The NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament had the players fighting in battles on and off the ice. The women had to climb every mountain, forge every stream, just to be put down in comparison to their male counterparts.
Women have never been on the same playing field as men. Now this is not due to a lack of effort, but because it seems that everyone from the networks to the rule makers do not seem to like the idea of equality. And nothing illustrates this better than everything that recently happened to the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament.
Let's start with the broadcast of this tournament. CBS was the only station with the rights to broadcast, but would not do so live. CBS also refused to relinquish the rights to the championship game to anyone interested in airing it live, and aired the game on tape delay about a week later. In comparison, the men’s championship game was aired live on ESPN.
Next, the Women’s Ice Hockey Committee took the final 8 teams, seeded the top four, and then paired them up with the bottom four “based on relative strength as long as these pairings do not result in additional flights.” In other words, the top seed could play the bottom seed (like most tournaments are set up), but only if it was cost-effective. The teams were thus paired up with a controversial decision to send Northeastern to top-ranked Boston College for the first round, as opposed to lower-ranked teams Mercyhurst and Princeton. Yes, the lower-ranked teams were bound to lose no matter who they were paired against, but the dynamics of the games could have shifted slightly and allowed for different games overall. To compare, the seeding in the men’s tournament, the top 16 teams (yes 16, not 8) were put into four different regions, pairing the number one seeds with the numbers four seeds.
Another issue came about once the Golden Gophers of Minnesota won the women’s Frozen Four and were crowned champions. The championship hats that were given to the women were actually the men’s Frozen Four hats. Yes, the hats looked similar. But the hats did specifically note the gender and location of the championship game. Now this problem, though easily fixed, is just another example of how women are not treated equally in sports. The women’s hats needed to be in Durham, New Hampshire, while the men’s hats needed to be in Tampa Bay, Florida. One can only blame the mix-up on a lack of attention to detail, as well as a lack of respect for the teams playing in the championship. In sum, the hat episode indicates that the women's title game didn't get quite the same respect as the men's title game.
Then there is the broadcast of the championship game. One reason the women's championship was not aired live was because many did not think the women’s game would have that high of ratings. Although this was the belief prior to the men's and women's title games, it turned out to be very wrong. In the end, the tape-delayed women’s game drew in more households than the live men’s game. The women’s championship had 651,000 households watching, while the men’s championship only had 541,000. Of course people came up with different reasons as to why the men had fewer viewers than the women’s. The reasons ranged from the fact that the women’s game was aired on over-the-air CBS, while the men’s game was on a cable channel; or the fact that the men’s played near the end of the NHL season. Although these reasons might seem credible, let's remember a basic fact about sports. People simply do not like tape delayed broadcasts. Why watch an entire game if you can simply look up the winner (see the low ratings of the ESPN Classic channel as evidence of this point). Despite this huge handicap, the women still pulled out better ratings.
So in the end, everything was done to hold back the women's hockey tournament.
But despite all the efforts made to make the men’s game look better, the women still won!
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