Last night Kendall Coyne Schofield made her NHL broadcasting debut on NBC. She was between the glass in Pittsburgh with analyst Pierre McGuire for the first period before she went up to the booth with Eddie Olyczyk and John Forslund.
What could have been a great night showcasing the insight, knowledge, and hockey IQ of a gold medalist that recently broke the gender barrier in the NHL’s All-Star Skills competition turned into yet another example of the hoops women have to jump through when it comes to sports.
Before the game started, Pierre told Coyne Schofield which bench the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning would be skating and that she was being paid to be an analyst, not a fan. The Olympic gold and silver medalist handled the incredibly uncomfortable moment with tremendous grace. However, she couldn’t completely mask a look of discomfort on her face as she nodded along to McGuire’s routine drivel.
Alarmingly, things got even more uncomfortable when Pierre continued to make strange comments to the Patty Kazmaier Award-winner during play. After things got intense during a play, Coyne Schofield joked that she needed a mouth guard because of how intense it was between the benches. Pierre quipped that it was like the US-Canada gold medal game. When Coyne Schofield bantered back that she had a cage on during the game (you know, because she played in it), Pierre replied back with, “I’ll be your cage.”
How devastatingly noble of him.
"I'll be your cage tonight, how's that?— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) January 31, 2019
Pierre, please just stop. pic.twitter.com/trmTyYLKob
The entire encounter was not just awkward, but also inappropriate and condescending. Pierre undermined Coyne Schofield’s valuable representation between the benches by belittling her ability to understand not only the game, but what was expected of her. Close-minded fans who may have been watching and wondering, “What does this girl know about hockey?” did not see him applaud Coyne Schofield’s achievements or even validate her presence. They saw a living meme reduce Coyne Schofield to the butt-end of several jokes before she joined the broadcast team in the booth.
This wasn’t the first time Pierre has proven he does not know how to speak to women who play hockey. In fact, it was his second awkward exchange with Coyne Schofield in less than a week. After she competed in the Faster Skater event at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, he said, “Nobody wants to lose to you!” What he didn’t say, but was heavily implied, is that no one wanted to lose to the NWHL All-Star because she’s a girl.
In both instances, Coyne Schofield handled it well, because she had to. She had the situational awareness to not react negatively or to call out Pierre. If she had, she would likely be labeled as humorless, a b*tch, and/or ungrateful for the opportunity. Coyne Schofield found herself in a no-win scenario in both instances. She chose to act like a professional, which is much more than can be said of McGuire.
In an interview on NHL.com about her appearance, Coyne Schofield said that she wanted to “prove to the world that women can talk sports, women can talk hockey and we know the game as well as the men.”
McGuire’s insipid comments had the tone of a man who doesn’t see the value in women’s hockey, someone who thinks the women’s game is not on the same level of the men’s. NBC should think long and hard about the limited perspective that Pierre offers to their broadcasts. His comments spoiled an important and visible moment for a woman who very recently made an immeasurable impact on the perception of women’s hockey across the world.
Coyne Schofield deserved so much better last night. She deserved to be treated with the respect of a fellow analyst and someone who has achieved greatness in her sport at the age of 26. She did not deserve to have the game she’s played her whole life be mansplained to her on national television.
The only person who looked out of place between the benches in last night’s game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins was Pierre himself.