Gender and physiology in ice hockey : a multidimensional study

Abstract: Background That men are prioritised over women has been called the “gender regime in sport”, and has in part been explained by the gender difference in performance. However, gender differences in physical performance between women and men can be debated to depend on how comparisons are made and on the fact that there are many different confounders that may influence the results. Even if attempts are made to overcome this and the groups of women and men are stated to be matched, there are still often differences in training experience in years, or differences in training load. Women tend to have less experience in ice hockey in relation to age and differences in training conditions have also been reported. The aim of this thesis was to investigate how female and male ice hockey players position themselves in their sport and to visualise the interactions between society and biology that may affect performance. Theoretical approach and methods Harding’s three perspectives (Symbolic, Structural and Individual) were applied on information from team administration as well as on results from questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and tests of puck velocity, anthropometrics, body composition, isokinetic muscle strength, ergospirometry and on-ice tests from female and male ice hockey players. Results Vast differences in structural conditions were found, for example in hockey history and in the financial situation within the teams and both women and men were aware of the gender differences in structural conditions. However these differences were not even considered when comparisons of the ice hockey performance of women and men were made. Nine out of ten female players increased puck velocity when a more flexible stick and a lighter puck were used thus indicating that poorly adjusted equipment may affect performance. Male ice hockey players were taller, heavier and stronger, had more lean body mass and a higher aerobic capacity compared to the women in absolute values as well as in relation to body weight. However, the differences diminished or disappeared when the values were expressed in relation to lean body mass. Men had higher expectations on their situation as athletes and the interviewed women described men’s ice hockey as superior to theirs and consequently male ice hockey players deserved better conditions. Conclusions The views of women and men may affect structural conditions in sport which in turn may affect possibilities in sport for the individual. Gender differences in conditions thus risk confirming the traditional views of femininity and masculinity. However, by moving outside the normal gender boundaries individuals may change the traditional views of femininity and masculinity.