Baby steps for women’s hockey

If you’ve been reading me for a while you might remember that in 2012 I noted how Montreal’s top women’s hockey team needed help from the media. And in 2014 I mentioned how the team needed help from fans.

There are many reasons why the Canadian Women’s Hockey League isn’t getting as much attention as the National Hockey League, and not all of them could be boiled down to the quality of the product on the ice. Marketing, fan support, player salary, media attention, availability of broadcasts and other factors all needed help, and fixing one wouldn’t change much without fixing the rest.

I’m happy to see that we’re seeing some real progress in making the women’s game better. Last March, the NHL’s Canadiens stepped up to the plate and offered help on the organizational and marketing side. That led to a new name — the Canadiennes — a new logo and a new jersey this fall.

Fan support seems to have grown, from what I can tell. The home games I’ve gone to this year have seen fans well into the upper half of the Étienne Desmarteau arena, which I saw less of in seasons past.

On Dec. 31, the Canadiennes got to play outside as part of the NHL’s Winter Classic event. The game was abbreviated, it wasn’t broadcast on TV, and few fans showed up to see it, but they were there.

And the media is paying more attention. Sportsnet is now airing the Clarkson Cup women’s hockey tournament, as well as some regular-season games. Others (though not all) are broadcast online. And we’re seeing more coverage of the team, the league and its players.

We’re nowhere near getting the CWHL to the same level as the NHL, or the AHL, or even the junior leagues, and future progress still requires each of the parties to go the extra mile, but we’re headed in the right direction.

Sports reporter Robyn Flynn

Sports reporter Robyn Flynn

One of the people fighting the good fight more than others is Robyn Flynn, a whatever-you-need-me-to-do worker at TSN 690 and CJAD. She, along with Jared Book, are contributing stories about the Canadiennes to the Eyes on the Prize website. On her weekly Sunday morning show Centre Ice — a rare sports radio show hosted by a woman — she makes it a point to talk about the women’s game as well as the men’s game, and do things like talk to women’s hockey players. And she’s a regular at the Canadiennes home games, because she’s part of the broadcast team.

This Saturday, as Montreal played Boston’s CWHL team (two days after playing Boston’s NWHL team), Flynn made her debut as a play-by-play announcer, with Kelly Greig doing colour commentary. She’s no Mike Emrick yet, but you got to start somewhere.

It takes a lot of effort to get the media to pay attention to something new on a consistent basis, especially when the public’s interest doesn’t follow right away. That makes contributions like Flynn’s all the more important, and admirable.

If you want to watch the Canadiennes and the CWHL’s athletes in action, the next Canadiennes home games are Jan. 30 at 5:30pm, and Jan. 31 at 1:30pm, against Calgary, at the Desmarteau arena. Tickets are $15.

Centre Ice with Robyn Flynn airs Sundays from 10-11am on TSN Radio 690.

11 thoughts on “Baby steps for women’s hockey

  1. Kelly Greig

    Shout out to John Bower as well who does the Canadiennes PxP normally! All steps in the right direction. Also Heather Engel who is the media director for the Canadiennes is a huge reason for this success.

  2. Steve W

    The food prices at The Canadiennes games are still reasonable? Tickets are now $15(from $10 in previous years) so those prices have been raised. Where can I hear(or watch) The Canadiennes home games broadcasted by Robyn Flynn & Kelly Greig? Any upcoming CWHL games on Sportsnet(I’m guessing they’re airing the playoffs & finals)? I have never seen a full CWHL game live or on television. Next year if it goes as planned, CWHL players will all be paid a salary(in response to NWHL for competition for best women hockey players in the world)?

    1. Fagstein Post author

      The food prices at The Canadiennes games are still reasonable?

      Yes. Surprisingly so.

      Where can I hear(or watch) The Canadiennes home games broadcasted by Robyn Flynn & Kelly Greig?

      Livestreamed games are available at, though they don’t sort them by play-by-play team.

      Any upcoming CWHL games on Sportsnet(I’m guessing they’re airing the playoffs & finals)?

      I don’t know of any offhand until the Clarkson Cup playoffs.

  3. Steve W

    Forgot to ask, are The Canadiennes players considered pros or amateurs, when they don’t make a salary from the team? Lauriane Rougeau, Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin & Charline Labonte, would get money from Sport Canada as a current Canadian carded athlete(maybe Labonte, Ouellette are not even carded athletes anymore).

    To answer my own question above, I’m guessing Robyn Flynn & Kelly Greig are broadcasting the home The Canadiennes games as part of CWHL Live. You have to subscribe to the pay service for the year(not too expensive) to watch the live broadcasts.

  4. Brett

    If 600 AM gets launched maybe they could do an English broadcast of home games.

    Also if 850AM gets launched they could do French broadcast of home games.

        1. Fagstein Post author

          it would be a good way for them to attract listeners to their new stations once live.

          I’m all for women’s hockey and wishful thinking, but I have no reason to believe this is true.

  5. John Bower

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you for the post on the broadcasts of les Canadiennes and thank you Kelly for the shout out as I’ve been the pbp voice for the Stars/Canadiennes for the past three years and I’ve been fortunate to have been working beside Robyn Flynn since the start of this campaign.

    When Robyn and I first met this off-season, my first question to her was what was her eventual goal and she said that she wanted to do play-by-play, so the objective was that we’d start splitting games in the New Year. Little did we know that I’d have to call on my broadcast partner to fill in for me for a full game on the third day of the New Year!

    Robyn is a dynamic young voice who has a lot of talent and I hope will be the first Canadian woman to break the hockey pbp glass ceiling on TV (Or at least I’m hoping so that I can say I knew her when!). I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to work in radio, tv and webcasting with a lot of talented reports, analysts and hosts but it perplexes me why network television is so against letting women into the booth for either colour or play-by-play.

    Cassie Campbell-Pascal is the perfect example. She knows more about hockey than most of us, but CBC, TSN previously, and now Rogers only see fit to let her be an analyst on Olympic hockey or women’s championships. It’s a shame.

    Hopefully Robyn will end up being the one who goes where no woman has gone before in Canada :)

    As for questions about CWHL Live broadcasts, we run with a game every Saturday and Sunday throughout the season and those games not broadcast on Sportsnet during the Clarkson Cup playoffs. It’s a subscription service for the live games as it assists in developing revenue for the league and off-sets costs for the players.

    The next CWHL broadcast on Sportsnet will be the All-Star game on Saturday January 23rd from Air Canada Centre in Toronto. I can’t say who will be doing pbp for certain but if what I’ve been told is true, fans will enjoy the telecast.

    1. Steve W

      According to Mike Cohen in the latest Suburban edition, Canadiens play-by-play guy John Bartlett will do some of the CWHL games(I assume for Sportsnet). Who will be the analyst for the Sportsnet CWHL broadcasts?

      For a top level Women’s hockey league to prosper, there needs to be one healthy league with at least 8-10 teams(not two competing leagues against each other for the top players with CWHL & NWHL).


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