NHL coach Jon Cooper apologizes for sexist ‘goalies in skirts’ comment

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is not having a very good week.

After his team was eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Monday, he made what many are calling a sexist comment, slighting female hockey players.

And on Wednesday, after an outpouring of disappointment, he offered an apology.

Monday’s comment came as Cooper was expressing his frustration with two goaltender interference calls made against the Lightning during their game five matchup against the Florida Panthers. Both calls resulted in no-goal decisions for his team — the first goal was removed from the board after a challenge from the Panthers and the second goal was confirmed as a no-goal despite a coach’s challenge from the Lightning.

“Net-front battles aren’t allowed anymore? That’s part of everybody’s game,” Cooper told reporters in a post-game rant.

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“The boxing-out that goes there, it’s like prison rules in the playoffs, but it’s not prison rules for the goalie? The second something happens … we might as well put skirts on them then, if that’s how it’s gonna be. They have to battle through stuff, too.”

Immediately, Cooper began to pay the price for his “skirts” comment, with people expressing their disappointment on social media and calling the comment “misogynistic.”

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Ian Kennedy from the The Hockey News called it a “sexist message claiming the inferiority of women in hockey,” and likened the comment to similar phrases like “stop throwing like a girl” or “you’re playing like a bunch of girls.”

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“Cooper reiterated these antiquated ideas, amplifying the idea that women cannot be physical, or handle the physical rigours of sport,” Kennedy continued.

Click to play video: 'Growing interest in women’s sports'
Growing interest in women’s sports

Professional Women’s Hockey League Toronto head coach Troy Ryan told the Toronto Sun that when he heard about the comment he didn’t like it, either, but he applauds Cooper for his dedication and support of women’s hockey.

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“I didn’t see the comment or hear the comment but the one thing I will say is I know Jon Cooper, probably as much as anybody, supports women’s hockey. I can tell you that without a doubt,” Ryan said.

On Wednesday, Cooper admitted his comment was wrong and apologized.

“I made an inappropriate analogy about goalies and skirts,” Cooper told reporters. “You know, it’s one of those moments if you could just reach back and grab the words back, I would have.”

He said the backlash pained him more than his team’s elimination from the playoffs and he shared that he had to explain the comments to his daughters, which hurt.

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“I have girls that play sports,” Cooper said. “Quite frankly, it was wrong. I had to go explain myself to my girls… it’s pained me more than the actual series loss itself.”

“It was one of those moments that I don’t think my actions of the past led me, and I guess if people want to judge me maybe more on those than on the emotional, quite frankly dumb words that came out of my mouth. So for that, I’m sorry.”

Monday’s loss marks the first time the Lightning were knocked out of the playoffs by the Panthers in franchise history. With the opening-round loss, Tampa was eliminated in the first round in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 17 years.

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