Article published in The Cherwell on February 13, 2015
Being a women’s team in a male dominated sport can be tough at times. However, the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club (OUIHC) Women’s Blues are in the midst of the team’s best season on record. Competing in a league where every other team is a men’s team*, we are currently in first place having beaten all the other teams. In total, there are only three women’s university ice hockey teams in the country, and the other two teams play in the division below Oxford.
While the Women’s team is enjoying a successful season, the Men’s side is looking different with two clubs and two teams both called the Oxford Blues. Oddly, they compete against each other in the top division.
For a long time, the relationship between the Men’s and Women’s Blues had been tense. When the Men’s team decided to end its affiliation with Oxford University’s Sports Federation during the 2012/2013 season, our relationship with them was at an all time low. They eventually formed as the Oxford Ice Hockey Trust, and that left OUIHC without a Men’s Blues team and a Women’s team that had to increase efforts to continue its season.
One of the issues leading to the split was the merchandising agreement between the Sports Federation, Kitlocker and Nike, and the Men’s Blues issues with that at the time have been thoroughly documented by the Oxford Ice Hockey Trust. The Trust has also thoroughly documented the events that followed their objection to the merchandising, which escalated to the point that the Men’s team not only decided to leave OUIHC, but also decided to end their affiliation with the University. The split was an unfortunate series of events.
From the Women’s team’s perspective however, we feel that the Trust’s account of the split doesn’t tell the entire story. One reason for our frustration is that the Men’s team at the time of the split contacted Kitlocker to demand that a ‘W’ (for Women) was added within our OUIHC name, making us OUWIHC. We did not feel that this was an appropriate change or distinction that needed to be made. Additionally, our women’s team felt that extensive sexist behaviour and comments were exhibited and made towards us. Alumni of the team have reported similar experiences from their time in the club. We are frustrated that the Trust’s accounts of the split continue to surface without any mention of these issues, we feel these issues should be included in all accounts, and we want the wider university to know that we now have an OUIHC that is supportive and equal.
Since the split, OUIHC Men’s second team have been developing the Men’s side of the University team. Their efforts have been awarded with re-entry into the division-one league, and they are again recognised by the Sports Federation and hold Blues status. We have a great relationship with the new OUIHC Men’s Blues. Both teams support each other by running off-ice training sessions, volunteering at each other’s games, and meeting for dinners and social events.
However, running a club is difficult when there is a competing club. This competition means that both players and fans are split between them. Having two clubs rather than one means that we are all missing out. However, despite our struggles the OUIHC has a vision for the future. We are hoping to take ice hockey within the University to the next level with more players, stronger first teams and a greater presence within the University. In order to achieve this we need all ice hockey players in Oxford to be united and working towards the same goals. Oxford University already has the top women’s team in the country, and we’d like nothing more than to have the OUIHC Men’s Blues there with us, hopefully in time as a Full Blues sport.
The OUIHC Women’s Blues
*The OUIHC Women’s Blues compete in Division 1 Non-Checking in the BUIHA. While most teams are comprised of men, there are other women playing in the league. The OUIHC Women’s Blues are the only all female team competing in Division 1.