Karyn Bye Dietz, an International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Famer, won gold in 1998 and silver in 2002 with the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. In her words, as told to Pat Borzi, Bye Dietz talks about the importance of more exposure for the NCAA women's national championship.
Monday morning, the day after the University of Minnesota upset undefeated Boston College for its fourth NCAA women's hockey championship in five years, Tatum, my 12-year-old daughter, awoke to find a terrific gift waiting for her -- an NCAA championship cap that my husband Cal Dietz, Minnesota's strength and conditioning coach, brought home for her.
My daughter doesn't play hockey, but she's a University of Minnesota women's hockey junkie. She loves the sport, loves the girls, just loves watching it. She couldn't wait to get another NCAA championship cap. She got up and the cap was sitting there on the counter for her. She put it on, all smiles, and I was so happy for her.
Then I took a closer look at the side of the cap, and I saw something that shocked me -- the men's Frozen Four logo, which says Tampa Bay, and not the women's, which was held at my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, in Durham. I looked at Cal and I said, "Did you see this?" And he said, "Oh, yeah. And trust me, all the girls saw it too."
Are you kidding me?
This was just so wrong on so many levels. I took a picture of it and immediately sent it to eight or 10 of my former teammates from the U.S. Olympic team. That stirred the pot. AJ Mleczko Griswold posted the photo on Twitter, and everybody got so fired up.
Only about 20 members and staff of the championship teams get these caps, and to have a men's logo on it is insulting. Let me ask you this: Do you think the NCAA would hand a championship cap out to a men's team with a women's logo on it? That's my question, because there's not a chance.
My teammates and I care so much about the sport. We were the pioneers going through the Olympics in 1998, the first year of women's hockey as a medal sport. All we want is for the sport to continue to grow.
In addition, how can we get the championship game on live television? Not on tape delay this coming Sunday on CBS. Not live-streamed. Live, on cable or broadcast television. Somehow, at some point in time, this game deserves it. It's such an incredible game.
(Editor's note: A CBS spokeswoman said the network already had contractual commitments to live events on the main network and the CBS Sports Network when the NCAA approached them about televising the national championship game several months ago. The game was live-streamed on ncaa.com.)
Now, we're not asking them to televise every single women's ice hockey game out there. Let's just televise the Division I NCAA women's national championship game live. People will see some talented hockey. This year's game especially. You had Minnesota, where girls' hockey is booming, and Boston College, undefeated and coached by my Olympic teammates Katie King Crowley and Courtney Kennedy. It's not a stretch to expect at least half-a-dozen players in this game, including Boston College's Alex Carpenter and Amanda Kessel of Minnesota, to be part of the next U.S. Olympic team.
The '98 Olympics was definitely a springboard to get girls and women more involved in hockey. It was at that point where I think parents saw, "You know what, I think it will be OK if my daughter plays hockey." We still have parents out there today who consider it a boys' sport, and they don't want their daughters to get hurt. But there are so many girls playing now on youth hockey teams, I think we need to promote it. And one of the best things we could do to promote it is show it on TV. I'm a color commentator for the Minnesota girls' state high school hockey tournament, which is shown on a local TV channel every year, and I know that is helping to grow the sport.
In the last two days I've talked or texted with many of my former Olympic teammates -- Angela Ruggiero, Katie Crowley, Courtney Kennedy, Tara Mounsey, Laurie Baker, Colleen Coyne and Tricia Dunn-Luoma -- who all feel as strongly about this as I do.
I just want society to know, we're not asking for a lot. We understand the women's game doesn't bring in the amount of money the men's game does. We get it. But let's at least get the one game, the championship game, on live TV. That's all we're asking.
That, and a proper hat.