The Folly of 'A Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers'

By Emma Harger
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have started a contributor network in which new and different voices can contribute articles that will be published on Blueshirts United, the team’s official fan website. That’s a nice idea and could bring about a new crop of interesting, unique views about different aspects of the game of hockey.

So of course, the clever minds behind Blueshirts United decided to inaugurate their new feature with a thoroughly irritating, gender stereotype-laden primer meant for people like me who are of the female persuasion. Ladies, don’t worry, because for a little less than 30 minutes, the Internet included a guide just for us about how to watch hockey.

It was called “A Girl’s Guide to Watching the Rangers,” because no matter how old you are or the fact that you’re legally an adult and therefore a woman past the age of 18, you’re always going to be a girl, an infantile little creature that can’t possibly understand male sports unless they’re explained through the framework of ‘it’s something the man in your life watches, so why don’t you at least pretend to care?’

It seems like these things come out of the woodwork every so often, but it’s no less annoying, outmoded and just plain wrong-headed every single time they do. I was only able to access the first page of it–for some reason, the article was spread across multiple pages–before someone had a change of heart and yanked the piece altogether, but on that lead-in page alone, I was already annoyed.

Here’s what the end of the lockout apparently means to people with lady parts, according to the writer, Mirna Mandil:

“News of the NHL lockout’s end caused as much excitement in the male world as a 70 percent off sale does in a woman’s. If you’re completely oblivious to what the end of the lockout means, think of it as the premiere of the newest season of “Girls” being delayed by months, and then suddenly, it’s announced that it will be coming back but with a lot fewer episodes to make up for lost time.”

Yes, because to get women to understand something, you have to mention shoes. Every single woman on planet Earth is obsessed with shoes to the point that footwear is practically their lifeforce. Spare me.

Again, this entire article is predicated around the idea that you, the woman, are in a relationship with a man–again, something every single woman on Earth is in, or has to be in in order to even try to like a male sport, apparently–and therefore need to do a little research on this weird hockey thing he likes so that you can ,I guess, impress him or something. It’s not about you or your enjoyment of the game–whether past, present or future. It’s about your man.

Thankfully, ladies, since our brains are so tiny and obsessed with footwear as is, it’s really easy to watch the Rangers. Here’s the basic framework of the piece. Thanks to NESN and HFBoards for caching it:

They’re EXPECTING You to Ask Questions … Just know WHEN to do it.
“Carl Hagelin has the puck. The boys are all standing and screaming and you’re going to yell ‘what’s happening!?” Nope. You need to sense the tension at certain points in the game and let them do their jumping, screaming and cheering thing. You can tell if something huge has happened by their reaction, and if you’re absolutely lost, wait for the replay. There’s always a replay after a major play.
Still confused? Wait until a penalty or other whistle to ask. The clock stopped so there’s a pause in the game, and at this level you won’t need to know why a penalty was called anyway (unless there’s a fight, which is pretty self-explanatory). Everything else? Not important in your world … yet.”

Get to Know the RANGERS
“I’m not asking you to memorize a yearbook, but after watching a game or two, last names will start to sound familiar: Staal, Callahan, Del Zotto. You’ll get the idea. The Rangers’ roster is easily available online, and even though knowing a last name won’t do much in terms of understanding the game, it will build up your connection when watching future games. You’ll be more attuned to a game when you hear a name you recognize.”

Get to Know Henrik Lundqvist

“If New York were to have a new face on every quarter, it would be his. He’s broken NHL records. His nickname is “The King.” He played “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on guitar during a recent episode of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Don’t you want him to do well? Don’t you want to watch when he’s on the ice? My point exactly.”

“You’ve officially graduated level one of what to expect when Ranger fans are expecting. Before I wrote this article, I gave all the guys I spoke with the option of saying, “I don’t want her watching the game with me. It’s my sport, leave it alone.” Not a single one of them took it.Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but ask quesions [sic] they’ll enjoy answering. Things like who their favorite player is, or who their biggest rival is. If you have a couple hours of free time, go ahead and ask about the famous Potvin chant. You’ll certainly be in for a great story. If you feel too forced and uninterested, at least know the Rangers’ schedule so you can schedule a girl’s night for those times. Oh, and one last thing: don’t give the guys and grief for their playoff beards. Google it. You’ll thank me later. ”

That’s it. That’s all it takes. Never mind the fact that many women learn to watch the sport without needing their husband or boyfriend or any man to hold their hand and walk them through it. I learned by watching games with fellow women. Everyone’s experience is different, but none of us were doing it in the hopes of getting some guy to think that we’d made room in our shoe-brains for an attempt to impress them.

Reasonably so, this silly little article was lampooned by many hockey minds–male, female and otherwise–and it was yanked before it was even a half hour old. I saw some interesting critiques of it among my friends.

One friend pointed out that she has never had her love of sports questioned by anyone face-to-face, only by people on the Internet. That can be due in part to the relative anonymity of the Internet–people will often say things on here that they wouldn’t dare say to another person’s face–but she is correct. Mandil actually feeds into this by telling women to learn the roster because what’s the first thing a misogynistic fan does when he encounters a woman who dares intrude into his treehouse of liking sports? He asks her to name five players on the roster of the team she likes.

Another woman and avid Chicago Blackhawks fan joked that since she has a girlfriend, not a boyfriend, she would have never been able to understand hockey without the Girl’s Guide.

One man joked that Payless Shoes would soon be publishing a boy’s guide to understanding 70 percent off sales.

On a more serious note, Joe Meloni of College Hockey News said something that I also find very true: someone should publish a men’s guide to watching hockey that involves not saying things of a homophobic or sexist nature.

Yes, perhaps that would be a more thoughtful use of time and space than some little slideshow thing that feeds on outdated stereotypes to get women to do something for their men, because that’s all that matters, right?

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