NHL Top Three: Women and Diversity, ESPN Deal, and Wilson Suspension

Another hectic week of NHL antics has come and gone and we have it all covered for you here at Unbenched. Stick around as we reflect on how the NHL chose to celebrate International Women’s Day, the possible upcoming deal between the NHL and ESPN Sports, and the controversy surrounding Tom Wilson’s recent suspension.

The NHL Celebrates International Women’s Day

Last week, we acknowledged how the NHL was going to be taking steps in order to celebrate International Women’s Day, including the panel of Jamie Hersch, Lauren Gardner, Jackie Redmond, and Kendall Coyne Schofield who hosted NHL Now for the day.

Similarly, many NHL teams partook in the festivies, as they hosted their own all-women panels to speak via zoom about their experiences within the sports industry. Many teams also posted statements in regards to supporting women in sports and promoted the upcoming Isobel Cup: the NWHL’s playoffs that are set to begin soon.

While the NHL did a decent job of covering women’s sports and women’s stories throughout the day, there were two large takeaways that fans had from all of this: the feeling of being performative and the lack of diversity.

If you were to take a look at any NHL broadcast or NHL team’s social media feed on any other given day, there is a higher probability that you would see posts about players pets before you saw anything at all related to women in sports, and that’s the harsh truth. The NHL does the bare minimum on International Women’s Day in order to pat themselves on the back and act like they’re true allies.

Similarly, many fans took note of the extreme lack of diversity of these various panels. It’s safe to assume around 90-95% of the women showcased were straight, white women within the industry. This upset many people, as it should, because how can we celebrate International Women’s Day without highlighting all different types of women and showcasing the diversity that exists within the industry? A woman of color in the industry will have a vastly different experience than a white women, and it’s incredibly disappointing that the NHL stayed away from trying to highlight that. It’s impossible to cover such an important day without telling the stories of women of color as well.

Simply put, what the NHL has been doing to promote the women’s game hasn’t even hit the bare minimum; they have the assets to cover it more and that’s what they need to be doing every day, not just on special occasions in an attempt to prove that they care about women in the industry.

NHL and ESPN Rumored to Reach Seven Year Deal

NBC is currently in its final year of its contract with the NHL, meaning the NHL is set to find other carriers. It’s currently being speculated that ESPN is one of the possible carries, SportsNet reported early Tuesday morning.

Not much is known about the deal yet, as it’s all in speculation, but it’s been said that ESPN+, ESPN’s new online streaming service, could be a big part of this deal. However, it seems that ESPN would not retain the rights to the Stanley Cup Final in any of the years in their contract, as NBC could still end up retaining those rights.

This comes as a shock to many, as the NHL has notably been a bit on edge with ESPN since the 2004 lockout incident and ESPN has yet to broadcast any NHL games in nearly two decades.

Unbenched will continue to update as this story progresses and if the NHL or ESPN make anything official. Until then, everything is still under speculation.

Tom Wilson Suspension: Deserved or an Overreaction?

While many Washington Capitals fan like to deny it, Tom Wilson is a dirty player and fans have a bone to pick with him. On March 7th, Wilson was issued a seven game suspension after boarding Boston Bruin Brandon Carlo, who was rushed to the hospital due to the hit.

It’s no secret that this isn’t the first time the league and fans have been in up in arms about Tom Wilson and his dirty plays and high hits. He’s a notable repeat offender as this is his fifth suspension issued by the league since 2017, in addition to two fines.

Wilson has been suspended numerous times for dangerous hits such as boarding and illegals checks to head and seems to have no intention of fixing this part of his game, which brings player safety into question and what the NHL is truly doing to prevent injuries that are dished out by players like Wilson.

The NHL, arguably, continues to enable him by giving him slaps on the wrist at this point. Wilson shows little remorse and seems to have learned absolutely nothing, which has created a great divide among the league. Many believe that this particular suspension was too harsh, especially considering Wilson wasn’t even issued a penalty for the hit, while others think it wasn’t enough. In my opinion, when looking at Wilson’s past, he certainly needs to be reprimanded to a much higher degree; these multiple game suspensions aren’t doing anything.

At the end of the day, the NHL needs to begin taking harsher measures on Wilson or this will continue to happen over and over again with no true consequences. What will it take for Wilson to finally learn that this style of play is unacceptable and when will the NHL decide to do something about it?

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