TV… that’s essentially doubling up on a game or a sport I don’t care about. Why would I do that? I have better things to do than total immersion in something I’m not interested in simply because my husband is.

    I guess, bottom line, that’s what bugs me the most… this notion that women are tethered to their man and his interests. If the marketing angle was, “Here’s a way to learn to enjoy watching hockey in a funny, chatty, girl-talky way” rather than the premise of just vapidly filling a void in time because your man is otherwise occupied, I’d have no issue with it. But seriously… get a hobby and some self-respect and go become an interesting human outside of your man. Absence makes the heart grow fonder anyway, right?

    • I think that’s a good point: the marketing behind this is all wrong. “Tethered” is a great word to describe it.

      Here’s something I wonder: if this was instead a couple of guys chatting about beer, their favourite action movies, and the hottest hockey girlfriends/wives over top of hockey highlights, would there be the same uproar? While I recognize it’s not the same because of the social context of female hockey fans frequently being left by the wayside, it’s a very similar concept. Would men complain or would those who are interested in that kind of thing listen to it and those who are not ignore it?

      But again, it’s the name and the implication of “only men watch sports” that is the real sticking point, combined with your point about being tethered.

      • No there wouldn’t be the same uproar because men don’t already feel disenfranchised by the hockey media institution. Their faces, their viewpoints, their voice is all over the hockey media. What you’re proposing is just another angle on that (and honestly, I’d totally watch that if the guys were genuinely funny).

        And maybe that’s another part of the issue here… these women are billed as funny, but from all I’ve seen, they’re just not. They’re creative in the many ways they’ve managed to inject sex with your man into him watching hockey, but that doesn’t make it funny or clever or appealing (or frankly, realistic).

        • Fair enough. I definitely think there needs to be more female voices in hockey media and that these two women basically don’t count as they, by their own admission, are not knowledgeable about hockey.

          As for them being funny…yeah, I agree with you. Not my cup of tea.

        • “men don’t already feel disenfranchised by the hockey media institution”

          I don’t know that I’d go quite so far, but as a female, I still run into this attitude that ‘hockey is a man’s game, and I wouldn’t like it’. I think this show taps into sensitivites that we, hardcore female hockey fans, already have. I get tired of men brushing me off when talking Canucks because the assumption is 1. SURELY, I don’t watch, 2. If I do, I barely watch or watch for the cute players.

          This attitude is changing, as I don’t tend to encounter this from guys my age (I’m 24), but older men still have this idea that women don’t like or watch sports. Having more females represented in hockey media will help to change these attitudes.

  4. I agree with what the core of what you’re saying–it’s great to find ways to seek out new demographics and try to bring them within the fold of hockey fandom. However, that being said, the way that CBC has gone about this does offend me. “While The Men Watch” immediately makes it sound like watching hockey is for men and discussing the players’ pre-game outfits is for girls. Moreover, I think that myself, and others, are also upset by the disparity between male and female faces in covering hockey. I would love to see more women hockey analysts being promoted by the network. Instead, this perpetuates the idea that hockey is a boys club. Perhaps the show is a good intent, but it’s gone about in all the wrong way.

  5. I don’t think the post will be unpopular with anyone who actually takes the time to read it. You say the same things that most hockey fans — female and male — that I’ve talked to about it are saying: it’s sexist because it’s framed to suggest that all men are watching hockey and all their wives/girlfriends are forced to rank the players’ looks and wardrobe choices.

    (Well, that and the fact that the posts the women have on their site are degrading and poorly written, and that now public money will be paying them. But that’s an entirely different issue.)

    • Ha, yeah, I’d be a lot more irritated if I had tax money footing the bill for this. And I agree, the posts on their site are so shallow, an ant couldn’t drown in them. I’m not sure what kind of woman these are written for, but I don’t want to know her. And as the reigning queen of shallow hockey commentary for Backhand Shelf, if you’re too shallow and too sex-crazed for me? Woof, girl… time to dig a little deeper.

      • Ok so I’m reading this story and saying “wait, I like commenting on the outfits and the relative attractiveness scores of teams, maybe I’d like this…wonder if it’s like reading Ms.Conduct’s posts?” So now I know

        Guessing they’re more for the “I could never like that team because they wear orange” fan than the “Normally he wouldn’t get a +1 rating, but between that deke and his flow I’ve been won over” fan.

