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NHL broadcasts should elevate women permanently, not as a gimmick

Slap Shots | A new puck for the playoffs. And what do the Lightning need to clinch a spot in the playoffs.
Kate Scott, left, and AJ Mleczko, members of an all-female broadcast team, stand at work during an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Chicago. They were doing this as part of International Women's Day. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Kate Scott, left, and AJ Mleczko, members of an all-female broadcast team, stand at work during an NHL hockey game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues, Sunday, March 8, 2020, in Chicago. They were doing this as part of International Women's Day. (AP Photo/Matt Marton) [ MATT MARTON | AP ]
Published Mar. 10, 2020

It was great to see initiatives like NBC Sports, NHL Network and Sportsnet’s all-woman broadcasts to celebrate International Women’s Day on Saturday. But wouldn’t it be even better if women were always in those roles?

NBC Sports and Sportsnet broadcasted games with entirely female casts and crew. NHL Network ran a women-only edition of their show NHL Now.

Related: NHL, MLB, NBA, MLS all close their locker rooms amid coronavirus scare

These productions, while amazing to see, still feel like gimmicks. Women are taken out of their usual roles for a day, promoted to show progress and then sent back to their day jobs.

That’s not real progress.

NHL Network marketed its show as its “third annual." It would carry more meaning if the network re-evaluated its hiring practices and had women on its shows all the time. The website’s list of on-air talent features six women and 23 men.

NBC Sports and Sportsnet both featured women calling play-by-play for the first time in the NHL (Kate Scott and Leah Hextall, respectively). Both women are fully capable, so why were they firsts? Why isn’t there a single woman regularly calling play-by-play in the NHL? I know that’s not from a lack of interest or qualified women.

Every broadcast doesn’t have to be all women, but there’s no reason women should not be involved in all broadcasts. Women are fans of the NHL. Seeing someone who looks like you involved somewhere can help bring in even more female fans.

On that same note, all of the women promoted in these broadcasts were white women. There are definitely women of color who want to be in these roles as well. And again, they could serve to bring in more fans. Adding fans is always a good thing.

Instead, we see lip service and props. One night of a great broadcast that won’t be repeated until International Women’s Day rolls around next year.

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If we saw women frequently, spread out across the broadcasts, it wouldn’t feel like a gimmick when they’re brought together for the “third-annual” event.

So, I had a thought

*Renee Hess, the founder of the Black Girl Hockey Club, shared a video on Twitter which she said was rejected by a hockey organization which felt it wasn’t inspirational enough. She called for men to hold themselves and their peers accountable to create a better space for people of genders, sexualities and races to feel welcome.

International Women’s Day can’t exist as a platform to prop up women for a day. It needs to also be a reminder to strive for more, which is exactly what Hess put out there.

*Can we all agree that if anyone doesn’t want to participate in the kiss cam, the camera operator will pan away? Detroit stuck with a woman who ducked her head and tried to hide as fans booed her. Worse, they came back to her twice.

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The kiss cam is awkward to begin with, but pressuring someone to kiss anyone they don’t want to is never okay. There appear to be plenty of couples willing to kiss for an arena full of fans (or not-so-full in Detroit). So, just focus on them.

Related: The Lightning fall to the league's worst team in a shootout

*The playoffs seem like an odd time to start using a new puck. But that’s what the NHL is doing. The league plans to roll out its puck and player tracking technology in this year’s playoffs.

The league scheduled tests in 20 games during the regular season and said the remaining tests are to train people, not the system itself, according to nhl.com.

The league says the puck has been tested extensively and is no different than a puck without a tracker.

The timing to make any equipment change just feels odd. In-game data will be available to broadcasters. So I wonder who pushed for it in the playoffs?

Question for the Lightning

Can the Lightning clinch a playoff spot?

This question comes from Tommy Leverone via Twitter.

The Lightning aren’t there yet. From a logistical, probability standpoint, their spot in the playoffs is just about secure. But statistically, no one has clinched yet. Even the Bruins, who lead the league, need another three wins.

Florida, Toronto and Montreal could all still beat the Lightning. Montreal would need to win out and for the Lightning to lose 12 of their remaining 13 games. It’s extremely unlikely, but statistically possible.

The way things stand, the Lightning need 13 points to secure a spot. Every game the Panthers lose or the Lightning win, that number goes down.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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