[Erin note: Since this article was published, we have received word from the Stars that they are not doing a Lake Day video with the Ice Girls this year. As I wrote in the story, 'I'd like to hope that will change this year (heck, I'd like to hope this whole article is about nothing..),' and it apparently is. Therefore, we're closing comments on this story. ]
August is my least favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons.
Where I live, it's when the weather it at its worst with 115 degree days and 90 degree nights, and even a few hours out in the sun with SPF 50 on leaves me looking like a lobster. Hockey news is at its nadir, with just a trickle of signings coming down even as players start to wander back toward their NHL cities.
And in Dallas Stars world, it's time for the only thing the team does that I loathe entirely and would like to fire into the sun while throwing a party to celebrate its demise - Lake Day.
For the uninitiated, Lake Day is the Stars version of the Cowboys cheerleaders calendar, where the Ice Girls all dress up in their bikini best and head out on a boat to be filmed for the website. It has absolutely zero relevance to hockey but has been a staple the Stars have used to fill the late summer for several years now.
It also makes me want to set things on fire. More than a little bit.
Look, I get that Ice Girls are a topic that is a bit overblown right now, just like everything in the dog days. I also get that I am probably the exact opposite of their intended audience and that if you've caught me at the right moment in the comments or on Twitter, my feelings are well known.
With the relatively recent decisions by the Florida Panthers to eliminate Ice Girls and the Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks to add them, along with the relatively loud recent Twitter discussion about how the NHL could better market to women sparked by the aftermath of the Ray Rice suspension, it seemed like a good time to get my official thoughts on The Thing I Hate Most down on virtual paper.
First, a number to get out of the way because it's going to come up in the comments. Depending on which survey you ask, the NHL audience is between 30-40 percent female - far from a majority but also a very significant chunk.
Back when I was a paid newspaper hack, I covered sports across all levels. I tolerated and even appreciated most cheerleading squads, mixed-gender in a few collegiate cases but the majority all girl. If they are in front of the crowd actively trying to lead cheers - heck, if they serve some purpose other than to be ogled - they're as easily ignored and generally harmless as pumped in crowd noise. Heck, many are even impressively athletic with the gymnastics and stunt work they can manage.
Perhaps the best place to see this is cheerleaders in front of rowdy student sections in college basketball. When it works, the cheerleaders in combination with the band and crowd can create an entirely hostile environment for the visitors and an extremely supportive one for the home team.
Professional sports cheerleaders serve another purpose entirely, generally as pre-game and in-game entertainment, but they are something I can crankily ignore. Like I said above, I'm obviously not the intended audience. The times I've met individual Ice Girls, they've been lovely individuals who seem to enjoy the Stars as much as I do.
Therefore, I'm not here to rail against Ice Girls or cheerleaders in general (though if you're interested in that point of view, there are very well considered articles in several places). I'm not even here to roll my eyes at how obnoxious it can be to be a female sports fan and/or professional (though there is a lovely article on that here).
I'm here to plead with the Stars to knock off Lake Day, otherwise known as the video referred to as "soft-core boat amusement."
Look, I get why they do it. The insatiable eyeballs of teenage boys and the teenage boy in all of us drives the video to be at or near the top slot in most watched on the Stars site all year. It's the video equivalent of SEO trolling - why not use the easiest, cheapest available means to drive traffic during a slow time of year?
But I'd like to believe the team I've put 15 years of my heart and soul into is better than that. I'd like to think they are above objectifying their attractive employees for quick page views. I'd like to think they realize how off-putting it is to female fans to know that this is something their favorite team endorses without any apparent benefit other than internet traffic.
Because it really is offputting. I don't agree with the rationale for a dance team, but at least it's cursorily related to the game I want to watch. Heck, when I interned with the Cowboys, I rolled my eyes every time the cheerleader calendar came up, but at least a portion of the proceeds went to charities like the USO. It's a flimsy rationale, but at least there was one.
The Ice Girls also have a charity swimsuit calendar and participate in various charity events throughout the season, but none of it is tied into Lake Day itself, at least outwardly.
Lake Day has nothing to do with hockey; it doesn't advertise for the team or any particular product, and as far as I can tell it does nothing to benefit any charity. If this year is anything like last, the Stars will promote it heavily on the website and social media once it's released in late August or early September. I'd like to hope that will change this year (heck, I'd like to hope this whole article is about nothing because they've already thought better of the idea), but I highly doubt that's the case.
The tide seems to be changing a bit in the NHL. People seem to be frustrated that teams feel they need to add provocatively dressed dance teams, as we saw in the push back against the Oilers and Sharks adding crews. And the Detroit Red Wings got some large kudos this summer when the told a teenage girl who posted about her aspirations to marry any Wings player to dream bigger than that.
It was followed up with this beauty of a line after many called that girl dumb, showing how associating attractive women doing implicitly sexual things with the business of professional hockey can associate the wrong things in the minds of many.
Now, a hockey team isn't there to teach life lessons to its child or adult fans. But you'd like to think a team endorses everything it has an official role in.
And that, at it's heart, is probably why Lake Day bothers me so much. It serves no purpose other than to titillate and to generate cheap page views. It has nothing to do with the actual role these women serve with the team (unless we're codifying them as only eye candy) and even less to do with what the Stars organization actually does - put forth the best hockey team they can.
All it seems to be about is allowing an audience to ogle scantily clad women because their favorite hockey team thinks they'd like it. Which, like I said above, makes me want to set things on fire.
The Lake Day video is something I think the Stars are better than. I only wish they felt the same way.