        • Believe me, there’s a reason I’m intensely interested in this conversation… I’m not exactly doing deep dives at the 20′ end of the pool with my writing. And I think some would say there’s a fine line between my approach and WTMW (I don’t think it’s all that fine, but I understand it’s too shallow for some).

          The difference is that nothing about my interest in hockey or my writing about hockey revolves around pleasing someone else. And I think my passion for the game is loud and clear and not just something I do when my man is too busy watching sports to sex me. *gag*

      • The one post suggesting that you should have sex with your partner if his team loses, even if you really don’t want to? The amount of things wrong with that statement…. And this is the kind of stuff the CBC wants to promote, as our government-funded national broadcaster? I honestly wonder who read that site and thought “Wow, these ladies would be the *perfect fit* for the CBC!”

        • I agree with this, so much. That the CBC could promote such a concept with my taxpayer dollars is ludicrous.

  6. I agree with you, pretty much. It’s hard to argue with the way that you’ve framed it. You’re right. Very little is available for fans not born into the sport to learn more about it easily.

    But WTMW isn’t about learning anything to do with hockey. It isn’t about sports at all. It’s about gender relations.

    Nothing proves this point more than the blog titled “Love Me Like Lundqvist.” Roleplaying isn’t genuine interest in anything. I may dress up like a naughty nurse, but it doesn’t mean I want to go to med school. Their post on 10 Ways to Improve Baseball is hilariously awful. It has nothing to do with baseball other than “lol math is hard make stats into round numbers” and “lol aren’t umpires dressed horribly.” They want to put first names on jerseys. In what way does that teach you about the rules of the game or stats or players?

    Your wife, even if inclined, would learn absolutely nothing about the sport by listening to these women or reading their blogs, and neither would anyone else who genuinely wants to learn about any sport beyond the superficialities.

    • That’s my problem with this project being anchored to HNIC. If you want to talk about sex, with other women there are dozens of places to do that. This isn’t about being a fan or learning the game or any of the things you’d think would make it make sense for bringing in new viewers to a hockey program.

      In fact, it’s distinctly dismissive of sports. This is geared towards women who don’t want to watch hockey not women who kind of do but just don’t really understand what they’re seeing. These aren’t viewers who are going to join the club. These are viewers who are going to leave as soon as possible.

      Meanwhile, the network has insulted a group of viewers they already had.

  7. I don’t disagree with what you said, but I think tuning into the bigger picture is the key. I know the argument is nearing a fallacy, but reverse the roles and ask how well this would go over if CBC tried it with other programming.

    Say CBC did a feed to the Real Housewives or the Kardashians which was aimed at men who don’t watch those shows (or people *ahem*). The broadcast was done by two jocks who know nothing about the shows, and care not about the shows, and just did random dialogue about how sexy the ladies were, how they were being catty, and generally talked about not-relevant, male-oriented, and jockish subjects while the show played. I’m sure it would be a hit (who wouldn’t want to tune into Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel dialogue to some of those shows).

    It’s opening Pandora’s Box. It’s a clever and niche market, but arguably one that a major network would be wise to avoid. I’m personally left torn whether CBC should be applauded for going out on a ledge and doing something different or dumbfounded at their blind obliviousness to the whole issue.

  8. Whatever, dude. If they really wanted to appeal to people who weren’t fans of hockey in good faith, they would have taken 3 seconds to think about how shitty and sexist the marketing and execution of this project was going to seem. It’s going turn people who aren’t fans of hockey off the sport even more – I know men and women who would see this not as a way to get into a sport their SO cares about, but as more of a reason to avoid it altogether. And can you blame them? The whole campaign is framed in an unbelievably stupid way.

    And if they really wanted to appeal to non-hockey fans, they’d create a campaign that was funny, engaging and showcased the sport while mocking hockey fan’s mannerisms and obsessions, not regurgitate stale sexist bs that opens themselves up to ridicule. From the perspective of non-hockey fans, this project is a failure. And from the prospective of a hardcore female hockey fan, it’s just one more reason to stop wasting time and energy on the NHL and what surrounds it.

    It’s also really annoying that every time somethig remotely sexist happens, some blogger pr journalist has to immediately jump up to accuse everyone of overreacting or misinterpreting or getting outraged just to be outraged.

  9. You took the words right out of my keyboard. I had essentially the same reaction. There is still an element that is offensive, but the idea in and of itself is not. I understand the anger and frustration that people feel when they see something like this, but as you say there is an audience that this type of thing is geared towards.

