Poll a sampling of hockey fans, Family Feud-style, about the most obnoxious song they're likely to hear at a Chicago Blackhawks home game, and the number one answer is probably going to be "Chelsea Dagger". The track, from one-hit wonder The Fratellis, accompanies every Blackhawks goal, and since we aren't exactly talking about a Dave Tippett team here, you hear it a lot.
But some hockey fans will point to a different, and perhaps more off-putting tune: David Rose's "The Stripper", one of those pieces of instrumental music you've heard time and time again, likely without ever knowing what it was called, like Sweet Georgia Brown, Spanish Flea, or Entry of the Gladiators. The song, which is aptly named, since it's intended to invoke the music to which old-timey burlesque artists strip, has been known to play when an attractive woman is "randomly" selected for the Blackhawks' popular second intermission game of "shoot the puck".
As Mark Lazerus noted, it's embarrassing:
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 10, 2014
This has been going on for decades, which is amazing when you consider the progress the Blackhawks, and society as a whole, have made in recent years. A lot has changed, such as the acceptability of this practice.
It's given "Shoot the puck", which should be little more than a lark to pass the time between periods, a controversial air.
As noted by Hockee Night, the intermission entertainment has featured the same predictable rotation for pretty much ever: a kid shoots, then a pretty girl in heels suspected by many to be a plant, then a male fan, then a celebrity. There's no music for the male fan and the kid. But the moment the pretty girl hits the ice, Frank Pellico plays "The Stripper" on the organ -- you know, because people want to see her without clothes -- and the audience begins to hoot and/or holler.
Suffice it to say, many hockey fans find this troubling. There are appropriate times to play "The Stripper" (such as when Ravishing Rick Rude is making his way down to the ring for a match), but "shoot the puck" isn't one of them.
It seems downright odd to be plucking a woman fan from the audience (or bringing her in from elsewhere) just to be disrespected and sexualized. It sort of implies that female hockey fans, who pay the same price of admission at the United Center, are second-class citizens there.
Fans are sick of it, and they're beginning to make some noise.
In July, at Blackhawks convention, a fan named Casey set out to ask Blackhawks management about the sexism in "Shoot the Puck" directly:
Gonna go ask some pointed questions about ice girls and shoot the puck girls, if anyone wants to come be my backup. Wheeeee.
— Casey (@Raedances) July 19, 2014
And she did. The scene, as described by Hockey Brunch:
By all accounts, management got a little ruffled by this. Everyone on the dais took a nervous swig of water, the sort that says "Hoo-boy, we've got no good answer to this one," before providing a solid non-answer, that the concern was appreciated and they would be careful about their practices going forward. In the context of the softball-lobbing the Blackhawks Convention's Q-and-A sessions are supposed to be, the fleeting moment of discomfort could, and should, be viewed as a major win. Maybe things will be different between the whistles for the 2014-15 season, though they probably won't, because getting rid of things like this always takes longer than it probably should. But the question is out now in a fairly public forum, and it appears to be gaining traction.
It is. Inspired by this, on August 7, #banthestripper began trending on Twitter in the Chicago area, and just recently, the 3 Hawks Goals petition sprang up. Their mission:
We want the Hawks to lead the NHL in providing a fan-friendly environment for ALL fans, including women and kids. We have three simple goals for them:
1) Fix Shoot the Puck. Make the contestant choices truly random, and stop playing the song “The Stripper” when a woman shoots.
2) Give the whole ice crew (men and women) the same outfit, namely pants and a jacket.
3) Have 1-2 women moderators at the 2015 Blackhawks convention.
Women moderators. Imagine that!
The need for a few women to balance out the panels came up more than once during this year's Blackhawks convention. It wasn't just the awkward moment when management was asked about "The Stripper" -- there was also the player panel featuring Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Brad Richards, and moderated by Mark Giangreco. As Kate Conway of Redeye Chicago notes, he upset a good portion of the audience when he drew a parallel between Jonathan Toews' Selke trophy and his girlfriend:
Giangreco, ABC7's sports anchor, seemed determined to make everyone involved feel as slimy as possible. When it came to discussing the NHL awards, for example, he didn't, say, discuss Toews' Selke nomination. Instead, he gave him kudos for the hotness of his girlfriend, comparing her to a trophy -- because nothing brings the LOLs like the literal objectification of women, am I right?
Thankfully, none of the players seemed inclined to play along with Giangreco's brand of douchery. And the audience wasn't too pleased, either. In the hours that followed, many fans took to Twitter or filled out surveys informing management that their star panel had nearly been ruined.
The Blackhawks organization has rebounded majorly in the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane era. But for many fans, they're still in the stone age when it comes to women. At Blackhawks Convention, they were pressed to "recognize the growing number of female fans". It might be time to start listening to them.
They could start by banning "The Stripper".