So, here we are. After nearly two months of grueling playoff action, the hockey postseason is finally over. The Stanley Cup is back in Chicago, most likely bobbing gaily down Clark Street on river of booze and piss like a jolly tugboat. You’ll have to wait until September to see your next NHL game.
But hockey fans, don’t fret! There’s still a sport going on, and it’s a doozy, because the players and the spectators are one and the same. It’s called “separating the ‘true’ fans from the ‘fake’ fans”, and it’s going to be played nonstop through the next year at least.
When any team wins a big championship, there’s always a backlash against “bandwagon fans,” (the ones who claim to be super-devoted but couldn’t name their team’s backup goalie). But for female hockey fans, there is an added layer of suspicion and snobbishness, and unfortunately, it usually comes from other women. I am speaking, of course, of puckslut-shaming .
For the uninitiated, a puckslut (or, to use a gentler term, “puck bunny”), in the most reprehensible sense of the word, is a hockey groupie. She doesn’t care about the traditions or skills inherent in the game; she is strictly in it for the dudes. A stereotypical puck slut is the girl at the game in a pink hockey sweater (always with the name of either the captain or the hottest first-liner printed on the back), wearing false eyelashes and high heels.
She doesn’t really watch the game; she texts, tweets and stalks the glass behind the bench. She shoots selfies of herself in front of the scoreboard but can’t tell you what the tally is after the final buzzer sounds.
For many female hockey fans, she is to be shamed, avoided and ridiculed, lest she sully the careful image they’ve built for themselves as dignified fans whose love and interest in the game runs deeper than which defenseman they can end up boning. The fear of being labeled a puckslut is so strong that female hockey fans feel pressured into becoming statistics-spouting superfans, just to prove they’re in it for the long haul.
Herein lies the conundrum of the female fan: there’s no middle ground allowed. It’s very difficult for a lady to simply be a casual fan, she has to be a rabidly serious devotee or nothing. Says my friend and fellow hockey-lover Amanda: “Know too much and you just want to impress dudes. Know too little and you just want to stare at hunky dudes.” It’s a lose-lose.
Here’s the thing, though: While it may on the surface seem like hating on vapid, boy-crazy chicks might be something every self-respecting feminist should do, it in fact is the opposite. Puckslut-shaming is still slut-shaming, and it’s ultimately sexist.
Sports fans should be able to be sports fans for whatever reason they like. Maybe you watch sports because your dad was a huge White Sox fan and you’re the sentimental type. Maybe you dig the knuckle-whitening drama that comes from witnessing fights or shootouts or extra innings. Maybe you’re just really into John Buccigross’s twitter. And maybe you like hockey because you’ve got a thing for burly Canadians with missing teeth.
I still get defensive when someone talks about whether or not a person is a “real” fan or not. I became a Blackhawks fan just two years ago after I moved to Chicago. Homesick and lonely, hockey gave me something to talk to strangers I met on the train, at bars and at parties. People say the Windy City is a football town, and that might be true, but hockey, at that point, was the most Chicagoriffic sport I could find. Like the city, it was ugly yet beautiful, brutal yet graceful. Standing in a crowded bar along with 50 other people in ugly parkas, clutching cans of Old Style, I felt like I finally fit in. That’s enough of a reason for me.
Listen, assholes. You know that when you’re up on your high horse, scorning other fans, you’re ultimately talking about a group of overpaid dudes in one color shirt trying to keep a ball or puck away from another group of overpaid dudes in another color shirt, right? You know sports are, at the end of the day, completely silly and inconsequential, right? So at the end of the day, saying “pucksluts” like sports for a stupid reason is the raven chiding blackness, right? Everyone likes sports for stupid reasons. Even the loftiest of reasons is a stupid reason, because sports are inherently ridiculous.
We need to do away with the term “pucksluts.” We could call them “muscular butt enthusiasts.” We could make like Principal McGee from Grease and call them “athletic supporters.” But I think we should just call them hockey fans.