Flyers handling return of Ice Girls in stupidest possible way

Getty Images
Getty Images

In their first preseason game at Wells Fargo Center, the Philadelphia Flyers debuted their “Ice Boys,” a collection of young men skating with shovels and wearing full warm-up suits. They replaced their Ice Girls, who also wore skates and also pushed shovels and were dressed in slightly less than you’d see on a Hooters waitress.

And the crowd booed, emphatically, like a child whose parents took away their eye candy.

The Flyers now had a problem on their hands. They ditched the Ice Girls after a Mother Jones exposé had some of them calling the job “torture” and detailing restrictions like not being able to eat food in public at the Winter Classic in Philly. Yet their decision to swing the pendulum completely the other way also bombed.

This week, the Flyers did the predictable thing, and proudly announced that their Ice Girls would return with this ridiculous video on Facebook that was also shown inside the arena, featuring lovely women skating in slow motion to "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

Seriously, watch this. It's edited with all the restraint of a teenage boy hoping for a boob flash in a PG-13 movie.

The decision was met with a predictable derision. Adam Proteau of The Hockey News called it “a massive insult to female fans.”  Deadspin hoped the conditions would be better this time for the women. Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey offered criticism of the Flyers and some common sense solutions, while also being stonewalled by the team in his attempts to better understand the issue.

We decided to make our own attempt at understanding the Flyers’ side of things, because frankly the soap-boxing on this issue is so one-sided they deserved to have some say in the debate.

So we reached out to a cheery sort named Ike Richman, the vice president of public relations for Comcast-Spectacor.

@Ike_Richman
@Ike_Richman

We caught him at a bad time on the phone, so he asked us to email him, and we sent the following:

Hey there Ike ... sorry I caught you at a bad time.

I wanted to reach out because I think a lot's been written about the flip back to the Ice Team without the courtesy of anyone reaching out to you. So I just had a few questions/clarifications: 

1. Is the team going to be co-ed? I know it was in the past. Are you incorporating some of the guys from the "ice boys" team in the preseason, or is this going to be an all-female group?

2. What prompted the decision to go back to the ice girls? Was it the crowd reaction? Did you guys monitor social media or message boards about it as well?

3. It seems like the issue for a lot of women was that there wasn't equal representation. Women wear skimpy outfits; men wear track suits. Isn't there a way to offer eye candy for both sexes? Why not do that?

Seemed reasonable, and we were excited when Ike wrote back fairly quickly to address these concerns.

Here was his response:

The most passionate fans in hockey have spoken and we listened! The Philadelphia Flyers will debut a 10-member Ice Team during the Flyers’ home opener on Thursday, October 9 when they face off against the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m.

When Flyers fans voice their concerns, we listen, because they are undeniably the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in all of sports. After two preseason games evaluating the program, we’ve decided to welcome the return of the Flyers Ice Team, beginning on opening night. We’ll look to assemble a team that is fan friendly, and represents the Flyers well both on the ice and in the community.

We will host tryouts at The Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ, on Sunday, October 5 beginning at 12 p.m. (check-in at 11 a.m.). Interested participants can register in advance online at PhiladelphiaFlyers.com or in-person on the day of the tryouts. Interested participants must be at least 18 years of age to be eligible.

That was … nothing about what we asked.

So we tried again:

Do you have any time on the phone today or tomorrow morning so we can actually address the questions in my email? Like I said, I wanted to reach out because I don't think the coverage has been balanced, and I'm not running a press release as a response. 

Although I guess I just did.

And Ike said:

The ice team will return on Thursday night. We are having auditions on Sunday. There's not much more for me to address.

So we decided to narrow the focus:

Ike, there's one central question. I don't care about the other stuff, and understand if you can't address it. 

1. Is the team going to be co-ed? I know it was in the past. Are you incorporating some of the guys from the "ice boys" team in the preseason, or is this going to be an all-female group?

That's really all I need from you. Was hoping for more insight, but completely understand if you can't offer it. But please, for the sake of balance on this issue, which I'm trying to provide, give me that. 

And Ike responded:

Men and women are encouraged to audition. 

So there you go, fellas. Your time to shine. On Oct. 5, make sure you follow the instructions on the Philadelphia Flyers Ice Team page and:

- Tell them if you have cheerleading experience.

- Tell them if you’ve ever been a member of a professional dance squad.

- Remember: “Professional looking hair and make-up is strongly encouraged. However, please make sure that your hair doesn't hide your face, as one of the things the judges will be scoring you on is how well you demonstrate spirit, energy and enthusiasm.”

Especially pay attention to that last point, because obviously men are encouraged to wear professional looking hair and make-up to this clearly co-ed audition.

Look, the Flyers are going to do what they do with the Ice Girls issue. We just wish they stopped being so damn stupid about it.

Firing the entire Ice Girls crew and going all-male was an extreme, petulant response to legitimate criticism. Firing a good portion of those men – we imagine some will be retained in a half-hearted attempt at a co-ed mix – is equally daft. And acting like the reaction from a preseason crowd is somehow representative of the entire fan base, many of whom are royally pissed at the existence of Ice Girls and/or the team’s handling of the issue, is a Costco-sized bushel of stupid.

(The cherry on top of the whole thing is the dismissive, evasive response from their communications staff to any query about this decision. Which, frankly, is the kind of thing you expect from an organization that understands its footing on the issue.)

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Look, it’s a rather simple solution in 2014: If you want eye candy, have it for both genders, in equally revealing costumes. Or have men and women both wearing some sweet gear from the team store.

Or do what the Flyers have done in this preseason, and come off completely incompetent on nearly every facet of this issue.