Guzzo and the unnecessarily sexist “hockey widow” promotion

Last week, I went to see Xavier Dolan’s new film Mommy at one of the Cinémas Guzzo megaplexes. I go there because it’s not far from home, and because it’s inexpensive (at least on Tuesdays), but also to send a bit of a message to Guzzo’s owner that some people do actually want to see arty homegrown films.

Executive VP and public face Vincenzo Guzzo has been repeatedly on record as calling for Quebec films to be more mainstream, more feel-good, more accessible to the general public. He feels that, more than anything else, is what is keeping homegrown cinema from becoming more popular.

And though he could present his ideas with more tact, he’s not wrong on that point.

I like Guzzo because he’s the little guy, a local entrepreneur trying new things in an industry dominated by the Cineplex Odeons and Famous Players of the world, even taking them to court to try to break the oligopoly. And he speaks his mind and is accountable to the public, unlike the heads of those other cinema chains whose names we don’t even know.

But being the little guy also means saying stuff that is foolish, poorly thought out or downright stupid.

Before the screening of Mommy, I saw an ad for a new promotion: Hockey widows, the women left alone while their husbands or boyfriends watch hockey games, could get discounts on tickets at Guzzo.

It seemed like a good idea, though perhaps a bit sexist in its message. Surely there are hockey widowers out there, or other reasons why people might want to go out during a hockey game.

On the website, Guzzo specifies that the deal doesn’t apply Tuesdays or during afternoons (when prices are already discounted). And it says “Ladies only!”

That seemed unnecessary to me. Why impose such a by-definition sexist requirement? What’s the purpose of applying this discount only to women?


After getting some negative reactions on Twitter, particularly from some local female sports journalists who have to deal with this kind of sexist assumption on a regular basis, Guzzo’s response (on Twitter and in an interview with CBC Daybreak) was naturally not to listen or express sympathy or alter the promotion to make it more inclusive, but to accuse his critics of being too sensitive:

And yet, the “hockey widows” idea would be fine if it wasn’t so sexist, both in its form and the way it’s presented.

Unfortunately, Mr. Guzzo is too focused on dismissing the criticism against him to understand any of it.

Robyn Flynn, a TSN 690 reporter, notes that this promotion is similar in assumptions to a poorly thought out “While the Men Watch” blog set up by Hockey Night in Canada.

14 thoughts on “Guzzo and the unnecessarily sexist “hockey widow” promotion

  1. Lorne

    Count me out from going to Guzzo in the future. How about for men every time there is an awards show on TV they get a special rate?

  2. Anonymous

    Not sure how you think this sexism. Women typically do not sit with their male cohorts for 3 hours of male oriented sports. Guzzo is calling out women to come out, enjoy a move and after this piece of entertainment is done maybe call out the guys for drinks at the 2 for 1 pour les dammes bars.

    Sounds like a win win to me.

  3. Dilbert

    Wow, this is about the last place I expect to see politically correct crap.

    Guzzo also offers discounted rates for children and seniors. As a male who is in neither of these groups, I find that ageism is truly annoying. Let everyone pay the same price I say, all in the desire for equality of the sexes, the ages, and all of the people. Why can you give a discount to someone who is 65, but not 64? If you gave a discount relative to the color of skin (lighter you are, the less you pay!) it would be considered racists. Yet you can do it based on age, right?

    Seriously though… this isn’t sexist. It’s poorly executed, but it plays a lightly amusing stereotype in Canadian society to a minor market advantage. By your standards, we will have to order all bars to cancel ladies night, clearly that is sexist too!

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Guzzo also offers discounted rates for children and seniors. As a male who is in neither of these groups, I find that ageism is truly annoying.

      Age-based discrimination like this is still generally accepted. But it usually doesn’t come with a condescending and offensive ad campaign.

  4. R.

    I don’t enjoy hockey. I’m a man. I have female friends who enjoy hockey who are always busy hockey nights. Why can’t I get the promo? It’s sexist.

    Senior discounts are given since these people are often retired and only have their pensions. Student discounts are given because students don’t have income and won’t spend full price.

    Also, Fagstein, this promo existed last year too during the playoffs.

  5. Mario D.

    I fail to see how you would put Guzzo in the little guys category. He is a dominant force in the market and if he could he would make sure that all real little guys close or join him if it hasn`t already been achieved.

    His recent comments about Dolan`s type of movies and now with this kind of promotions is just another way to make sure that we get to pay for whatever amusement park he puts in his megaplex or whatever price he chooses that we should pay for his popcorn.

    He will be facing sooner than he thinks the Netflix reality and will see his market share disapear if he just relies on fate and hockey widows to make it.

    I can see how some would be insulted or ill at ease with a promotion like this but those same people should also feel weird when as a man i am always seen as the dork at his barbecue being led by his girlfriend in any and every situation of life…Buying a car, a house,familly matters,food choices,vacations and so on and so on …Publicity is hard to swallow when it hits the spot…

    1. Fagstein Post author

      I fail to see how you would put Guzzo in the little guys category.

      He’s local, and he’s not a multinational corporation. And he speaks for his own company. That’s how.

  6. Virginia

    seeing as my tweets are quoted I wanted to chime in: If a promotion was offered to men only and not women, there would be an uproar. you cannot offer a different price based on gender. period. end of story (and yes, it goes for ladies’ nights too.) Let me ask what would happen if a person who’s gender is not clearly identifiable showed up? I have a daughter with very short hair who is constantly mistaken for a boy (she loves hockey BTW so she would NEVER go to a movie on hockey night!) But if she showed up at the theater, would she be charged the male price and then have to show ID to prove she’s a girl?

    The fact that we are still talking about this in 2014 is baffling to me. PS it’s hockey night tonight, wonder how many non-feminist women are going to go to this… sadly, too many

  7. A Female Sports Fan

    People seem to be fixating on the discount being offered in this promotion, which isn’t the issue. As a woman and a sports fan, the issue I have is: a) it assumes women don’t like hockey and b) they have a husband who controls what they can watch at home. Even the poster used in promoting it speaks volumes of this throw back to the 1950s.
    A few years ago a radio station ran a promotion to give away tickets to a boy band coming to Montreal. The contest asked mothers to tell them why their daughters wanted to see this band. A friend of mine had an 8 year old son who was a fan of the band. The young boy wondered why the tickets were only being given to girls and, as a boy, was it wrong that he liked this band? My friend was also concerned about girls who didn’t have mothers to enter them in this contest. After speaking with someone at the radio station, the contest was changed to: why your child wants to win tickets. I don’t know if her phone call, or if others people called to express their comments led to this change, but the point is they had the guts to make it a more inclusive contest.
    Mr. Guzzo should not take the comments personally (and yes, by telling the women who criticized it to “stop the sensitivity”, he made it personal) and be more open minded to admit a promotion called “Hockey Widow” is not the best marketing plan. Maybe then he will have the guts to make it more inclusive and available for all non-hockey fans: male and female. As I said, it’s not about the discount. It’s the statement Cinemas Guzzo is making about women and sports that is offensive.

  8. Heather

    This promotion would have been awesome here in Calgary as an anti-Montreal promotion … and probably way less controversial ;)

    I’m always up for a discount but there is no way I’d want my daughter to get the impression that we would have to abandon the home for girl time so the menfolk could reign and burp and fart. She’s a really good farter.

  9. Joseph Alacchi

    It is sexist and like the RTL free bus rides for women on Women’s Day, should be stopped, and class action lawsuits filed.

    1. SMS

      There were no free rides offered by the RTL this year on the 8th of March (I should know, I work for them), so your heart can stop bleeding now.


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