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Lisa wraps up her second season following the BC Breakers hockey team. In the process she finds similarities between the NHL and the WNHL.

NHL and WNHL walk a similar path


Lisa Ovens
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Game One

by Lisa Ovens
February 19th 2007

At the end of January, I watched the BC Breakers play their second to last almost local home game of their regular season. I write almost local, because I travel 110 kilometers roundtrip to see them play in Aldergrove, BC. As usual, it was a fun time with my Breaker’s buddy, Michelle, and also extra special as it was the first time I witnessed the girls win a game! They are a young team and I feel they have really improved over the previous season.

The BC Breakers are part of the Western Women’s Hockey League, which joined up with the National Women’s Hockey League at the beginning of the season. The BC Breakers do not have a home rink, have a fairly basic website, but they do have a jewel in the coach’s wife Misty who does everything from ticket sales, coordinating “player of the game” gifts, raffle ticket sales to announcements during the game. Okay, it’s not a heck of a lot of marketing, but think of it this way, there is only one way to go but up! The Breakers will play host to the WWHL Championship in Kelowna March 3rd and 4th. The winner of this tournament will possibly play the eastern champion for the Clarkson Cup. I say possibly because, well, I am not sure. Just like I am not sure if TSN actually did cover and televise an eastern women’s match up this year. Remember no place to go but up…

You see, it’s not just the NHL struggling with attendance issues, media coverage and broadcast deals…the women’s league has its woes, too. Up-dated websites, finding sponsorship and building a fan base are a few of the struggles for the women’s league touted as the premier league for women’s play in the world. Even I ran into a problem when I decided to open up the fan forum as a vehicle for women’s league hockey talk: forum spammers of ill repute decided to show up, so I had to shut it down temporarily. Don’t worry, I’ll bring it back soon. My point is talk is important, and getting people yakking about the new league, especially in the media really helps.

I decided to see how both leagues are faring for media hits in two sports media giants, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News.

I selected the last five issues of The Hockey News for stories, blurbs and mentions covering the NWHL, and the last five issues of SI and scanned for all NHL stories, blurbs and mentions. First up: the women.

The last five issues of THN contained zero stories on the NWHL.

Now the men. I stopped counting after the last two issues of SI: the NHL received some valuable face time in two issues still sporting NFL/ Superbowl stories! The February 12th issue had three NHL related letters to the editor, two players listed in the Pop Culture Grid (Jeff Carter and Andy McDonald), an SI Player interview with the Flyers’ Simon Gagne, and finally, A Michael Farber written story about the fighting ways of the Ducks’ George Parros.
The Feb. 5th issue found a Ducks/ Predators game preview listed in The Week Ahead, two teams listed in the “Who’s Hot, Who’s Not” section (Preds hot, Blackhawks not).

A story about Islander Brendan Witt’s tattoos graced a section in SI Player; David Legwand made the Pop Culture Grid, and finally, a Michael Farber story highlighting the Southeast Division.

Previous issues did cover the NHL Mid Season Report. And I do recall reading practically one NHL story per issue, and seeing at least one NHL player representin’ in the Pop Culture Grid since the beginning of the season.
My point is: good on the NHL and its players, and cheers to Sports Illustrated for including hockey in the mix.

Now, what the heck is going on over at The Hockey News?? I can only hope the up coming championship games will somehow make the pages amidst the pre playoff NHL talk.  Maybe next season they could list a schedule, or a player profile. Come Hockey News…we are all in this together!

It’s a little sad, but never fear WNHL, there’s no place else to go but up! The BC Breakers are not the only team in the WNHL without a home rink. Maybe next year things will change. I keep thinking there must be away for the more successful men’s leagues to help out, even just a little. My idea would be for the BC Breakers to play at the Pacific Coliseum, as a warm up game to the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. If such a thing could be scheduled for the rinkless women’s teams partnering up in rinks with Junior hockey teams, it would be a great start. Perhaps bring in some sports marketing interns to work on marketing the women’s games, along side the marketing staff of the junior teams. Last I checked interns don’t cost any money, and they are eager for the work experience and have a good hit for their resume.

Plus, this would allow Misty to remove one less hat during the hockey season, and I think she’d like that!

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