  10. I absolutely agree with There are more things at work with the name “While the Men Watch” than “Are they saying that this is the only way that all women can watch and enjoy sports?” I have no issue with female-centric coverage.

    Here’s what the name “While the Men Watch” assumes about the typical woman it’s targeting:
    -She is female (i.e. not transgendered)
    -She is heterosexual
    -She is in a relationship
    -Her male partner likes hockey
    -Her male partner determines what she and he watch together
    -She thinks it’s important to be interested in what her male partner watches

    If you’re the stereotypical straight white Canadian male (this is on CBC, after all), all of the above is “normal” to you, and as straight white Canadian females, “normal” for Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso. That’s fine for them, but it’s tone-deaf (especially on CBC’s part) to not recognize that there are lots of people out there who do not fit into those categories.

    It’s quite possible to create programming that targets a particular audience without explicitly identifying who composes that audience and, more importantly, who does not compose that audience. Where do single women, whose female friends like hockey, fit into this equation? What about a straight man who enjoys the tone of coverage Sutherland and Mancuso provide?

    What about a gay woman whose legally-recognized wife likes hockey?

    Taking the name “While the Men Watch” strikes me as the same as the Penguins fan who takes “Flyerssuck” as his Twitter handle. Why do you choose to define your identity in terms of something you aren’t (and in this case, seek approval from)?

  11. I get that people think it’s a “good idea”, but poorly executed…but quite frankly it’s extremely frustrating for everything related to hockey and aimed at women to be marketed to the lowest common denominator — the Uninterested Girlfriend.
    Make it pink, mock a coach’s tie. Come on guys, I’m not here for that.
    Sure, MOST female fans aren’t like that…but most male fans/mainstream media/general public think we are. Until that consensus changes, outrage will always seem out of proportion with a problem, like in this case.

    • And this extends to the products that NHL.com offers. Why are there so few options for female jerseys? At least right now on the website, the only Canucks jerseys offered that fit female frames (and I’m not talking fitted-I have a small mens that goes halfway down my thighs…too big!)are the home jersey, no personalization offered, and no away or third jersey. The other jersey offered is silver rhinestone monstrosity. I reconize that the Nucks have been out of the playoffs for a month, but it has been like this since I first started checking back in March.

      The mens section has tons of options. : (

      • That’s incredible, especially considering their run to the SCF last year, and their popularity. Ugh.

        The NHL is seriously missing out on such a deep source of revenue. I mean, I love my sparkles and sequins, but sometimes I just want a freaking jersey that looks like the one the players have. Their sizing + design is pretty out of whack.

  12. For me, the main problem is that the female presence in mainstream sports media is still relatively small. One rarely hears a soprano or alto call the games, sees a woman ask a player serious questions, etc. It’s not for lack of female talent or knowledge, either. And then the CBC invites these women, who are the vocal equivalent of the spangly pink jersey worn in the sports bar to attract men like Cosmopolitan recommended, to host?

    When Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire, Jeremy Roenick, etc. sound stupid, they aren’t meant to provide a male perspective. There are other men around who sound much more intelligent. Unfortunately, women don’t have that. So “While the Men Watch” becomes *the* female perspective, not *a* female perspective among several.

    I’m a female fan by marriage, too. (My marriage is to another woman, but still.) I never would have wanted a program like this. I was interested in learning more about the sport and the players, not which actors were sitting in the stands. I’m much happier that I had my wife patiently answering questions during commercials instead six years ago. It is completely possible to explain things to newbies without talking down to them. And if you really don’t want to watch hockey, for pity’s sake, go watch or do something else! Have your own life!

    My sport growing up was NASCAR. I still hate Jeff Gordon simply because so many men, men who didn’t know the terminology or history I’d been raised with since I was a toddler, assumed I was only watching because Gordon was “cute.” When I brought my ex-boyfriend, a newbie at the time, to the track, I was asked if I’d gone to please him. Other women who love other sports have similar stories. To say the least, those assumptions can put a damper on your day. And men don’t have to suffer them. Unless a man betrays his ignorance by speaking, he’s assumed to be knowledgeable, but women have to prove that we belong.

    And now the CBC and “While the Men Watch” have made it just a tick harder for us. Thanks bunches. Really.

    • You make a great point that the hockey-loving partner in the relationship who wants his or her significant other to watch games together needs to take the time to a) answer all the questions, no matter how basic or obvious they seem and do so without condescension, b) point out things a new fan might not notice that’s interesting about the game to you, or unique situations that will bring color to the game.

