The Yale women’s hockey game against Harvard last Saturday had everything. The Bulldogs scored a trio of early goals, survived almost unscathed from seven consecutive Crimson power-play minutes and with stalwart defense gritted out a 3–2 win over their biggest rival in the biggest home game of the season.
As someone who has followed this team for three years while cheering on one of my best friends, nothing about Yale’s play on the ice surprised me. The most surprising part of my Saturday at Ingalls Rink was that nearly every member of the overflowing student section, all donning “White Out for Mandi” shirts, stood in their seats for the entire game.
It’s no secret that Yale men’s hockey games are far better attended than women’s games. But given Saturday’s resounding turnout, there is no reason that this should always be the case.
I’ve heard many justifications from fans who prioritize the men’s games over the women’s, three of which stand out to me: First, the men’s game is a faster, more exciting style of play than the women’s; second, there is less physicality in the women’s game; and third, the men’s team is comparably better than the women’s team.
While the first two of these reasons are true — the fastest men’s skaters can outpace the fastest women’s players and won’t get whistled for routine body checking in the process — neither noticeably contribute to the fan experience. Women’s games, while marginally slower, are just as exciting for different reasons, as players are required to break up passes and force turnovers instead of simply trucking their opponents into the boards.
And while the argument that the men’s team is simply better than the women’s team certainly held last year, when only the former punched a ticket to the ECAC and NCAA tournaments, the 2016–17 Bulldog teams have registered exactly the same number of points in conference play and differ by just one place in their respective standings.
Any spectator in the sea of white-clad fans at the thriller last Saturday should be quick to cast aside these excuses for lack of attendance at women’s games. When forward Phoebe Staenz ’17 — who, by the way, scored in the 2014 Olympics for Switzerland and has a bronze medal to show for it — broke loose in transition and began slicing through the Crimson blue line, no fan was complaining that she wasn’t skating faster. When goaltender Tera Hofmann ’20 made an eye-popping 24 saves in the second period alone to preserve a coveted Yale lead, the energy in the Whale was palpable.
And when Yale outlasted Harvard in a nerve-wracking final minute of play to clinch the 3–2 victory, all of us at Ingalls Rink realized how important it was that we showed up, cheered loudly and stayed to the very end. Saturday’s crowd was the type of crowd that both Yale men’s and women’s hockey deserve every time they take to their home ice, but that just the men are treated to on a regular basis.
A bubble team in an bruising ECAC playoff race riddled with some of the nation’s top teams, the Yale women’s hockey team has done its part. Now, it’s on us to support our friends and classmates and deliver a true fan experience. Watch out: you might enjoy yourself in the process.
Matthew Stock is a junior in Silliman College and a current Sports Editor for the News. Contact him at email@example.com .