Last month, Mother Jones released a story detailing the rights-infringing working conditions of many NFL Cheerleading teams, such as the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders. Now, Mother Jones has come out with a new story about the ice girls on the Nation Hockey League’s rinks - and it is no surprise that conditions on the ice are no better there than they are on the field. The ice girls interviewed were primarily from Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings, yet many other teams may be experiencing similar workplace wrongs.
If you’re unfamiliar with hockey (as I am), an ice girl is basically hockey’s version of a cheerleader. Dressed in similarly skintight, itty-bitty uniforms, the girls dance for the crowds and clear the ice of slush. Yes, this does mean performing physical labor on ice in what is essentially a swimsuit (meant for the beach).
However, the strict uniform policies don’t stop there; the ice girls had a no-jacket policy even while assisting with outdoor winter events: "It was 20 degrees and we were in shorts, with two pairs of stockings… It really felt like we were in some kind of torture camp." Another said: "I've never been so cold in my life.” The ice girls were also expected to work the doors of a hockey game, meaning they welcomed guests to the stadium in full (read: jacket-less) uniform in below freezing temperatures.
Not to mention, the ice girls eating-breaks are severely limited while they are at work. While the Flyers were playing in an outdoor, 3 day tournament, the ice girls were forbidden to eat while working, which was often up to 9 hours a day. A few ice girls from this team report sneaking in the backs of restaurants and into concession stands to covertly eat without being seen.
The Kings’ ice girls have a slightly more lenient policy. They can eat, but only in the locker room and out of uniform. Therefore, girls working an event still must sneak food into a hidden location in order to eat while on the job.
What’s worse is the off-the-clock treatment of these women; one ice girl described it as “being at the bottom of the totem pole.” Both the Flyers and Kings have strict policies that keep the hockey players and the ice girls apart; they are strict to the point where an ice girl and a player cannot be in public together.
Yet the players are never the ones that have to worry about this - it is expected that the ice girl drop whatever she is doing (in said public place, like a restaurant) and leave if a player from the team happens to show up. This interrupts meals and private time; a Kings ice girl always has to have someone “making sure the coast was clear,” while eating near the stadium. And if a player does walk in: "we [have] to put it in a to-go container.”
This policy also stands when players and ice girls live in the same neighborhood. Imagine having lunch with your parents somewhere, and then abruptly having to leave just because a player wanted to grab a sandwich too.
Their wages do not by any means reflect the conditions under which these girls work. The ice girls for the Kings pay for all of the hair and beauty supplies needed for games ($350 a month), but are paid less than $15 an hour for the 10 to 30 hours they work a week.
The Flyers girls have a beauty team on hand - which means no extraneous costs for the job - but instead are only paid around $50 for 7 hours of work, slightly less than minimum wage for Pennsylvania.
None of the teams' policies consider the basic human rights that these ice girls are denied on the job. Until more humanistic policies are instated, these rules will continue to create a pervasive sense of objectification. The ice girls are uncared for health-wise, are prohibited from publicly participating in their personal lives, and certainly do not get paid enough. Hopefully more ice girls will decide to speak out, as many NFL cheerleaders have, and set lawsuits in motion to stop these practices.
Images via NHL, fanzorate.com, galleryhip.com