“These girls don’t deserve to see these comments”: Blanka Škodová on the mistreatment of women’s U18 hockey players

Blanka Škodová

The 2024 Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship is underway in Switzerland, and Czechia is on track to play for a medal for the first time since 2014. But the response from some Czech observers, has been far from supportive for the professional athletes dressing for their country. Two time bronze medal winner for the Czech women’s national ice hockey team Blanka Škodová posted a tweet about her thoughts on the response these young athletes have been getting, sparking a discussion around how female hockey players are treated. I spoke with Škodová about her thoughts on the matter.

Quartefinal match Czechia vs. Sweden,  Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship | Photo: Czech Ice Hockey

I want to start by asking you what exactly you’ve been observing in regards to the online comments about the women’s U18 championship?

“I was not expecting much of this when I posted it on Twitter. I only meant to use my small platform to express my frustration over these comments, and I wanted to point them out. A few people reached out to me saying what a great initiative it was, and how they could support the statement too, and that really showed me that it was the right time to speak out. I really just couldn’t take it any longer, because I can’t imagine how these girls feel about it.”

Just for our listeners who didn’t see the tweet, what were the comments you were seeing online?

“Some of the comments I saw were pretty hurtful, and really taunted and made fun of these girls. Some of them said ‘I don’t think women’s hockey is a good idea’, or ‘it looks like beer league hockey’ – and for those who don’t know what beer league means, it’s very low level hockey. Other comments said ‘nobody is watching’ and ‘my 100 year old grandmother would be better than these girls’, and I took this really offensively, and I know how hard these girls work, and there needs to be some justice.”

Quartefinal match Czechia vs. Sweden,  Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship | Photo: Czech Ice Hockey

Specifically here in Czechia, why do you think these negative perceptions around women’s hockey still exist, regardless of the fact that the sport is getting more legitimized?

“I think regardless of these comments, people forget that these young women are hockey players anywhere from 14 to 18 years old. Some of them are playing for their national team for the first time, some are carrying the weight and pressure of wanting to get into college in North America and they know that scouts and coaches are watching. Some are playing for the first time in an Olympic arena, these are all big factors when you are this young, and the population doesn’t understand how much work this is – to become the best in your country and to represent it.”

Women’s hockey doesn’t need more legitimizing, these women are playing for their country in many cases, which is a huge honour and carries a lot of weight. Are you hoping that recent moves like the debut of the PWHL will help to change the attitudes specifically here in Czechia around women’s hockey?

“I don’t think one tweet will change the perception around women’s hockey, whether it’s in Czechia, Slovakia, or any European country that might look at women’s hockey as the bi-product of men’s hockey. But I think we are on the right track. The growth of women’s sports in general, and women’s hockey especially – you said it yourself, now we have this new league in North America which is considered to be one of the best leagues, so we’re on the right track.

“It will take much more time to get to the point where we get rid of these comments, it’s just the principle that these girls do not deserve to see these comments. The point of the tweet was to point out that these comments and taunts are completely unnecessary. I’m not a statistician, but the interesting thing is that 90 per-cent of the time, these comments are coming from the male population, and I wonder why – because it’s just not fair.”