On Monday, the Blue Jackets hosted the first night of Hockey for Her, a series of events throughout the season that will bring female hockey fans together to learn more about the sport and grow as a community.
Before the game against the Detroit Red Wings, participants gathered to hear from a panel of hockey experts that included CBJ broadcasters Jody Shelley and Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre, the two head referees and two linesmen working the game that night, and president of hockey operations John Davidson. The speakers discussed rules of the game, hockey operations and box-score insights.
Andee Boiman, senior director of fan development and community programs, worked to put together the event and will be running the show for the next few sessions.
"The Blue Jackets have a commitment to making the game accessible," Boiman said. "Part of this program is creating an opportunity for our female fans to have a connection to our sport and to foster a community for women who share the same enthusiasm for hockey."
Fans were excited and engaged during the event, allowing for a vibrant discussion between the speakers and participants, facilitated by Whitney Harding from NBC4.
These ladies definitely did not hesitate to ask questions. The most pressing question of the evening was, "Why do the referees seem to always kick players out of the faceoff dot?" To this, the group of referees responded, "Because centers cheat all the time! We have to pick and choose what to call or else we would kick them out every faceoff."
There was a diverse range of knowledge among the participants at the event, which was presented by Meyers Jewelers. Some had only watched a handful of hockey games, while others actually have played hockey themselves.
Karen Westling and Cortney Massarella, attendees of the event, play in a hockey league together in Newark, Ohio, where ladies from different cities come together and share the love of the game.
"I haven't played in a couple of years because of Covid and then I had a baby," Massarella said. "I'm hoping this will help me get back into it and get a better understanding of the game. My daughter is also getting into the sport but she is having a little trouble skating. The more I can learn, the better I will be able to help her."
Westling and Massarella both agreed that it was cool to see former players and referees speak to them in a more personal setting and appreciated hearing their perspective on the sport.
"It was nice to be able to ask questions about things we were all thinking about," Westling said. "It was especially cool to see the array of women. Some were very new to the game, some have been around it for a while, so that was nice."
If you missed out on Monday night, there's no need to worry. This year, Hockey for Her will be hosting a total of five sessions throughout the remainder of the season, an expansion of the program from years past.
"In the past we only offered one Hockey for Her event per year, but due to popular demand and feedback from our female fans, we wanted to expand the opportunity this year," Boiman said.
Each event will feature a unique part of the sport, starting with the basics and continuing to dive deeper as the season progresses. Participants even have the opportunity to get out on the ice to experience the game first hand; for example, participants in the opening night program were invited to take shots on net on the Nationwide Arena ice after the game, while the Jan. 11 program will feature another on-ice session.
The last session of Hockey for Her will feature a Q&A with women in hockey with an emphasis on celebrating women in sports as a whole.
"We received feedback from previous years and decided to cater each event to a different aspect of hockey that our female fans found unique or interesting, as well as what they wanted to learn more about," Boiman said.
There is still time to join this community of female hockey fans! You can register here for any of the remaining sessions in the 2021-22 season.