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Blackhawks to stop playing “The Stripper” during Shoot the Puck
“The Stripper” is no more.
Blackhawks president John McDonough told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that the longstanding — and to so many, infuriating — practice of organist Frank Pellico playing “The Stripper” while a woman participated in the second-intermission “Shoot the Puck” promotion will stop in the 2014-15 season.
“I think you’ve heard the last of Frank Pellico playing ‘The Stripper,’” McDonough said.
A recent online movement to ban the song, including a #BanTheStripper hashtag and an online petition, called the Hawks out for the rather blatant sexism that was inherent in the contest. The typical format included a child, a man, a celebrity, and an attractive woman — the latter rarely in, let’s say, casual hockey-fan attire. In fact, sources say a team employee has been tasked each night with finding just the right the female participant. It had become as much a part of a Hawks game as playing “Here Come the Hawks” before warmups, and “Chelsea Dagger” after goals.
McDonough wouldn’t say for certain if the Shoot the Puck selection process would be overhauled completely — he said he rarely, if ever, watches Shoot the Puck, and therefore “can’t give you an opinion” — but said the Hawks heard their fans’ message loud and clear.
“We have to listen,” he said. “We have to be aware. We have to react when appropriate — not overreact, but react. We take all of this very seriously. We have had to take a look at every single element, every aspect of our operation, our hockey business from A to Z. I certainly have read the stories, and I understand the sensitive nature of all of that.”
The Hawks estimate that women and girls comprise 38 percent of their fan base. And with great numbers comes great power. At the Hawks convention last month, a fan asked McDonough why the team plays “The Stripper” and dresses the women in the snow-clearing Ice Crew so scantily. And the “3 Hawks Goals” petition called for an overhaul of Shoot the Puck, putting the women in the Ice Crew in the same pants and jacket that the men wear, and having at least one female moderator at next year’s convention.
As for the Ice Crew, McDonough said, “They’re very common throughout the league.” But he said repeatedly that the Hawks are having internal discussions about how to make female fans feel more welcome at the United Center.
“I think as our franchise’s fan base has exploded, we’re hearing and we’re witnessing and we have to evolve with all of that, and we have to change and we have to address it,” McDonough said. “We hear the feedback. We respect it. We’re distilling it right now.
“We want to be respectful to everybody.”
Banning “The Stripper” is a start.