The one about hockey cheerleaders

Mom of Chasing Checkers was a Concord High Cheerleader in the 1960's.


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.

Mom, in the pages of her high school yearbook. She was the co-captain of the cheerleading team. Go Spiders!

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.


17 thoughts on “The one about hockey cheerleaders

    1. I’m entitled to my opinions, and I know I’m not alone in feeling how I do. If you read the entire piece, you’d see there was plenty of positive mentions in it. I completely see the benefits the Checkmates can and do have for the organization, I just feel that their presentation and clothing is inappropriate in a family-friendly environment.

      Thanks for reading. Come back anytime!

  1. I KNOW you are entitled to your opinions. I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with is how you denigrate my forum where people post the opinions that they are entitled to and promote yours as a supportive, positive encouraging site; yet you post negative opinions regarding the Checkmates, which is clearly a part of the Checkers organization. I can appreciate what you are saying regarding cheerleading and the majority of the article IS about cheerleading. To me, that’s what you should have focused on without specifying the Checkmates. You could have easily made your point that way. So, instead of titling this entry as “The one about cheerleading in hockey” you may as well just have called it, “The one about what skanks the Checkmates appear to be.”

    Frankly, I don’t know why you complain so much about them. Is it jealousy? I have never heard one single male express similar opinions about them as you have.

    As far as coming back any time–I don’t know. I wish I felt more comfortable here but I don’t. I’m still insulted that you refuse to put a link to my forum on here which provides anyone the opportunity to provide their opinions and discuss the Checkers as a whole, good and bad. I recall when you asked me for help registering for it, which I went out of my way to do. I even let you advertise your blog on my board using my bandwidth. The least you could do is to return the favor.


    1. When have I ever denigrated your forum? I sent you a private message after an entire thread was started to mock my blog and me as a person, requesting that you remove me as a “member” of the board. I have never posted about your board, good or bad, in my blog. There was a period of a month or two that I did in fact have a link to your message board, but like I told you, I took it down after repeat visits showed negative posts about fans of the teams. Criticism about the players, their performance, etc., is acceptable, but calling out fans, where they sit, what jersey they are wearing, etc., is not acceptable. I no longer wanted my blog, which I am very proud of and spend a lot of time on, to be associated with something that was so harmful and hurtful about an organization I feel so strongly about. I attended a game and was badmouthed, to my face, by someone on your message board at a game, and that was the final straw. I did not want my blog to be associated at all by the message board you maintain.

      As for asking for help to register, I had no idea that was a big deal. It is absurd to me that major email providers such as gmail are “banned” from your board. I actually directed another blogger to your site recently. He wanted to know what other Checkers outlets there were, so I gave him your address, and he emailed me saying how crazy it was that registration was nearly impossible and his email was “banned” etc. So asking for “help” seems to be something many have to do, and if it’s that much trouble, maybe the problem is yours and not your potential members.

      Did you read my post? Do you not understand why I dislike the Checkmates? I dislike the fact that they don’t present a positive image for young women and children to look up to. I dislike that their costumes are not family friendly. I dislike that the dances they do are sexually suggestive. I wish they would be more appropriate to all age levels and not just drunk middle age men who think oogling a 20 year old girl is ok to do. Is that not clear through what I wrote? There are plenty of positives about them…. the outreach opportunities, the fact they could in theory lead chants and cheers at games, and promotional opportunities. My complaints are regarding inappropriate costumes and dancing.

      I criticized their uniforms, which the organization (I assume) issues and approves. I criticized the style of dance they choose to do. Never once did I insinuate that they were “skanks”, which would, in my opinion, mean I’m discussing their personal moral decisions. I do not care what they do outside of their work/professional engagement with the organization. I also quoted one man, who I can assure you, is a heterosexual, masculine individual, who disliked what they were performing at center ice, and I could easily point to many more men who also feel their performances are inappropriate and degrading to women.

