In many ways, they are as American as apple pie. They’ve been around for decades, and always been a part of sports. CMT produced a reality show a few years ago about some of the most iconic cheerleaders in professional sports, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. There were FIVE (mostly terrible) movies made about high school cheerleaders called Bring it On. They even turned those movies (most of which went straight to DVD) into a Broadway musical that is coming to Charlotte this year. You can buy tickets for it at the Blumenthal Center’s website.
But what I will never understand, is where cheerleaders with their cute pleated skirts and team colored tops and color-coordinated pom poms evolved into dance teams, who’s routines are rarely family-friendly, and include more sexualized moves than a Britney Spears concert.
It’s no secret. I’ve said it countless times. I’m not a fan of what the Checkmates bring to center ice between periods. More often than not, I make a point of leaving my seats during this time so I won’t have to be subjected to the dancing. I brought my friend Chris to a game last season, and his comment to me after the dance break during the first intermission was “Put a few poles at center ice, and those girls would look more at home as if they were at the Uptown Cabaret.” Yikes, but true.
I appreciate many of the things the Checkmates do. I like that they are a resource for the Checkers organization to use for outreach opportunities, hospital visits, and community events. They also assist in cleaning the ice during TV time outs, and of course, there’s the bending and flipping of hair during the “Chuck a Puck” at the second intermission that the drunk college boys in my section enjoy. It’s funny though…. I had a conversation with a couple of last year’s players about the Checkmates, and the consensus was their ice cleaning is actually more dangerous than helpful. Some of the ladies, who can hardly stand up on skates, don’t have the upper body strength to lift a full shovel of snow, and instead end up leaving giant piles of it along the boards that is dangerous to the players. (In their defense, it’s probably hard to deal with a shovel and manicured fingernails, plus a perfectly styled head of hair that tends to get in you eyes when you lean down!)
As far as Checkmate costumes, I think the 2010-11 season saw the Checkmates SLIGHTLY less trashy than in years past (who can forget the go-go boots and skimpy shorts paired with a top that barely contained their ample chests during the ECHL days, or the Christmas bows across their boobs?) but do we REALLY need to see that much bare skin on anyone at a hockey game, where in-arena temperatures are in the 60’s? At some promotional events, they wore t shirts, and I was relieved I wasn’t forced to stare at miles of cleavage. I just REALLY wish the Checkers would adopt the uniforms of the Storm Squad. I’m glad that the Checkmates are supporting the local economy with their frequent tanning sessions, and visits to get their highlights done at local salons, but do I have to see that much skin? It’s not family friendly, and it is not a positive image to show young girls.
I don’t hate all hockey cheerleaders. There are a lot of teams that have them that don’t offend me at all. The Hurricane’s Storm Squad is an example. The ladies wear much more respectable costumes (no camel toes, bare midriffs or boobs practically popping out of their tops) and their purpose at Hurricanes games is to cheer for the team, and get the crowd motivated. They assist with promotional activities, giving away prizes, working with sponsors, etc., but it’s all done very tastefully. They never dance to club music. They don’t do moves that would keep me from bringing my five-year old niece to a game.
On the minor league level, the Milwaukee Admirals have a great promotional team called the Skeleton Krew. They aren’t cheerleaders and never carry pom-poms, but they do lead the crowd during games, assist in cleaning the ice during TV timeouts, and do promotional appearances around the Milwaukee area. My favorite thing about them is they wear hockey jerseys and team colors instead of skanky costumes, and this season will even include men. This is a group I’d be proud to call my own as a fan of the team.
It’s funny… politically, socially, theologically… I’m about as liberal as they come. But when it comes to shoving sex and scantily clad images of women in my face, I get much more conservative, which is why I can’t stand the Checkmates dance routines at games. Through my job, I see about 20 dance performances a year.
While I’ve never taken a dance class, I prefer the technical beauty of ballet (contemporary, classical, modern) over any of the trashy competition-style routines some “schools” in Charlotte do. (Special shout out to North Carolina Dance Theatre, the BEST thing in town as far as dance goes. Talk about incredible athletes! Come check out a show!)
A dislike of hockey cheerleaders must run in the family, because my mom loves going to Checkers games, she absolutely despised the Checkmates at her first AHL game, and I spent a great deal of time in the blog chronicling her opinions. Many of my friends, male and female alike, young and old, feel the same way.
What happened to wholesome cheerleaders of the past, and why can’t we get them back, instead of dance moves that leave me feeling a bit nauseous.