A girl at work yesterday asked me if I’d ever date a hockey player.  I have to admit the question caught me a little off-guard.  See, most of the people I know are quite aware of my sports obsession.  However, they are also quite aware that it is a legitimate fandom, not some silly crush-fueled love of a sport due to tight pants, chiseled muscles or the desire to be a trophy wife.  A few weeks ago I spent a couple of days at the Dallas Stars development camp in Frisco, Texas. I went to check out the new talent, hoping to catch a glimpse of who might be joining the AHL team in Cedar Park next season and also wanting to see if goalie prospect Jack Campbell lived up to the hype (he does by the way). While I was there however, I noticed something a little odd…I was the ONLY female there for most of the camp. Yes, there was the occasional girlfriend that popped in on her boyfriend’s arm (looking extremely bored the whole time I might add) or the mom-types that came to watch their kids at camp, but as far as true spectators of the sport…yep, not many. This really got me thinking about female hockey fans and the image we get stuck with most of the time. Call them what you will, puck bunnies or other less-friendly terms, but most people think that girls are only interested in hockey because they are hoping for a chance to hook up with/date/marry a hockey player.

I’ve loved sports all my life. Yes, I was introduced to hockey by guys I thought were cute, but the reason I kept watching had zero to do with those guys and everything to do with the fact that I simply grew to love the sport.  Hockey is an intense sport.  It is fast-paced and rarely do you catch a break in the action, except maybe to send someone to the penalty box (and usually what got them there was pretty intense to begin with) or for major injury. The game moves at lightning speed and is always exciting. More than that for me however, is just a huge amount of respect for the skill and talent these athletes possess. I grew up watching football and have always loved the game, but the day I grew a tremendous amount of admiration for hockey players was the day I threw on a pair of ice skates. It is difficult enough to skate forward and these guys are skating backward, turning on a dime, and somehow managing to track a puck and handle being pushed around by other players. There is an unbelievable amount of skill required to go pro in this sport.

It’s great to see some professional hockey teams working to build their female fan base by actually teaching ladies about the sport.  The Washington Capitals, for example, host Hockey n’ Heels each year (which sells out quickly for the record), which features instructional lessons and on-ice demonstrations by coaches, media and the broadcast team. Of course, you are still going to have those that show up just for the opportunity to meet players, but it is nice to see the team at least making an attempt in making these girls true fans.  I’ve also run across several other female bloggers that either play hockey or are genuine fans, which has been really refreshing.  I must admit I was very proud to have been added to a Twitter list recently called “Hockey Non Puck Bunnies.

So, to return to the original question – “Would I ever date a hockey player?”  To answer truthfully, I’d have to say, “Sure…but not BECAUSE he’s a hockey player (or any other athlete for that matter).”  I’d definitely hold any hockey player to the same ridiculous standards to which I’d hold any other guy accountable.  Furthermore, he’d have to deal with the fact that I live and breathe sports – hockey and football mostly, but I’ll settle for soccer or basketball if it is all that is available.  It’s just who I am and what I do. I put a priority on watching important sporting events and definitely let game outcomes affect my moods at times.  I can talk stats and strategy with the best of them…even if I do notice a hot guy or two every now and then!