Rink Fries: Time to do what's right for the future of Women's Hockey

United States' Britta Curl (16) battles Canada's Jocelyne Larocque (3) and Marie-Philip Poulin (29) during the first period of a rivalry series women's hockey game in Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

A little while ago Elliotte Friedman had a note in his 32 Thoughts blog about head coaches Craig Berube of the St Louis Blues, Dallas Eakins of the Anaheim Ducks and the Minnesota Wild’s Dean Evason all in the final season of their deals. Let me try to move this forward a little after a check around on the issue.

I was told by someone around the team in St Louis that it would be a surprise if Berube wasn’t extended and brought back. There have certainly been speed wobbles this season which always lead to whispers but Berube has the Blues on a good course despite all their issues this season. I can’t imagine Berube is thrilled an extension has taken so long to get done, however.

Minnesota general manager Bill Guerin told me point blank on my radio show that he would get a deal done with Evason, and that’s consistent with what he’s been saying all along. So, look for that to happen at some point.

So, Dallas Eakins then.

This situation is puzzling.

There’s no coach who had less help from his GM in the off-season than Eakins. New assistants Geoff Ward, Mike Stothers and Newell Brown were brought in mainly to help special teams but as far as player changes go there were none (there was a flirtation with the Buffalo Sabres over Jack Eichel but as Friedman mentioned on our podcast the ask in return was believed to be Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale and two first-round picks).

Murray as we all know resigned from his post to get help with his behavioural issues and addictions and as the organization searches for a new full-time general manager, Jeff Solomon is in charge on an interim basis.

But to this point, there hasn’t been any conversation about an extension with Eakins despite the turn-around we’ve seen from the Ducks season over season.

They’re a greatly improved play-driving team who can now consistently get pucks into scoring areas (especially the slot) while at the other end of the ice now limits those same types of chances and defends the slot better.

And as anyone’s who’s watched the Ducks this season, they look like a much different squad and one that’s really entertaining to watch. And not just because of Trevor Zegras although he has become appointment programming.

Eakins is in the conversation for the Jack Adams with coaches like Mike Sullivan, Evason, Jon Cooper, Rod Brind’Amour, (Canucks fans reading this are probably saying don’t sleep on Bruce Boudreau) but still has no deal beyond this season. And considering what happened with Murray this is an organization that needs stability. Maybe this is one of those situations where ownership steps in to say, ‘this is our coach.’

Now, perhaps the organization doesn’t want to extend Eakins before a new GM is in place and that’s fair but if they do decide to walk away from Eakins he’d be a coach in demand after developing young players like Zegras, Troy Terry, Isaac Lundestrom and helping to start the NHL career of future Ducks centre Mason McTavish.

Let’s see where this story goes.

Ok, the International Ice Hockey Federation.

I feel sorry for whoever handles their social media during the World Junior Championship.

The IIHF shutting down all programming in January including and specifically the women’s U18 for the second year in a row became a huge hot button this weekend and was met with derision from some of the elite of the game like….

Talking to people involved in the women’s game the past few days one thing has become obvious – this is not just about hockey’s international sanctioning body shutting down one specific women’s tournament it’s about an accumulation of slights that’s led to frustration and a sense that women in the sport are treated as second class to their male counterparts.

It’s not hard to understand their sense of exasperation and sympathize with a sense of ‘here we go again’ that many of them carry and have done so from an early age in the sport.

One of the issues I heard from the players I spoke to over the weekend was about the men’s U18 tournament last April and how were they able to find a stage in Texas for their event after a March cancellation in Michigan. And why can’t the IIHF work to find a similar situation for the U18 women?

PWHPA Operations Consultant Jayna Hefford framed the issue well in a Christmas day tweet wondering why the IIHF chose to abandon instead of investigating solutions.

I’m team Jayna on this one.

Hopefully, the IIHF will reconsider and look to find a venue for this tournament at another date.

Luc Tardif is the new President of the IIHF and this will prove to be one of his first tests.

Here’s something about women’s hockey that I’d like you to consider.

I look at athletes like this – they exist in states of either potentiality or actuality.

Take Connor McDavid.

Provided he stays healthy we will be able to see, over the course of his career, the very best version of Connor McDavid because the environment exists that allows that process to occur. He does not have to divide his attention or his life. He can actualize as the best possible version of himself.

Can you say the same about Marie-Philip Poulin? As great as she is, does she, or any female player for that matter, have a path to become their absolute best? Or do they spend their lives playing in a constant state of potentiality?

Do you know how frustrating that must be for an athlete?

And don’t you feel robbed as a fan?

I like Hockey, capital H.

Not just men’s hockey.


If you care about things like ‘the good of the game’ (and do we ever hear that a lot) it’s important to ask which game you’re talking about.

Just the men or both the men and women?

And I’m not too interested in the economics argument either.

Women’s hockey is an investment opportunity with huge growth potential that trickles down to minor/youth associations, skills trainers, rink rentals, equipment manufacturing etc.

If you make the women’s game a profound part of the hockey ecosystem everyone benefits.

As a sport, we’ve ignored for too long the potential that exists here. At every level.

And bless every female player who’s never quit even though they’ve been given a million reasons and opportunities to do so.

A girl has to prove she can play, while a boy has to prove that he can’t.

And that’s not right.

This weekend may have been framed as being about a single women’s tournament that got scotched but the conversation around this is much bigger.

Think about what’s right for ‘Hockey’ and pick your side.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.