Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Return of the Flyers Ice Girls: A Call for Sanity and Men in Hot Pants
                The Philadelphia Flyers are my favorite hockey team, and really, the only sports team I follow with any sort of sustained enthusiasm. Despite my professed fandom, I don’t see the world through orange-tinted glasses - even though the room I’m currently sitting in is painted in bright Flyers orange.
When the Flyers do something dumb, I like to think I’ll call them on it. For example, giving Andrew MacDonald a 6 year, $5M  per season contract. Paying that much money for that many years to a defenseman who at best seems to be regarded as stunningly mediocre and at worst is the front-runner for worst defenseman in the league, well, that was probably ill-advised. 
However, the Flyers have recently found a way to make grossly over-paying a meh hockey player seem like shrewd business in comparison. Behold, the strange and troubling saga of the Flyers ice girls.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the Flyers ice girls are a team of scantily clad ladies who greet fans on their way into the area and scrape snow off the ice during TV time outs at games. All while scantily clad. It’s very important you remember this point.
They’ve been compared to cheerleaders, but I’m not sure that’s the best point of comparison.  The ice girls don’t do a ton of cheering during the game, at least not in my experience, their function is far more utilitarian than that. The ice girls actually perform a useful, albeit sorta-menial task at games (cleaning the ice surface).
A better comparison would be to ball girls at baseball games who have to chase down foul balls so the millionaire athletes on the field don’t have to sully themselves with such a task. The major difference between ball girls and ice girls being ball girls aren’t expected to do their job while wearing a hot pants and a halter top.
Over the summer, a story came outwhich painted the Flyers treatment of their ice girls in a less-than-positive manner. The word torture was used and while that’s probably an exaggeration – I can’t see Ed Snider taking time out from plotting world domination to bother torturing anything – the conditions the story mentioned weren’t ideal. Girls weren’t allowed to eat in uniform, they wear little and do their job outside and near ice, both of which are known to be cold, they’re paid $50 for about seven hours’ worth of work.
This was all in addition to the fact that the ice girls as an institution are just dumb. The Flyers employ some ice dudes as well and guess what? Unlike their female counterparts, the dudes get to wear fleeces and warm-up pants. They’re not walking around flashing ball cleavage.   
Anyway, the Flyers’ response to criticism? Burn it all down. Burn everything. Rather than address the problem and, I don’t know, correct it, it was easier to just disband the ice girls. The Flyers reaction was like if a person woke up one morning and said: “God, I really hate those drapes. Well, I guess I better move.” No! Change the drapes!

In place of the ice girls, the Flyers gave us more dudes in fleeces and warm-up pants and those dudes were booed mercilessly during a preseason game, likely for committing the crime of not being that thing people were used to. The Flyers reaction to this? Sorry! Here’s the ice girls back!
Brilliant decision, Flyers. Bend to the whim of the dumbest section of your fan base. The group who can’t be counted on to make pleasant conversation with the people around them during TV time outs and instead needs someone to jingle a set of keys – or in this case boobs – in their face to prevent a riot.
As is often the case, that dumbest subgroup of fans also happened to be the loudest and so the ice girls are back and the ice dudes will once again be relegated to supporting players or something.
My problem with this is several-fold. Obviously, the logical reaction would have been to ease up on the regulations a little and maybe even let the girls dress like people who work near ice in the winter.
How hard would it have been to let the ice girls wear fleeces and warm-up pants? Would it have ruined anyone’s game experience that much? If so, just go to a damn strip club and leave the sport where grown men chase a rubber puck around and beat the snot out of each other to us cultured folks.
Or, better idea than letting the girls dress like the guys, why not have the guys dress like the girls? Yeah buddy, let’s see us some men in hot pants and muscle shirts. I want to see some rippling pecs out there on the ice pushing shovels. Equality mother-effer. That’s what Abe Lincoln went to war for.
And what would be so wrong with scantily clad men cleaning the ice alongside scantily clad females? Can we stop pretending that only straight men and lesbians go to sporting events? Where’s the eye candy for the gays and the ladies?   
Oh what? You’re worried that the sight of scantily-clad men on the ice might illicit offensive cat calls from the stands? So does a fully-clothed Sidney Crosby and yet no one wants to ban him from the Wells Fargo Center.  
Equality. It’s all I’m asking for. I’m not a hero. I’m just a man who wants to see slightly fewer women in provocative clothing. Or slightly more men. Look, you just find me a balance somewhere and then I’ll go back to whining about the refs and bad contracts and Gary Bettman like a real hockey fan.

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