There has been a lot of focus by the NHL recently on trying to attract more female fans to the game. I applaud that the NHL acknowledges the female fan and wants more of them; however, I think that sometimes the NHL is misguided in its efforts. Maybe that is because there is no typical female hockey fan. And here’s why: In my experience as a female fan attending Philadelphia Flyers games, I see many female fans of all ages. And I imagine they are at the game for many different reasons. There was a time when “nice girls” didn’t attend hockey games. But these days (thank goodness), hockey has many female fans.
In my case, I was a hockey fan long before I met my husband seven years ago, but he is responsible for turning me into a Flyers fan. But that said, I can fairly say that I am the bigger Flyers fan now. He is a fan for sure, but I am the one who drives the fandom bus so to speak. It is because of me that we travel from Northern Virginia to Philly for weekend Flyers games. And, I am the one who reads newspapers articles about the Flyers daily, keeps up with the team on social media, and watches every game on my tablet. And, I am sure there are many other female hockey fans who are just as passionate about the game as I am, if not more so.
When I am at Flyers game I see many other female fans and speculate on what has brought them to a hockey game. I imagine that some are at the game because their male significant other is a big fan. These women may follow the team and know the game, but are there mainly because their significant other wants to go to the game. Along the same lines, I see young girls and teenagers who may be at a game as part of a night out with family or friends. I see a lot of young women at Flyers games. Many seem to be there with friends or boyfriends, and some seem to be what some people would call “puck bunnies.” But in any case, these women are at the game, wearing Flyers gear, and cheering the team on.
Speaking of team apparel: In a recent trip through the Flyers merchandise store in Wells Fargo Center, I was happy to see many clothing items specifically made to fit women. The encouraging thing was that I saw very little pink. Instead, I saw many cute shirts and jerseys in classic styles, very similar to the merchandise marketed to men.
While the NHL may be doing better when it comes to providing classic apparel for female fans, there are other areas that could seem to use a bit more tweaking. One example that comes to mind is the popular “Hockey in Heels” event that many teams offer. This event is marketed exclusively for women to introduce them to the game and help them understand it better. A friend of mine who is a Washington Capitals season ticket holder (and a very knowledgeable hockey fan) is planning to attend the Caps Hockey in Heels event this month. She said that it is a three-plus hour event and includes on-ice skills demonstrations by Caps players. That part of the event impressed me and is something that even a knowledgeable fan might enjoy. However, on the surface, this kind of event sounds patronizing to women. When I first heard about this event, my first thought was: How in the world does it take an entire evening to explain hockey. It’s not like it’s rocket science. I figured it out myself (and still learn new things every day) and so can everyone else.
I think that the best way the NHL can market to women is to treat us just like they treat their male fans. We are all fans of the game and want the same kinds of things from the game experience. And, when I am at a game, I don’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else. Though there may not be a typical female hockey fan, when it comes right down to it, we are all typical when sitting in an arena cheering on our favorite team.