The debate on the need for NHL ice girls has been increasing since the season started because of negative press around sexism and  unprofessional treatment towards these women.

For those unaware, “ice girls” are a form of cheerleading and they’re utilized during the game to provide general entertainment and to clean the excess ice that forms on the rink in between plays.

Sure, their outfits are usually scantily clad and revealing, but are ice girls different from other cheerleaders in the sports industry?

The NBA employs dancers. The NFL has cheerleaders. All with outfits that have become skimpier over the years. The only difference in hockey is they clean up the ice.

I think we should look at the cheerleading industry as a whole.

Is it necessary for these women to wear as little as possible? Is it ok to pay them around minimum wage or ask them to volunteer their time? Is it ok to require them to do their own hair and makeup out of their own pocket?

The answer is no.

But yet shows like “Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team” showcases hundreds of women that want to be one of America’s sweethearts. You will see them look the part, dance their hearts out and cry when they don’t make the team, playing on common cheerleader stereotypes.

In addition to TV shows and their uniform attire, articles found on sites like Bleacher Report are titled “25 Hottest Ice Girls of the NHL.” It’s a slideshow of 25 ice girls from teams throughout the league with vulgar statements such as “While it’s widely believed that the term ‘Blue Crew,’ comes from their teal uniforms that make all the teenage boys scream, it’s actually because whenever they hit the ice, they leave every male in the audience with blue ba…well never mind.”

That was a real description found under a picture of an Atlanta Thrashers ice girl.

My last question is to the women who try out for these roles as ice girls, cheerleaders, and dancers. Knowing the presence they face in their communities, why sign up for something like this? They put themselves into these situations. They know the uniform when they sign up. They know how the fans hoot and holler at them.

The women keep returning year after year for those roles, the uniforms, and the little pay. If they’re experiencing things like sexism and unprofessionalism, they should put their foot down or quit.

The issue of whether or not the NHL should have ice girls is 50/50 good and bad, as it is for every other league in the sports industry. Cheerleaders provide a lot of value in the community and are often the face of a franchise, despite the treatment they get from outside sources.

What we need to do is work the perception of women in our overall society as well as within the sports industry, the roles given to women in the work place and how the female fan base is treated.