Friday, April 06, 2007

Squeegee Girls

NHL team's marketing departments are constantly looking out for things to add to the experience of coming to an NHL hockey game to make it seem more attractive to fans, as its cost constantly rises. One trend that has developed in the last few years is that of "ice girls" being used to come out to pick up "snow" on the ice surface during TV timeouts. This does very little to improve the quality of the ice on which the game is played, but it gives the fans a t 'n a show during the stoppage in play. Some teams do this and many other do not. The problem is that it can disrupt the players on the ice. It particularly disrupts goaltenders who have to abandon their crease so that a girl in tight clothing can clear a bit of snow from the goal.

It was just a matter of time before some players would take offense to this practice. It happened during the April 3rd game where the New York Rangers visited the New York Islanders. This game is of particular importance to both teams because they are both fighting for final playoff spots in the East Conference. It is also a game between two of the NHL's most heated rivals. It is fully understandable that the players want to concentrate on the game and not have to abandon concentration for a pointless t 'n a show that moves them from their positions.

During the first TV timeout, New York Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist refused to move from the crease and when the ice girl proceeded into the crease anyway, he hit her squeegee with his stick. During the second timeout, while another ice girl was leaving the ice, she was squirted with a water bottle by a Ranger player on the bench (or possibly spit upon). During the third timeout, it took three of the on ice officials to make Lundqvist move from the crease to let the ice girls in. It is also alleged that both Lundqvist and teammate Sean Avery swore at the squeegee girls.

Likely, Lundqvist likes to built up some snowpiles in strategic places in front of the net to help keep the puck out and the ice girls were removing them, although they were also disrupting his concentration and possibly removing any grooves he had worked to carve into the ice to help him keep on his feet when necessary and get into a butterfly position. It is also possible that the ice girls disrupt the visiting crease more than they do that of the home goaltender.

The most important rule of any "value addition" to a home game that a marketing department dreams up should not interfere with the players who are playing the hockey game. The hockey game is what is most important and not the ice girls. If there is a problem with a goalie accumulating too much snow in front of his goal, this should be dealt with by a referee or a linesman and not a 20-something girl who's only qualifications are an ability to skate while holding a squeegee and look nice in tight clothing.

The ice girls are not necessary to a hockey game. Many cities (some with very good ice quality) do not have them. The fact that they disrupt players is an issue that the NHL should look into. Although Lundqvist and Avery (and any other Rangers players) may not have been on their best behaviour they did bring this issue into the public and I hope it gets looked at. If ice repair is necessary it should be done by those who are qualified and not a t 'n a show. That is the only way to ensure that it is done in an even handed way and is not used to try to gain a bigger home ice advantage. Most importantly, a hockey game should be about hockey first and foremost. Anything added to the game to make it a better experience for the fan should not get in the way of the players who play the game.

Here is the TSN story on these incidents.

Well thats the mentality of the new york islander brass. They will do anything to put butts in those rotten chairs.If they stuck to the hockey game itself, maybe their team wouldnt be struggling the way they are.I personally hate the Islanders and their fans.The only reason i want them to get in the playoffs is, so the rangers can destroy them.
The ice girls are no more a distraction than the city dancers for the knicks, or any cheer leader for any team , college, high school or pro for that matter. To suggest that the girls try to give an unfair advantage to the home team sounds like sour grapes to me. I suppose a male employee of the home rink would be any more above reproach? I think not. The Rangers only excuse heard so far for their bad behavior (and not following the rules as handed down by the NHL to vacate the crease) ie: spitting cursing and hitting (the squeegee)is that it is the pretty girls fault. Gee it sounds like that football movie The Replacements with Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves. That made me laugh too!!!
One more thing, if a player can't keep his head in the game no matter what goes on during the breaks in the action, the only person he should blame is himself!!
The cheer leaders for a sports team don't make a player move from his area of the field (goalie - crease) so that they can perform.
I guess you believe the girls were clearly asking to be slashed and spit upon becasue of what they were wearing.

These girls are not pole dancing. They are simply trying to do their job. The fact that part of that job is to perform an NHL mandated function seems to be lost on you.

The truth is that these girls are honest working kids, daughters and sisters and they did nothing wrong.
The girls were not asking for anything. They were just doing their jobs. It turns out their jobs are totally unnecessary and can disrupt players from playing the game. They shouldn't have been there, but that is the Islanders fault for creating their jobs and not their fault for doing them.
It is amazing to me how anyone can lay blame on any member of the NY Rangers....were you there ???? All of this is an embellished fabrication, so why be accusatory???
What those ice girls wear is an embarassment to the dignity of both women and hockey. Women should not need to resort to wearing little clothing to keep a job when anyone completely dressed can go clean the ice and hockey should sell its sport with the talent of its players.
The Islanders did not create this job. It used to be done by guys in sweats or jogging suits, toting a shovel, and it's done routinely in every arena to clear the gunk away from the creases - on BOTH sides of the rink, mind you. It's not meant to improve the ice quality so much as to stop goalies from cheating - every keeper piles up the snow, and I've never heard of one of them getting caught, but it's usually a non-issue because teams just send the crew out to clear the stuff away.

The Isles decided to give this job to pretty girls instead of dumpy guys, and people are reacting as if Mike Milbury personally took a whiz in the Stanley Cup.

As far as the rulebook is concerned, nothing directly applies, but 67.3 reads, "A goalkeeper shall be assessed a minor penalty when he deliberately piles up snow or obstacles at or near his net that, in the opinion of the Referee, would tend to prevent the scoring of a goal." Intentionally preventing the ice crew (regardless of their gender) from removing the snow would give a team an advantage specifically identified in the rules as a penalty.
Nightfly, the Islanders did create the job of squeegee girl in tight clothing and it is unnecessary. The Islanders have an ice crew who is responsible for keepinmg the ice in good condition before, during and after games. They are the "guys in sweats or jogging suits". They lay the ice, run the zambonis etc. There is no need for somebody to come out every commercial time out to clean the ice. It isn't done in most rinks. its an unneccessary interuption.

Should we be concerned with goaltenders cheating by piling up ice in the crease, I would much rather it get dealt with by trained officials then by untrained eye candy.
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