      For the record, during the very brief period of time I tried to be involved with your message board, I did in fact have a link to my blog in my “signature.” I didn’t feel that was something that I was privileged to do. If it was advertising, then so be it. Many others advertised their personal seat locations, or their enjoyment of two girls kissing each other, or their own personal websites or years of fandom that somehow justified them to be better than others. If it was a problem to simply put a weblink in my signature, you should have said something. I would have removed it. I don’t think I received more than 5-10 hits from it, so in the larger scheme of things, was pretty inconsequential. If the 10 or so posts I made during my time at “THE Checkerboard” cost you money in bandwith, I’ll happily repay you. Who should I make the check out to, and how much were those 5-10 hits worth?

      Chasing Checkers is open to opinions. It has readers from across the globe, hundreds of them each and every day. People comment from many different places, and they are of course free to do so. In that sense, it’s no different than your forum. I removed myself from your message board and any “advertising” opportunities I allegedly had, and owe you nothing in the form of a return link to your site. Maybe if there was less sexism, fan bashing and some actual new information instead of simply reposting press releases, it would be something worth promoting, but for now, it’s not. Feel free to get back in touch with me if things change on your end.


      Chasing Checkers

  2. Just like the Checkers are a stepping stone for hockey players to make it the NHL, the Checkmates are a stepping stone for people who love to dance and perform for people to move to a higher level. Many of the Checkmates from previous years became member of dance squads for the Bobcats and Panthers. Both of those teams dance fairly seductivley and the Ladycats were the best NBA dance team two years in a row. I know one that became a dancer for the New England Patriots, and one that became a member of the front office. The women that are Checkmates make as much of a commitment to the team as most fans, they practice twice a week and are at 3/4 of the games. As for the Uniforms, They have improved over the years and they are fairly comparable to what the Ladycats wear. Most people can’t walk on ice with out busting thier butts so I would find it very interesting to see them try to dance on it. I equate your opinion on the issue to the person that says “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out”.

    If you would have read my signature line on the Checkerboard I didn’t say that I like watching two girls kissing (can’t say that I don’t like it), but the quote compared two girls kissing to a goalie fight.
    A Goalie fight is kind of like girls kissing at the bar, It’s a rare occurrence, and when it happens, it just doesnt happen long enough. It usually ends quick and leaves you wanting more. Paul Bissonnette

    Hope I will agree with more of your blogs then disagree with them.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I appreciate them. I didn’t know the Bobcats cheerleaders won that award. How is it determined who is best in the NBA? Just curious, because I’m not a basketball fan and have only been to one Bobcats game, ever.

      And while I agree that they have dedication and commitment to the team, I do have to disagree with one main point. Just because the Panthers and Bobcats dancers dance suggestively, does that make it right? I don’t think it does. I don’t think it’s appropriate or necessary, at all. Couldn’t the Checkmates be just as effective wearing more modest costumes, or doing less risque routines? Couldn’t they be just as effective if they were simply cheerleaders and promotional squad members instead of dancers at all?

      Thank you for reading. Was this your first time reading a post? I’d be happy to point you to many of the most memorable posts if you want to read more. Where did you find it? It’s always great to have new readers.

    2. Also, I apologize for misinterpreting your signature. I was simply making examples of others who allegedly “advertise” opinions, etc. on that message board. I must say, I personally am NOT a fan of Paul Bissonnette. He offends me a great deal, is a horrible role model and incredibly degrading, derogatory and demeaning towards women. But I know he’s popular and allegedly “funny” so I’m sure my opinion of him is in the minority!

    1. Cool! Definitely keep coming back and commenting. Not long until the team is back in Charlotte. TWCA is well on the way to being ready for pro sports season again… I saw plenty of examples of it today for fork, from new paint and artwork in the Vom, to pallets of hockey tape and other supplies waiting on the loading dock.

  3. I have to agree with this post, as a season ticket holder for the checkers I feel that there are many things that could occur at the intermissions that would both engage the fans and support the organization. I dont think that these “dance” performances do either, on a personal note I have worked professional dance companies all across the country for the last 12 years. Dance is a ART form that takes years of training and dedication to perfect. Dancers are elite althletes who spend their entire carrers perfecting their ART. What the average “dance” squad does is at best degrading to the art form and at worst a 2 minute commercial that sex sells more seats than a hockey team.

    1. I kind of want to edit my post and insert the last part as a quote…. I couldn’t have said it better myself! “What the average “dance” squad does is at best degrading to the art form and at worst a 2 minute commercial that sex sells more seats than a hockey team.”

