(Photo: chicago.cbs.com)

Being a sports fan came pretty naturally to me. I have three brothers and an athletic dad.

My love for hockey, and the Blackhawks, has just been a part of my life–even when it meant listening to games on the radio because former ownership wouldn’t televise them.

But, being a female sports fan has its challenges. We’re called jersey chasers. We’re forced to churn out stats to prove we’re actually fans of the sport itself and not just the men playing it.

While I’m a fan of many sports, my hockey/Blackhawks fanhood borders fanaticism. It’s an obsession. I can’t get enough. My heart races during games. I plan events around the schedule. My own father has had to tell me, “It’s only a game.”

I’m also defensive of my team and sport, sometimes to a fault.

So, when I feel a sense of condescension toward me, or, worse, sleaze, coming from the very community I pray (to two Lords–THE Lord, and Lord Stanley), weep, and swear for, I have to admit, it’s time for change.

That’s why I’m bothered when I go to Tweet something with “Puck” and these are the autofill options:

Pucks

Why are “Puckbunny” (not so terrible) and “Puckslut” (seriously?!) the first two options?

Popular hockey and lacrosse brand Warrior is guilty as well.

Warrior2

They bashed Title IX, a federal Civil Rights law that forbids discrimination on the basis of sex. It allows for equality for school athletes, just as one example. After an outcry, they deleted the above Tweet.

But, try shopping for women’s gear on their site and you’ll find the following:

Warrior 1

If you ask me, that kind of attitude isn’t wise to use toward 50 percent of the population, the majority of shoppers, and the ones who would be purchasing gear for not just themselves if it were available, but for their children of both sexes. My boyfriend (and I) will be wearing Bauer, Gongshow, Mission, or just about anything else, thank you very much.

Forgive me for having feelings, but when North American women take home gold and silver medals at the Winter Olympics, things like this make me want to crosscheck some sense into the ‘web.

Hitting Close to Home

For years now, I’ve rolled my eyes when it came to the “Shoot the Puck” portion of intermission at my beloved Blackhawks games. While I’m inclined often to defend them, this particular tradition is an annoying one. A child usually wearing a Hawks sweater, a celebrity also wearing a Hawks sweater, and an obvious “plant” of a bombshell woman not dressed at all for a hockey game or even Chicago, shoot the puck for chances at prizes.

While for one, I think the average female fan–variety is the spice of life, after all–would like to be included in this tradition, or at least see someone who looks like a fan out there (sporting some Blackhawks gear perhaps), I think an even bigger issue lies in the whole audio-visual setup.

Only, when it’s the beautiful woman’s turn, organist Frank Pellico plays the song “The Stripper.”

Today, August 7, it’s sparked a Twitter Trend “#BanTheStripper” with various people reaching out to the Blackhawks organization, asking them to stop the degradation.

Fan and player Casey Rathunde originally brought it up to Blackhawks brass at the Blackhawks Convention in July.

The panel she addressed, which included Blackhawks’ President and CEO John McDonough and Chairman Rocky Wirtz, according to various media accounts became very thirsty, all reaching for their water. Eventually, though, this answer came out:

This has inspired several opinion pieces calling for change, and now some online activism, as featured in this petition. The petition calls for the hashtag, as well as other forms of activism through social media and mail correspondence.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with the Blackhawks’ Bud Light Ice Crew, at least, not until I hear they’re being mistreated in any way. They go through a rigorous tryout process. Many are hockey players or figure skaters, or were at one time.

The Ice Crew is more involved than cheerleaders–they wield shovels to help clear choppy ice during breaks, do photo ops with fans before the game, fundraise for Blackhawks charities, and attend various promotional and charity events, including those for youth hockey.

And, if they are comfortable with what they’re wearing, then I have no objections. Who am I to judge?

Others call it to question, though. Why do the male members of the Ice Crew wear pants and coats, while the women are in short skirts and crop tops? Is it fair to subject them to the cat calls of the men in crowd? Is that their real purpose?

So, I wonder, have they been asked whether they’re comfortable? Perhaps that could be addressed head-on by the Blackhawks organization.

Some teams’ Ice Crew members are happy in their roles, while others have complaints about their organization. In my following of Blackhawks Ice Crew members past and present, I’ve yet to witness displeasure. If and when I do, my opinion may change.

Yes, there are impressionable young girls at the game. They can be taught to play hockey and/or they can be taught to pursue a career and join an Ice Crew, which does work hard and participate in positive activities regardless of attire, if that’s what they wish.

Scarborough Research of New York says about 38 percent of the Blackhawks’ fan base is female. The Blackhawks have a season ticket waiting list. They don’t need to reach low to entice a fan base. It’s here. It’s solid. And, with 227 consecutive sold out games, plus all the accusations of bandwagonnery thrown about, I imagine it’s ever growing.

Last year, when ticket prices jumped 16 percent, Wirtz said:

“As the tickets are more valuable, our fan behavior is becoming better. When the tickets didn’t have the same value or they didn’t look at the team as much, many times it would be an element of people who wanted to come to the United Center just to cause trouble and get in fights. We don’t have that.”

Well, people are paying more and they expect better. So, the Blackhawks need to think about that large percentage of the fan base. Think about future fans. And, have Pellico play a different tune. It’s the least they could do.

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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