      That’s what my husband did for me with football and I’m very grateful for that. And I had the same support (from him and others) when I started watching hockey.

      • I feel like explaining the sports we grew up with to each other deepened our relationship. We’ve learned so much about each other’s childhoods and role models as well as our sports. We both got opportunities to teach and to learn. It’s such a beautiful thing, and I wish more couples understood that.

    • “Unfortunately, women don’t have that. So “While the Men Watch” becomes *the* female perspective, not *a* female perspective among several.”

      “Unless a man betrays his ignorance by speaking, he’s assumed to be knowledgeable, but women have to prove that we belong.”

      Amen. More female representation in hockey broadcasting would really help. Hey, it’s not like Ron MacLean, Don Cherry, or Mike Milbury are really adding anything of value to the broadcasts.

  13. I get what you’re saying. But my husband is not a hockey fan, and never will be a hockey fan. He would have less than zero interest in a show like this, even if it wasn’t sexist and stupid. Which it is.

    As a sport-loving (and playing) female, I’ve been dealing with this crap for almost half a century. I’m sick of it. Can it end now?

  14. While I appreciate your different perspective in the mire of all the outrage, I have to question your suggestion that this was ‘a decent idea that has just been presented poorly.’ That presupposes the programmers sat in their offices and came up with this idea all on their ownsome, and were they to have taken a few women’s studies courses they might have approached this brill idea differently. Rather, these are professional media types, and they likely meant exactly what they programmed and how they presented it.

    The problem for me is that the CBC has cut excellent programming in the wake of a government slash-attack, and then creates programming like this, along with the now-necessary commercials to keep it afloat. As a taxpayer, a CBC-supporter, and vocal/money-giving Save-the-CBC advocate. This latest twist in the drama that is the sinking of the CBC has given me serious pause.

    If this is the CBC I’m trying to save, as an intelligent woman I have to seriously think twice about where my money goes. I’m not saying the CBC shouldn’t reach out to an ‘untapped’ demographic. I’m a media person; I know what is required to keep an outlet from going bust. But if the producers are going to tap the market by going for the lowest common denominator in a desperate attempt to ‘gain credibility’, then we’ve already lost the CBC.

    This show as it is should be on Slice. There may well be a market for it. But a broadcaster needs to know who its market is, and not alienate many for the sake of a few. It’s a poor decision, but then, the programmers at HNIC have proved they are not in full grasp of what their audience wants.

    What is reassuring to me in all this, is that both men and women, hockey fans and not-so-much fans, can see how myopic the CBC and its programmers are. I can find comfort in progress there, even if the CBC is taking a step back in time.

    • I think this is a completely fair and reasonable response. I would point out, however, that suggesting the show should be on Slice is basically pointing out that there is a market for this type of show.

      One thing to keep in mind is that this will apparently be online only. It’s not going to be intruding on anyone who just tunes in to CBC to watch the games. It’s possible that this is even a test run of sorts to see if there’s a larger market for it. If that’s the case, it’s likely that the initial backlash has already killed the possibility of future partnerships with WTMW.

      • You are likely correct that it’s a test run. But I’m quite sure broadcasters like Slice would see value in this very kind of show: if there’s an audience, there’s a market as far as private broadcasters work. The line-up on Slice speaks to this daily. I don’t really care one way or the other if this show airs on radio or TV. My problem is with the CBC’s misdirected belief that it is CBC material, and not recognizing that promoting it is at a risk of losing its core audience. It’s just, bottom line, a poor business decision. (Although, that is arguably the other elephant in the CBC boardrooms: archaic and poorly-informed brass and business managers.)

        The CBC brass is bloody-minded enough, as precedent has shown, to continue with the direction they’re taking. Again I point to the slow demise of HNIC, and the Sports division in general. Some exceptionally poor decisions have been made in recent years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a revamped version of idea come the start of hockey season.

  15. I feel the attacks on the women behind the blog are extremely over the top and unnecessary. However, CBC’s selection of their blog as the first female blog to feature is a horrific decision. Of all the wonderful, female sports writers who give excellent insight and analysis into the game, they choose to pick non-fans to reward with a national audience. I understand that it’s an audience they want to tap into but with NO other female blogs featured and their on-air staff being so unbalanced (if 40% of hockey fans are women, in theory 40% of the on-air talent should be too) it’s absolutely wrong to promote this type of commentary. Treat women like equals first, and then allow for superciliousness such as this.