  4. As a female….I so appreciate your views on the Checkmates! I see so many young children at the games and I agree…lets give our kids some healthy role models. Keep up the good work Chasing Checkers and thanks for speaking out on this issue. We like your positive comments, nice manners and open communication. Blessings!

  5. I can’t believe dance is even being discussed on a hockey blog. Very few fans who come through TWCA’s doors more than once a season give a damn about dance. I don’t think we need a scientific analysis to know that. As regular fans, the CheckMates aren’t there for you and me. They exist to draw more fans. Fans who don’t care about dance. It’s unfortunate that they have to resort to that kind of lowest common denominator entertainment while the real entertainment takes a break, but that’s the world we live in (I mean all of that sentence very honestly). That’s the type of game day experience that allowed the ECHL Checkers to flourish while teams all around them failed. It was that success that allowed us to move up to the AHL. It surely wasn’t the incredibly disappointing playoff performances in our final ECHL years. Where were you for those?

    CC, Your posts come off as condescending and arrogant, not to mention jealous (I’ll leave my personal opinion of “boring” out of this). If you don’t want to take part in a community where criticism of the players is welcomed, then why are you criticizing the cheerleaders? If you’d had more than 10 posts worth of interaction, you’d see that The Checkerboard does have more than just re-posted press releases. And you don’t have to be in the “in crowd” to read or participate. But much like the real world, things aren’t always high fives & smiles. If you want to have the mentality of “I’m taking my ball and going home” then so be it. We’ll be there when you’re not coming to the games either….we’ve seen it dozens of times before you. Quite frankly if my 9- and 12-year old stepdaughters were to choose to look up to someone with your mindset over the CheckMates, I’d encourage them to rethink their choices.

    Lastly, I’m not going to clog up your (incredibly busy) comments section anymore, this will be my final time. Know that I didn’t type all this just to team up with my friend, that it’s not The Checkerboard that’s the problem here. I do realize that calling you a hypocrite while posting from my blog’s account is hypocritical in itself, as I haven’t brought anything to the table recently. When and if I regain the desire and my family commitments allow Home Cooked Hockey to start again, you’re welcome to chime in on what a dick I am. Until then, here’s to Checkers victories.

    1. Thanks for reading. You’re probably right. As a female hockey fan, clearly I’m jealous of the “Lowest common denominator of entertainment” that you wouldn’t want your two stepdaughters to look up to. Sorry to hear you find the blog boring, arrogant and condescending. I guess you are in the minority, since hundreds of people read it every day and find my posts the opposite of the words you describe. But if it’s so boring, why do you bother reading it?

      Good luck with your blog and your message board. Thank goodness there are choices out there on where we want to express ourselves and be heard. And I never had a problem with criticism of the players and team. My problem is when your board has entire message threads to criticize fans, where you mock them for how they cheer for the team, or how knowledgeable they are, or that they wear the same Flyers jersey to every game. That is not a community I want any part in, so I left. Honestly, I thank you guys for existing, because it drove me to want something better, hence the creation of Chasing Checkers.

      I’m perfectly happy in this environment, and plan to be here for a long time. I attended my first ECHL Checkers game their inaugural season, and was a season ticket holder a number of years ago, but that level of hockey never held my interest. I prefer the development league style of the AHL, where the athletes have a bigger skill set, and the games are truly professional.

  6. I bothered to read it because I’m a fan of hockey and I do everything I can to support the minor league sports scene in Charlotte and the entire state. It’s something I’m quite passionate about, in fact. I tried to ignore the Friends-based naming convention for your posts (very hockey appropriate, Joey did wear that Rangers jersey in that one episode). I gave you the benefit of the doubt when you jabbered on about your (non-hockey) job. I was one of the RSS subscribers for a while. If analyzing your WordPress stats is what makes you think this is a better option and successful, then I’m glad you’re sleeping at night. I don’t see it as a competition like you do. I see it as all of us being part of the Checkers hockey family. And just like any other family, there’s people you don’t like and don’t agree with. You keep on picking out the parts of people’s responses that you want to hear, and I’ll keep checking in when others tell me what a joke it is (you’re losing those people too, though). Until then, Go Checkers.

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