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OPINION

Blackhawks, ignoring sexism won't make it go away

Kate Conway, @katchatters

Special contributor

9:14 PM CDT, July 22, 2014

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Last weekend, I headed to the annual Blackhawks Convention eager to hang out with roughly 2,000 other hockey fans who spent July sadly watching season highlights in front of the air conditioner. And like many of my compatriots, I was most excited for the panel featuring Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brad Richards. Unfortunately, all the dance-offs in the world couldn't save that event from the sexism of its moderator, Mark Giangreco.

Giangreco, ABC7's sports anchor, seemed determined to make everyone involved feel as slimy as possible. When it came to discussing the NHL awards, for example, he didn't, say, discuss Toews' Selke nomination. Instead, he gave him kudos for the hotness of his girlfriend, comparing her to a trophy  --  because nothing brings the LOLs like the literal objectification of women, am I right?

Thankfully, none of the players seemed inclined to play along with Giangreco's brand of douchery. And the audience wasn't too pleased, either. In the hours that followed, many fans took to Twitter or filled out surveys informing management that their star panel had nearly been ruined.

And so far, the Hawks' response to said public anger has been ... nada.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Earlier in the day, members of a Blackhawks leadership panel -- including President and CEO John McDonough and Chairman Rocky Wirtz  -- gave a similarly lackluster reply to Casey Rathunde, a fan who took to the mic to ask about the skimpy Ice Crew outfits and the team's insistence on playing "The Stripper" on the organ whenever a woman participates in the Shoot the Puck contest between periods.

Rathunde, a hockey player herself, referred to the panelists' PR-friendly non-answer (that they appreciated the concern and will be careful about future practices) as an inevitable "dodge."

"At best, it seems like their female fan base has been an afterthought to them, and these issues are ones that they've never given serious attention to," she told me via email.

And Rathunde's right. These topics aren't new; ice girls, in particular, have been getting a lot of attention in mainstream media, most notably in a Mother Jones article that quoted one Philadelphia Flyers ice girl team member who called her job "a torture camp."

While the Hawks organization hasn't been accused of similar jerkwaddery, its front office seems to be missing the fact that ignoring misogyny's existence in its franchise and in the NHL won't just make it disappear. As people in positions of power, by refusing to work against sexism, they're actually making it worse.

Rathunde told me she asked her Ice Crew question not to attack the Blackhawks, but because she loves the team and wants them to do better by the fans. Roughly two-thirds of the convention's attendees, by the extremely scientific count from "my eyeballs," were women, and 38 percent of local fans are women, according to New York-based Scarborough Research. Thus far, we've been happy to shell out for Blackhawks tickets and merchandise, but that won't last forever.

Listen up, Blackhawks. Your female fans are asking you to make changes. Eventually, we'll get tired of you covering your ears.

 

Kate Conway is a RedEye special contributor. She intends to spend her hard-earned money on organizations that acknowledge her existence.