The Oilers are off to a poor start to the 2010-11 NHL season. They are dead last in their five-team, Northwest division. Last week, the Montreal Gazette reported that CEO and president Patrick LaForge thinks "a little extra spice and sparkle" will be created by a new cheerleading team announced Thursday last week.
"I think it will be exciting. Fans of both genders, and children, will enjoy the dance routines," LaForge said. "It will add liveliness, and it will add a memory and a take-away for people who spend a lot of money to come to Oilers games." Clearly the liveliness has already begun.
At petitiononline.com Lisi Monro, an Oilers fan has posted her plea for others to join her crusade to protest the team's decision. Here is some of her reasoning, set out as if it were a criminal indictment:
"We, the undersigned, believe that men AND women are Edmonton Oilers fans, and that cheer teams are perceived by some members of both sexes to be demeaning and contributing to the objectification of women.
Online petition created to protest formation of NHL cheerleading squad
"We the undersigned, hold the ownership and management of the Edmonton Oilers to a higher standard, in trusting them to make decisions that will not negatively affect the experience of attending a National Hockey League game by using gimmicks and excessive in-game entertainment that would take away from the game itself."
Oh, that's right, there's that "objectification of women" argument that gets trotted out in cases of explaining why beauty contest winners are required to parade around in a bikini, or when nude layouts in Playboy are being discussed. Cheerleaders on ice equate to that in the mind of Ms. Moro, apparently.
But CEO LaForge believes he can counter that by including women among those he says approve. "A cheerleading team is a way for the Oilers organization to stay current, and comes at the request of male and female fans. It's an entertainment idea. I appreciate that some people can take it the wrong way, but it's added entertainment during breaks in the game."
Some of the signatories on Ms. Monro's petition might feel that a tradition is at risk in Canada. There is no NHL team situated in Canada that has gone to the dark side, as she sees it. As of this writing on Monday morning, there are fewer than 1,000 signatures on the petition, hardly enough to bother the Oilers' management. Come Tuesday, October 26, the team will hold an informational meeting for women interested to sign up for auditions that are expected to start later this week.