Monday, 4 June 2018

Looking Sharp, Ladies!

While Justin Trudeau may be holding the Clarkson Cup in this photo opportunity, it's a big moment for the Markham Thunder as the players were invited to Parliament Hill by the Prime Minister following their Clarkson Cup championship this past season! They are officially the first professional women's hockey team to have been invited to meet the Prime Minister, and I'm hoping this won't be the last time we'll see this invitation extended nor will it be the last time the Thunder make an appearance with the sitting Prime Minister of Canada!

Along with Prime Minister Trudeau, Markham-Thornhill Member of Parliament Mary Ng was there to meet the team as she represents the region in the House of Commons. Ng was the first person to suggest bringing the Thunder to Ottawa for a meet-and-greet like some of the other championship teams in Canada receive, and some great people and companies worked to make this happen.

"I was shocked," Thunder general manager Chelsea Purcell told CBC's Devin Heroux. "I got a call [May 23] confirming it's going to happen. The team is so excited. Most are doing what they can to be there but it won't be possible for the entire team to attend with work and prior commitments."

As you can see above, though, the vast majority of the team was in Ottawa!

Via Rail came through and provided transportation from Markham to Ottawa for the team for free, and Lindsey Grigg, Markham's everyday #23, provided Prime Minister Trudeau with a Thunder jersey with his name and #23 on it. The Prime Minister, for his part, took his jacket off and donned the green Thunder jersey immediately.

"Prime Minister Trudeau has made professional equality a priority and it's great to know that mission extends to women's professional sports," Clarkson Cup MVP Erica Howe stated in a press release. "We have come so far over the past few seasons with the addition of full-time general managers, player compensation, and having our All-Star Games and Clarkson Cup Finals broadcasted across Canada. This trip today is another important milestone for our league."

Everything that Howe stated in the release is true, but it goes directly to what Purcell said as well. There were women who played for the Thunder that couldn't make the trip to Ottawa due to work and other commitments. The work factor is a major one considering that these women - professional hockey players - still have to hold down full-time jobs outside of hockey just to live - y'know, pay rent, buy groceries, pay bills, and other necessities.

While it's great to see Via Rail step up and the Prime Minister and an MP recognize the efforts of the women, there has to be more that league, sponsors, and fans can do to try and give these women the title of "pro hockey player" year-round. That means a decent living wage as well as opportunities for marketing and sponsorship deals so that all players can attend Parliament Hill when invited.

I get there are a number of factors of why this can't be done yet, but it's time for the league that overlooks the Thunder to start pushing a heavy marketing campaign where people should be told how good the players are. Something along the lines of "the best hockey you're not watching" would be a good start followed by doubling-down hard on a deal with one of the major sports networks to cover more games and have more coverage on sports highlight shows. I'm just spitballing here, but it seems like the Canadian pro women's league does very little outside their current markets to try and capture any of the imagination of potential fans.

Regardless of my thoughts on the subject, seeing the many faces of the Markham Thunder standing with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a great start at putting women\s hockey on the map. The Thunder played outstanding hockey down the stretch to win the Clarkson Cup, upsetting les Canadiennes de Montreal and Kunlun Red Star, and they deserve some national recognition for their victory this season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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