Time for a hockey petition!

It’s a pretty great time to be a Blackhawks fan. Since 2007, the Hawks have transformed themselves from a cautionary tale into a model NHL organization.

Along the way, the Hawks have built one of the more gender-balanced fanbases in the NHL, and it’s time to reexamine old assumptions in light of a new generation of Hawks fans.

Women are Hawks fans in historic numbers. You sucked us in with your front-office competence, your ‘winning at hockey’, your BHTV extra content, and similar flashy, pleasing maneuvers. Now we’ve given you our money for tickets and merchandise, we’re there at games screaming our hearts out, we’re attending your convention en masse. We’re having a pretty decent time, and you’ve had a lot of success getting us on board…despite not showing us the same respect you do our male counterparts.

More than a few people have already covered the ways that being a “Blackhawks fan while not possessing a Y chromosome” can be an alienating experience.

Instead, I want to talk about how the Blackhawks’ backwards thinking is bad for business. Treating all of your fans with respect - men, women, families - is the key to future growth. When the Hawks were trying to rebuild their audience, they made it clear that women were a valued (or at least targeted) part of their audience. That’s why it’s just so jarring to see the things that don’t work.

This isn’t about special catering to women. When we’re paying the same money to go to a game as the guys, why shouldn’t we be able to expect the same experience?

Women are watching hockey, making up 38 percent of the local audience. Advertisers have said they value their relationship with the Hawks because they test well with women’s demographics.

Women are buying hockey apparel, merchandise and tickets in record numbers.

Women are going to the Blackhawks Convention annually; there’s no ‘official’ number of the ratio of men to women, but anecdotal evidence tells us that many, many ladies and girls are in attendance. 

It makes a certain amount of sense that while the powers that be were busily rebuilding the franchise (getting working internet! getting someone to answer the phone! getting…games on TV!), they didn’t see a need to rethink some Hawks traditions that are jarring when you look at them and actively think them through. Things like:

Why are the women chosen to participate in Shoot the Puck almost always wearing towering heels that seem totally impractical (not to mention dangerous) on the ice? How can they even really shoot the puck, which, presumably…is the point? On their website, the Hawks say participants are “chosen at random.” If it is so random, why do I know exactly how a woman is going to look when she steps out onto that ice? Why does a woman have to be sexualized when she’s trying to demonstrate hockey skills in exchange for some United Airlines tickets?

Why does organist Frank Pellico play “The Stripper” as she shoots?

…no, seriously, why does organist Frank Pellico play “The Stripper” as she shoots?

Why haven’t I seen a single female panel moderator in the three years I’ve attended the Blackhawks convention?

And this brings us to the ice crew, and more questions. Shoveling the ice between stoppages is an important function. But why are the women called the ice girls and the men called the ice crew? Why do the women wear this and the men wear black pants and jackets? 

Suggestions for change are often met with concerns that ‘eye candy’ is important for attracting fans and that any changes would make the hockey experience less fun. Evidence suggests otherwise. There’s a huge backlog of demand for season tickets, a massive renewal rate, and a streak of 200+ sold out games at the UC. Making the Blackhawks experience more universally welcoming to everyone is only going to increase the fanbase. Happy fans are fans having fun. Choosing activities that have nothing to do with the game itself and makes fans feel uncomfortable and unwelcome is not fun.

The Blackhawks have literally nothing to lose here, and stand to gain in image, status, and financially. 

So Blackhawks: it’s your move. Sure, some of these things are time-honored traditions. But you have said time and again that you are open to re-evaluating in order to move forward as an organization. John McDonough told CSN that the Blackhawks don’t want to take any of their success for granted. At the 2014 Blackhawks Convention, Rocky Wirtz talked about the responsibilities of owning a family business and “making the land better for the next generation.”

It’s time to stop taking women for granted. We’re here, we want to root for the Hawks, we’re going to spend money to do it, and we want to be treated fairly along the way.

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I’ve seen a lot of articles like the ones linked at the beginning of this post, and people inevitably ask: but what do we do about this? 

The Hawks say on their website that they want to hear from fans who have ideas on how to improve the Blackhawks fan experience. Well, we have some ideas/input, don’t we?

Let’s set three completely do-able goals for them.

THREE GOALS for the Blackhawks, and how fans can help get them achieved:

1) Update Shoot the Puck, namely: get rid of the freaking dumb song “The Stripper” and figure out how a “first class” organization should evaluate contestants for Shoot the Puck. (A Shoot the Puck raffle that supports Blackhawks Charities sounds like a potential thing to look at.)

2) Give the entirety of the ICE CREW proper attire for their work environment. Namely, pants and a jacket. Whatever the guys are wearing is what we expect to see the ladies wearing. 

3) Next year, let’s see a lady moderator (or…two?!) at the convention. 

Blackhawks fans, if you agree with the THREE GOALS listed above, here’s what to do:

1 - SIGN THIS PETITION - I want to print your responses off, collate them, and send them to the Hawks’ front office. I want to try and get 1,926 people to sign this within a week, by Wednesday, August 13th. I recognize that 1,926 people is an incredibly small number given the size of the fanbase, but my thinking is basically: let’s show them that there is actual support out there for this, and see where that gets us first.

There’s really only three required questions on that petition, so don’t blink at the slight length, okay? 

2 - GIVE ‘EM YET MORE INPUT:

WRITE-IN WEDNESDAYS (August 6th and August 13th)

- Contact their Fan Development department directly via their online form.

TWITTER THURSDAY (August 7th) ETA: AUGUST 12th, we’ll be having some Twitter action too; come back here then to find out what that is.

Tweet @NHLBlackhawks your thoughts using #BanTheStripper as a hashtag. 

PHONE-A-FRIEND FRIDAY (August 8th)

312-455-7000 is their number. Call them and tell them what the most important thing here is to you, and why. 

SEND A POSTCARD WITHIN THE NEXT WEEK. YOU GOT SOME FREE TIME OVER THE WEEKEND, RIGHT? WHO DOESN’T LIKE POSTCARDS?

Send your card to: Chicago Blackhawks, 1901 W. Madison St., Chicago, IL 60612.

Suggested topics: 

- Experiences you’ve had with anything here.

- Why this is important to you!

- Demographic information. Talk about your age/do you make a lot of the purchases/financial decisions in your household, etc. 

Depending on how this goes, we might repeat some of the above a couple of times, and we’ll see where it all gets us. 

HAPPY INPUT-GIVING. 

ETA: I’ve added a question to the petition: Do you have any objections to me potentially posting (part of) your responses publicly?

I’ve gotten some really interesting responses and realized I’d like to probably post some of them somewhere where others can check them out. If you’ve already answered the petition, you should be able to go in and edit your response if you saved the edit link. If you didn’t save that link and want me to add your preference, please email me (addy is on my tumblr) or send me an ask. Sorry for the retroactive editing!

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A note: This post is on my personal tumblr. The main page to bookmark for any references/updates on the petition is THIS GOOGLE+ page. All quotes/numbers referenced above can be found in articles linked on that page.

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