Here we go, the flavour of the hour. Another topic about political correctness. Ever since The Athletic has come out with the news that the Montreal Canadiens will be interviewing at least three women for, what they say, is the General Manager’s position, everyone and their dog is coming out publicly stating that women have their place in management or other positions in the NHL. Those who think differently better keep their mouth shut as anything they say can and will be taken totally out of context, twisted around to fit a narrative of hater, and will most definitely be held against them. Talker beware.
I’ve thought long and hard about saying something on the topic. I chose not to talk about it on air, on podcasts I’m part of. But now that everyone is jumping on the political bandwagon trying to look cool, I can’t stand here and say nothing. So I chose to write about it, as words on the screen are less likely to be taken out of context. If one phrase or paragraph is taken out of source, it’s easy to point to the whole article turn the spotlight on the culprit(s).
For those who didn’t know, I started a Female Hockey Program for the Penticton Minor Hockey Association back in 2007-08. I took a group of young ladies age 5-7 and got them on the ice together with a couple of friends as coaches. We had half ice once a week, which we shared with Initiation boys at the other end. First practice, we had 7 girls and by December, we had to cap it as we had 19 young ladies skating with us on half-ice.
The program grew and we kept focussing on feeding it at the Initiation level and as the girls grew older, teams started to form. We played against boys to start but eventually, I helped OMAHA and BC Hockey to form a female league in the BC Interior.
Back then, the Okanagan Hockey Academy Midget Female Varsity team was coached by two amazing ladies: Rebecca Russell and Gina Kingsbury. I got to know both ladies quite well as I approached them for a few events in Penticton, like our home tournament or registration drives. Amazing ladies who have female hockey at heart.
Yes, women have a place
So first and foremost, let’s start by stating the obvious. Women are just as smart as men and sometimes, I feel like they’re even smarter. Also, I know women who know more about hockey than many, many men and social media is a very easy way to identify that as being a fact. So when Geoff Molson announced wanting to push diversity, many of us understood that it included hiring a woman or two for the hockey operations. So far, so good.
Where I get off the wagon is when I read people, reporters included, pushing for a political reason, or to “look good” in the process. Political correctness and being offended easily, reading more into comments that what’s being said, are huge flaws in today’s society. It is my opinion that it’s what you get when you hand over participation trophies to avoid “hurting feelings”. You get a soft society easily offended. A society where you don’t need to be qualified, and efforts aren’t rewarded or emphasized even, as long as you have the popular support.
The RIGHT woman
As mentioned above, gender should not be a criteria when it comes to hiring the best person available. Many big and successful corporations have women in their executive, as president and owners. When the job doesn’t require a certain level of physical strength, women are just as capable as men to make sound business decisions. In fact, having both men and women, with brains wired differently, brings the necessary diversity needed to be better rounded as a business and, in this case, as a hockey club.
But stop with your politics and personal agenda, for cryin’ out loud! Stop throwing names out there and say that experience is a non-factor, that they can be taught! It’s pure nonsense! The NHL is not a place to teach people how to do a job. The NHL is – or should be – a place where you hire the best competent people for the position. Few know more about hockey than Réjean Houle. It doesn’t mean that he should have been thrown as General Manager without experience!
So what I’m saying is instead of being politically correct by wanting Geoff Molson and Jeff Gorton hire a woman as GM right off the bat, let them hire one who will be brought up within the organisation to learn the ropes of what it’s like to be working in hockey operations on a NHL club. Get her or them a position as scout, player development, even up to assistant-GM (if she’s qualified) to learn, to gain the necessary experience. Teams do it with men! Skipping training steps because she’s a woman would be a disservice to the team, but mostly to the lady herself.
Gina Kingsbury – top candidate
I’ll be showing my bias here, I’ll be the first to admit. While I could easily see recent Hall of Famer Kim St-Pierre in a position with the Canadiens, while I could also very well see a great hockey mind like Danielle Sauvageau work for the Habs, there is one candidate that is, in my opinion, head over heels (no pun intended) above them: Gina Kingsbury.
Don’t be fooled by her name, Gina is French Canadian. She was born in Uranium City, a northern settlement in Saskatchewan near the border of the Northwest Territories. But she moved to Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec when she was young. I’m here to attest that she’s perfectly bilingual. Like the other two, Gina has won multiple Olympic Gold medals (three) for the Canadian national team.
She has coached and for a few years not, she has been working for Hockey Canada where she currently occupies the role of Director of Canada’s women’s national team. She is a great hockey mind who would be an unbelievable asset for the Montreal Canadiens. I have no doubt that she would shine in an interview with the team. Yes, she is a woman and also yes, she knows hockey inside and out. I would vouch for her with my eyes closed.
Keep politics out
With proper experience and training, I have no doubt that women can do certain jobs at the NHL level. And that includes, one day, the positions of head coach and/or General Managers. But no woman is at that level quite yet. Mostly, the NHL isn’t ready for it. It’s still an old boys’ club but with the recent events surrounding the off-ice controversy in Chicago and elsewhere around the league, there is a movement for change. This is the right time to start introducing women in the sport but they must learn to walk before they can run.
I applaud Molson and the Habs for being pro-active on that front. Let’s just not go all political about it. Let’s leave the empty talks to “look cool” out the door. And let’s ensure to train those ladies properly by not skipping important steps. Give them a chance to succeed. They don’t want any favours, to get the job because they’re women! They want respect. They just want to earn the job like everyone else, to not be discriminated because of their gender.
You want to hire women to fill important roles in hockey operations? Get qualified people at the very least, and certainly don’t put them in roles over their head! The NHL is it’s not an easy world so let’s put them in a position to succeed.