Skip to main content Blog: Ice-girl dilemma

So I'm wrestling with something here.

But first, a question: How many NHL teams do you think have ice girls, cheerleaders, spirit squads, or whatever else you want to call them?

A small number? Just those struggling Sun Belt teams?

Wrong. Wrong.

The answer is 17, as in the majority of the league. That includes teams such as the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks. Tampa Bay has two separate squads, the Ice Girls and the Energy Team. And while many of these cheer squads also feature male members, it's the females, often clad in enticing outfits, which are clearly the draw.

And this is what I'm wrestling with. Is this a bad thing? Before you make the argument that this is just a way for the Hurricanes or Thrashers to titillate more people into coming to games, remember that cheerleaders and dance packs are a staple in both the NFL and NBA.

On most NHL team websites, these squads are listed under the “Fan Zone” heading and, yeah, that is their purpose – to entertain fans during commercial breaks and rev them up at the appropriate times.

But the prevalence of this trend has already seen negative fallout, both times in New York.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist famously got into a spat with the rival Islanders Ice Girls last year when one young lass came to shovel the snow from his crease during a commercial break. Lundqvist, known for staying in his crease at all times during breaks, reportedly refused to move and allegedly knocked the squeegee out of the woman's hand when she tried to work around him. Another Ice Girl alleged that another Ranger spat at her, though nothing ever came of the incident.

More seriously, however, is the ongoing legal battle between the Rangers and former head Ranger City Skater Courtney Prince, whose sexual harassment allegations against the team and its ownership structure have dovetailed with the recent guilty verdict of Knicks GM Isiah Thomas (the Knicks and Rangers are both run by Cablevision heir James Dolan) on similar charges.

Prince's allegations run the gamut from outright advances from members of the Rangers PR staff, suggestions her squad dress even more provocatively and questions from male staffers about the romantic lives of her female squad members.

I'm anything but a prude. But it seems like these squads may be more trouble than they're worth. I suppose it's great to give employment to a dozen or so young women, many of whom are trying to pay their way through college, but the reality is if teams really were that caring, they'd find them jobs that don't require uniforms involving skin-tight pants.

In perhaps the first instance ever in mankind, I cite actor and rugby team owner Russell Crowe's sensible reasoning as to why he put an end to the practice of having scantily-clad cheerleaders prance the sidelines at his team's games: He wondered how a father who had taken his young children to a game would explain what the women were doing and why they were dressed that way. Crowe rightly assumed it would be super-awkward and put an end to the practice.

Hockey's a great old game and the people who love it, love it. I think we'd be cool without the sex appeal.

FINALLYÂ… The Vancouver Canucks scored five goals in their first two games. Ryan Shannon had two of them. Ryan Shannon was sent down to the AHL yesterday. The Canucks just lost 40 percent of their offense.



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