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OFFSIDE founder Rhonda reflects on opportunities for improvement following the 2023 Women's Worlds

Here's a little background information on the sports equity movement that I founded, OFFSIDE: MakingHerStory: . As the founder and author of my book by the same name, I have told you the challenges I faced in being heavily involved in the women's game as a player, an administrator, and a director of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA), now Hockey Canada. I told my story, now OFFSIDE is telling the stories of others who continue to overcome barriers in sport. I look at events like the IIHF Women's World Championship, which just happened in Brampton, Ont., and reflect on how this tournament isn't treated equally to those of our male programs. Women's Worlds should be treated with the same level of excitement, enthusiasm and professionalism as World Juniors. I would like to highlight some shortcomings of this year's Women's World, meant not as criticism but as discussion points on how we can create more equity in our sport and level the playing field with the men's program.

he CAA Centre in Brampton, home of the 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship held earlier this month (Photo credits: CAA Centre and IIHF)
The CAA Centre in Brampton, home of the 2023 IIHF Women's World Championship held earlier this month (Photo credits: CAA Centre and IIHF)

My Women's Worlds feedback is as follows. Most of what I am sharing with you is crowdsourced. 1. The rink was generally not designed for a world-class event. It is located in the middle of an industrial area with no restaurants within walking distance or in sight. Most of the attendees who paid for tickets had to sit outside between games to eat their sandwiches and enjoy their libations. It was a tailgate atmosphere. Thank goodness we had beautiful weather that compensated for the lack of restaurants. 2. In the quarterfinals, I could not believe that the canteen ran out of food, at an international event, while meanwhile charging outrageous prices, such as $7.50 for a hotdog and $4 for a bottle of water. 3. It was a difficult location for commuters from central Toronto to reach, with no rapid transit options near this facility. Perhaps the gold medal game could have been relocated to an upgraded arena, or two rink locations in close proximity may have helped address some of these challenges for fans. 4. Being a recipient of two new knees, I appreciate a raised toilet in the accessible bathroom stalls. From what I could see, there was a lack of accessibility options in the women's washrooms. Additionally, the women's washroom line-ups were horrendous between periods. Perhaps a men's washroom could have been made available to women or changed to a gender neutral/inclusive option to accommodate the expected crowds. 5.The swag shop was disappointing for many people. There were only three items -- a beer cozy, a T-shirt and a hoodie, that identified the women's game, featuring the 2023 Women's Worlds logo. Everything else featured just Hockey Canada logos, and we like to see some of that, but more swag specific to the event and female game would be appreciated by fans. By the end of the quarterfinals, there were only a few hoodies left, with larger audience games yet to come. Sadly, from what I saw and heard, there weren't many options for children and youth who wanted to purchase swag specific to Women's Worlds. The T-shirts came in men's and women's sizes, even when the event's slogan was #InspireTheNext, as in "the next generation." I will note that there seemed to be lots of Hockey Canada swag in youth sizes. Additionally, the prices were out of reach for a game that is attempting to become more affordable and accessible, with T-Shirts going for about $40 apiece. 6. Another point on swag is that this is an IIHF event, and many fans wanted to buy the sweaters of other teams. When Finland and Sweden played, I would have worn a sweater supporting Sweden. 7. Speaking of countries other than Canada and the United States, the organizers missed an opportunity when teams were in the stands taking in the gold medal game. I would have welcomed an opportunity to thank those countries for providing wonderful competition. We want to support other countries so that we can help the global female game grow. 8. We are inspiring the next. Although I am aware there were community events scheduled alongside Women's Worlds, as far as I could see there weren't any formal opportunities for young fans to get autographs from their role models on the ice. 9. There were no formal announcements of what was occurring in the concourse, which was more like a line-up hall (line-up for bathrooms and food). 10.There were no formal networking opportunities for the fans, although there were some cool fan experiences in the concourse, many provided by sponsors and partners, while the tailgate parties that happened when fans were forced outside of the event actually brought the crowd closer together. I heard this over and over. 11. At the end of the gold medal game, Finland should have been on the ice with the other two medal-winning teams, no question. 12. Lastly, leaving this rink parking lot every evening took at least 45 minutes. The organizers eventually brought in some traffic flow people with flashlights and yellow vests, but I think they must have been volunteers as they at times created chaos. These logistics needed to be sorted out before the first puck drop on an event. 13. I know that may be a lot to take in but please know that this is meant not to be negative but to help improve upon what has already been built by women's hockey supporters and event organizers. Overall, my family and I had an extremely positive experience. How could we not? We were watching the best women's hockey players face off at this event! However, it is imperative that improvements are made so that again, we can level the playing field with the men's side and continue to break through the glass ceiling in our sport. Were you at the CAA Centre in Brampton for Women's Worlds? What's your feedback? I'd like you to comment here so that we can work together as a team to improve these events and help women's hockey grow both in Canada and around the world. We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go .

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