  16. I’ve waited for alternate audio feeds for a long time. It be great if there was maybe an audio feed for beginners with more emphasis on basics and rules of the game, the current model with politically correct language and well known and respected play by play guys and commentators, one with only arena sounds, the mentioned one for the ladies who maybe care more about the spectacle and the commentators talk than the game itself and one Rated R feed in kind of 24/7 style with players, coaches and refs having their mics open with commentators really calling it as they see it without caring too much if someone gets offended. But I’ll guess we still have to wait for that.

    • I think you have an excellent idea here. A beginner’s commentary, one that can be listened to in private without the potential for being shamed by buddies for not-knowing what die-hards might consider basic rules would be very much a CBC-type of program. It would be great as a way to promote hockey to the uninitiated, be they new Canadians, sometime fans, or even folks abroad on broadband. Clearly, programmers should be appealing to its audience for some ideas.

      • …I’d be tempted to take the rationale one step further.

        I have grown to dislike being told what my eyes can see clearly (especially by certain regional commentators who, in accordance with their challenged markets, feel the need to deliver their so-called “analyses” as though weilding a blunt object) and hence I have watched hundreds of games on the premium NHL feed (over the past few seasons) with the sound completely muted.

        It’s become “de riguer”.

        With HD capabilities having become what they are these days, would it be unreasonable to be able to employ an option by which all commentary and color were completely stripped from the game-broadcast?

        One would be able to hear the game-noise, as well as the PA-announcements, referee statements and whatever else the on-ice mics picked up, without being forced to listen to the inanities which some dolt and his (her) equally dopey partner are screeching and blathering and rambling on about.

        I attend a great many NHL games, as well – Love the experience (always have) and I don’t miss the commentary one tiny bit.

        I have come to think that I might even pay extra, to be able to enjoy such a choice.

        Guys, gals, whatever – It’s like trying to watch a film with someone advising you on what you’re already seeing for yourself. Enough with the yammering and the awkward insertion of one’s personality (or distinct lack thereof) into my viewing experience.

        How about NHL Hockey comes on, and I reach for my remote and press the STFU button, and just watch the game in peace.


  17. Not something for me or my wife, but I don’t read the magazines I see at the checkout counter either. There clearly is a market for this kind of stuff, and yes, there are probably men that read it too, but it seems marketed at women. Nothing new there. Seems like outrage for outrage’s sake.

    The bigger thing that people should be getting angry at is the double standard that we hold female hockey journalists too. What would happen if someone like Cassie Campbell-Pascal (sp?) said something as stupid as JR or Millbury do on alternating weeks? They’d be drummed off the air. But I don’t think the two things are likely related. One is a target market. The other is an old-boys club and a set of prejudices built up over the years.

  18. This is an excellent post and the comments are even better – thank you for shaking me out of my sarcasm! Since I heard about this, my sarcasm has been getting the better of me. Today, you have helped me to better pin down why I’m so disappointed and annoyed.

    I guess those of us who don’t “fit” into the target audience – for whatever reason – feel like we’re being manipulated/taken for idiots, and feel like people who don’t watch hockey are being taken for fools even more. Is HNIC really this desperate to broaden its audience or prove to its existing fanbase that it’s keyed into what’s relevant right now, however plastic and frivolous that might be? It’s no secret the show is in trouble, but is the CBC really this determined to figure out some way to make it interesting and keep it relevant to new/existing fans? I wouldn’t have opted for this type of approach, and I think that’s the crux of my problem with this show.

    I grew up with hockey. I played hockey, I bickered with hockey players for outdoor ice time and I dated hockey players. Now I live in an area where hockey still has a ways to go if it wants to be widely-recognized and respected. But more important, I love to laugh and poke fun at myself/everybody else. It helps keep me functionally insane and forces me to look at things from different perspectives. I also grew up with the CBC, and have mostly fond memories of its largely Canadiana-focused programming when I was a child. But I can’t help thinking that there could have been better ways to attract viewers who don’t normally watch the game, or who don’t know anything about it. The fact is, there are already plenty of marketable, well-informed hockey bloggers – many of them female, I might add – who have hysterical, off-the-wall/irreverent takes on the game who could have done this gig a LOT better than these two wannabes. That’s probably my biggest issue here. Why not engage people who are already up for the challenge, and who will at least be entertaining? This show is not funny and it’s just a poorly-executed hodge-podge of clichéd enticements to lure viewers who are not hockey fans. For me, this is a huge disappointment and a new low for the CBC. I know that they could and should have done so much better and it wouldn’t have required a whole lot of effort, either.

