Bikini Hockey League Serving as an Alternative to the NHL

Mark Staffieri@@MarkStaff100Contributor IIOctober 29, 2012

Three prospects attend a BHL casting call (Courtesy of Bikini Hockey League)
Three prospects attend a BHL casting call (Courtesy of Bikini Hockey League)

Incorporating the elements of both entertainment and athletic competition, the Bikini Hockey League is aiming to add a new dimension to the sport of hockey. Having landed sponsors in Paradise Bikini and Abduction Wine, the BHL is the brainchild of Cary Eskridge, the founder of the River West Inline Hockey League.

Eskridge, hailing from Tulsa, first conceived the idea of the BHL during the second NHL lockout which wiped out the 2004-05 season. While the concept did not become reality in 2004, Eskridge has used his background in video production (he has worked as a videographer for minor league hockey and arena football) to help turn the BHL into a possible phenomenon in popular culture.

Eskridge believes that Tulsa’s central location is cost-efficient for travel time and production costs. Hockey has also existed in Tulsa since 1928.

One of the people working with Eskridge is Development Director, Chris Wallace. The two started working on making the league a reality in March 2012. The idea was popularized by a blogger, and the league gained momentum. Media coverage from MSN, Fox Sports and Playboy Radio followed.

Part reality TV and part sport, the BHL will feature athletic women geared in helmets, padded shorts (to protect the hips and tailbone), elbow and shin pads, roller blades, with the obligatory bikini. Cheyenne Enterprises suggested the BHL display the beginnings of their league in a reality TV format. The TV pilot was filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma and features cameras following the female participants on and off the rink.

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In many ways, the pilot is similar to a documentary film about women’s hockey in 1997 called The Game of Her Life. Produced in Canada, the documentary helped introduced fans to the Canadian women’s national hockey team that would compete at the Winter Games in Nagano.

While the BHL pilot may have more of an MTV flair to it, there is certainly that personal element of introducing the players, while displaying what goes into making the league a reality.

The audition process for the BHL started through its website. Interested competitors had to submit a headshot, and full length photos (front and back) in bikinis online. Over 600 submissions from women in the United States, Canada, and even Sweden had to be considered.

Although the BHL website shows over 20 prospective players, only 10 young ladies were involved with the filming of the pilot. While there is no planned air date, and no formal schedule, interest in the league has grown with the specter of the NHL lockout (the third in 18 seasons) possibly shelving the entire 2012-13 NHL season.

Currently, a promotional video on their website (featuring a raspy-voiced lady singing Queen’s classic sports anthem We Will Rock You), along with Twitter and Facebook pages are the only ways that potential fans can get their fix of BHL happenings. While there is no TV deal yet, one can only believe that it will be inevitable.

As many NHL franchises in the southern United States (Dallas Stars, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers, Phoenix Coyotes) have lamented about finances, ownerships and/or futures with little certainty, the BHL may certainly prove to be viable in those markets.

With such a league, there are bound to be critics. Many will decry the league as misogynist and exploitative, featuring women earning little to no compensation in the hope of media exposure that will launch other careers. Others will criticize the violence in which scantily-clad female athletes engage in physical contact.

These critics should look at the sex appeal that was prevalent at the 2012 London Summer Games. One of the most popular sports at said Games was Beach Volleyball, as the women that competed in those sports wore next to nothing. In addition, popular online searches about Summer Games participants such as Jessica Ennis and Lolo Jones were clearly based on their sex appeal.  

The reality is that the sport incorporates entertainment as part of its product. With athletes from many different ages and athletic backgrounds, the sport is a gathering of many unique women that may inspire young girls to play hockey.

When one considers that many universities now offer touch football and competitive flag football for women, the Lingerie Football League must have been a strong influence, as it was the first prominent football league that featured athletic women.

For many collegiate hockey players, they do not have an avenue to continue playing hockey.

With less than 25 spots on any national women’s hockey team, and only five teams in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the most elite women’s hockey league in the world, the BHL is an alternative for women to continue playing after university. A collegiate player’s involvement with the BHL helps to magnify her collegiate career while possibly inspiring youngsters to take up ice hockey.

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