The Free Press


Moving the needle

Good morning, folks.

I get calls and/or emails every once in awhile asking why we don’t have more coverage of women’s sports.

Let me first say that I think we do a pretty job in this area. Although most of the credit for that goes to the outstanding female athletes we’ve seen in Manitoba over the years. Names like Jennifer Jones, Cindy Klassen, Clara Hughes, Desiree Scott and Sylvia Burka. And, teams like the amazing U of W women’s hoopsters that won 88-straight games and three consecutive national titles in the 1990s and the U of M women’s hockey team that won gold at the nationals in 2018. The list goes on and on.

When the boys and girls provincial volleyball championships, or golf championships, or hockey championships are contested, we try to ensure both events are given equal treatment. Sometimes the boys picture is bigger than the one of the girls, and sometimes the girls picture is larger than the one of the boys. I think it all evens out in the big picture. It’s one of my mandates to try to be sure that it does.

It’s not always easy. The reality is there are less women participating in sports and there are less women’s pro leagues. That adds up — or I guess doesn’t add up to an equal number of stories to be written and published.

We can’t control how many wire stories we get each day on women’s sports, so our solution to moving the needle in this area has always been to focus on being as equitable as possible on local sports.

In fact today, we have a story by Taylor Allen on Bobbi Uhl of the Shilo Golf & Country Club and Neel Soni of the St. Charles Country Club being voted as the 2020 amateur golfers of the year.

While I did once win a national award for a series on gender equity in sports, I’m a guy — and slow sometimes — so, I admit to needing to be poked and kept aware on this subject. Sports reporters Ashley Prest and Melissa Martin did a good job of that, but we’ve been without a female voice in our department since Melissa went over to news a few years ago.

So folks, let me introduce you to Andrea Katz.

Andrea Katz

Andrea Katz

Andrea and her sister Allison Gervais have been championing the cause for women in sports in our city for several years, working with dozens of organizations to showcase different sports and fitness activities available to girls.

I’ve always been impressed with Andrea's blog and newsletter, and now have enlisted her to write for us once or twice a month.

Her first assignment is Girls and Women in Sport, a virtual series being put on by the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba and FIT Women & Girls that has brought together experts on girls and women in sports.

The event started on Tuesday and continues over the next couple of weeks. Upcoming subjects are:

Coaching the Female Athlete: With ex-Team Canada hockey player Jennifer Botteril and Jon Rempel, coach of the U of M Bisons women’s hockey team (Nov. 10);

• Careers in Sport: Featuring broadcaster Leah Hextall and Venla Hovi, who formerly worked as an on-ice instructor for the Jets Hockey Development and is now head coach for the female U17 prep team at Okanagan Hockey Academy (Nov. 12);

• Why girls participate: With CEO of Canadian Women & Sport Allison Sandmeyer-Graves, three-time Olympian in cross-country skiing Chandra Crawford and advocate Gabriela Estrada (Nov. 17);

• Mental Health: With Olympic wrestler Leah Ferguson and Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood of CSCM (Nov. 19).

Tuesday's opening discussion was titled Keeping Girls in Sport and the featured speaker was Addie Miles, who has been heavily involved in coaching in the female hockey community.

"Currently, one in three girls in Canada drop out of sport, and 62 percent of girls are not playing sports at all," Andrea told me on Wednesday. "According to Miles, there is a massive issue in the way we speak to young girls about sport. Parents and coaches all too often talk about sports as being 'just for fun' or 'to get an education.' Or a way to 'stay fit and make friends.' While all of these are true and have positive elements to them, it is far different than the way we speak to boys, which is centred around competition and progression. We need to shift the way we speak to girls about sports overall to encourage them to grow as athletes.

"I am excited to continue to learn and be inspired by the remaining nine speakers for this series."

I'm excited to hear more about it, as well.

Andrea will have a full report for us on Nov. 28.

As always folks, if you care to reach me you can reply to this mailing or send me an email here.

Our coverage

• Waiting for answers: When will the new NHL season begin? Are the Jets going to make any other moves? How long will minor hockey in Winnipeg be shut down for? Who won the U.S. election?! So many questions, so few answers in these uncertain times, but that didn't stop Mike McIntyre and I from delving into the burning topics of the day in our weekly podcast — Jetcetera: Episode 39;

Hockey talk: The 2020-21 MJHL season started with only a few minor bumps during its opening three weeks. That all changed on Friday with an announcement that the Winnipeg metro area was being moved to red status and three days later when a player on the OCN Blizzard had tested positive for COVID-19. A flurry of postponements has left the league with only four teams playing games this weekend. Hockey Manitoba executive director Peter Woods spoke to Mike Sawatzky on Wednesday on the latest developments.


What we're reading

Stats man: Sportsnet's Justin Bourne has 10 oddities from super-weird 2019–20 NHL season;

Rolling out: Jimmie Johnson may be done with NASCAR, but not auto racing. As the 45-year-old completes his 20th and final NASCAR season, he explains in this Sports Illustrated story why he’s done with stock cars and what his next chapter will be; 

Finding Murph: The first overall pick in 1986 went from being a multimillionaire and Stanley Cup champion to wandering the streets in a northwestern Ontario town. Ken Campbell of The Hockey News writes how new book is about how Joe Murphy failed himself and how hockey failed him.

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