For those that don't know, I have quite the affinity for minor league hockey and pay a bit of attention to it. I covered the idiotic BC Icemen of the United Hockey league in college so maybe that had something to do with it ...well, either that or the perennial hope that someday, somewhere, they will have another Federal League in the United States (like in Slap Shot). I qualify that because there pretty much is one like that in Canada - the Ligue Nord Américaine de Hockey (LNAH).
But back to the point, the United Hockey League came pretty close to folding and rebranded itself the International Hockey League (unoriginal bastards), and only has teams in the northern midWest US. This was the league that had the infamous mafia-owned Danbury Trashers. But, with the litigation, Barry Melrose and Steve Levy folding their team in Adirondack and Elmira's jump to the ECHL, the U, I mean IHL, has given up on us out east.
So now, to fill the A-level void that they left, a new league has been formed: the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League. The teams are the Indiana (Pa.) Ice , Jamestown (N.Y) Vikings, Mon Valley Thunder (Belle Vernon, Pa.), Wooster (Ohio) Warriors and Valley Forge Freedom (Oaks, Pa.). Now I am all for using physical play as your gimmick to gain popularity, as the UHL, I mean, new IHL is, but the MAHL's Thunder have gone another route - signing a girl as their fifth-ever player.
Kira Hurley recently completed a four-year college hockey career with the Clarkson University women’s hockey team. Hurley, 22, was the first ever member of the Golden Knights Division I program to be named an All-American when she was named to the second team of the American Hockey Coaches’ Association (AHCA) all-star squad in March, 2006. In four years at Clarkson, the six-foot tall Hurley won 48 games and posted an impressive 20 shutouts.
Now I don't have a problem with girls playing hockey, I have a problem with people using them as PR stunts. Granted, several women have played hockey with guys before - Hayley Wickenheiser, Erin Whitten and, most famously, Manon Rheaume . But let's face it, they were horrid. After covering Olympic-level women's hockey, I can honestly attest that the level of play is equal to, or less than that of boy's varsity high school. So getting 20 shutouts against a bunch of girls who can't get the puck off the ice is not quite an impressive stat. Second team ACHA all star? I think that is on par with the hand-made trophy I got for top goaltender in 5th grade gym floor hockey (which I still have might I add).
Now hold on, don't call me sexist; I don't think that teams should hire whores, I mean, ice girls to clean the snow from the ice. They distract from the game - if I want to look at trashy, disease-ridden girls, I will hit the strip clubs. At least then they leave nothing to the imagination. More to the point, hockey is the best sport to witness in person. Let the game sell itself. It is one thing to use giveaways and other gimmicks to please a fan base or draw borderline fans, it is another to pass one across in an attempt to establish some sort of credibility and then entertainment value. If there was some of either in women playing professional hockey, then the 'pro' league in Canada wouldn't be failing.
So let's face it, the MAHL needs to get in touch with reality if it is to succeed and with the NHL seemingly doing its best to get back on the track that led them to a lockout, us hockey fans need options should/when they lock us out again.