  19. Not-so-quick anecdote: I went to a pond hockey tournament to support a female friend who was playing. We go to the pre-tournament festivities (read: bar), and she and some of her teammates are wearing their jerseys. First question she gets – “Which team does your boyfriend play for?” My exact reaction was “She plays and that was sexist,” to which the ginger-beared random replied that it was sexist and he was sorry. (I proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend referring to him as Sexist Kris Draper, but that’s more of a personal victory.)

    I guarantee you every female fan has a similar story of her interest in hockey being met with casual sexism, comments not meant to be malicious but that are degrading nonetheless.

    “While the Men Watch” is no different, and the CBC rubberstamped it.

    The reality of being a woman who is interested or professionally involved in sports that your actions will likely end up as some sort of meta-commentary on the female gender. Mike Milbury isn’t speaking for men or even male hockey personalities, but Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso are giving “a woman’s perspective.”

    I don’t hate Lena or Jules – if anything, I’m resentful that they scored a gig on CBC for not understanding or liking hockey when tons of women, including yours truly, want to get into sports media/marketing because they do.

    Ultimately, that’s what’s most disheartening: the CBC opted for niche markets over knowledge.

    • Exactly.

      There are so many already-qualified, ready-for-primetime and MARKETABLE options they could have run with. That’s insulting as well. Why not promote a concept that’s original, intelligent and entertaining and hire hosts who are funny and engaging?

      It’s just such a failure on so many levels.

      • I’m loving the discussion this post has garnered. Once again, Daniel writes a post offering a perspective that encourages folks to consider a larger picture.

        “Ultimately, that’s what’s most disheartening: the CBC opted for niche markets over knowledge.” That is it, precisely and concisely.

        CBC has managed to chisel away a corner of its mandate with this one misstep. Let’s hope they have listened even a little bit.

        By the way, Julie Veilleux has written a great post on the issue, also.

  20. I think this thing is a stupid idea. But it isn’t sexist. It isn’t a law, it isn’t mandatory. It doesn’t deprive anyone any right based on their gender.

    It’s an entertainment choice and if you think it’s a terdburger idea nobody says you have to watch it or listen to it. It was created by two women after all – they apparently got the idea while they were talking on the phone while watching the game beside their respective husbands. If nobody watches it CBC will likely not do it again.

    The fact that so many media people are losing their s**t over it means it will likely enjoy some moderate success in GM 1 while the curious check it out. After that I really can’t imagine anyone spending time on it. Either watch the game or stream something you are actually intersted in.

  21. I agree that the female true hockey fan is not the demographic that this show is going for– and that would be fine with me if there were any kind of female representation at all in hockey shows that DID represent what a true female fan thinks.

    To think that CBC just skipped over the next logical step to go after casual (at best), hockey widows instead of offering something that would engage females who ARE real fans is disappointing. That’s really what gets under my skin. When “true fans” and intellectual commentary is consistently done by men and men only, and the only option to see a female face is this side-bar of women who couldn’t care less, it perpetuates the idea that any women wearing a hockey jersey is just pretending to like the sport because some man in her life is fan.

  22. I can’t say I’ve watched Jules and Lena, so, as blind as I may be in making this comment, I think that expressionism is real and needed.
    For the Hockey savvy females out there, I understand this “While the Men Watch” is low brow and undercuts what ‘real’ fans of hockey are interested in. Maybe they should promote it as an alternative to watching sports rather than additional to watching sports.
    But to hammer the ladies for being creative and doing something other than watching the games? As a male, I don’t really dig reality tv, it offends on so many levels, but, as I say that, I can tell you I know of the ‘Real Housewives of…”, KArdashians, etc. Not that I want to. But that being said, if these ladies bring up NHL, or HOCKEY…. that in itself will bring about interest by some. And if that helps the game get an audience?? Who am I to say its wrong. If Fox Sports can use a LAZER puck to help Americans understand the game…. I can’t say this gimmick is all that bad.
    And put it this way, I am sure Gloria Steinem isn’t writing to the CBC or the NHL about how information is being distributed.

  23. Can people REALLY fault the CBC? They’re funding is slash and they’re clearly trying to make money to stay afloat. Maybe if the government funded them properly, they wouldn’t have to resort to rating grabs like this.

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