- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Chicago Blackhawks will no longer play "The Stripper" during their Shoot the Puck contest after hearing from fans who found the song demeaning to women, a team spokesperson said Wednesday.
Blackhawks fans recently have been voicing their opinions about the song and a few other Blackhawks practices they deem sexist. The push for change picked up after Marissa Miller, 31, of Chicago, started gathering online signatures Aug. 6 for a petition for the Blackhawks to treat their female fans the same as their male ones.
Miller said Wednesday she has accumulated nearly 900 signatures since posting the petition. She also created a hashtag movement on Twitter of #BanTheStripper, which has frequently been tweeted to the Blackhawks' Twitter account in the past week.
Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough said Wednesday that the organization has been paying attention to its fans.
"We have to listen," McDonough told the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday. "We have to be aware. We have to react when appropriate -- not overreact, but react. We take all of this very seriously. We have had to take a look at every single element, every aspect of our operation, our hockey business from A to Z. I certainly have read the stories, and I understand the sensitive nature of all of that."
McDonough denied an interview request by ESPN Chicago on Wednesday.
Miller's goals for the petition are for the Blackhawks to change their Shoot the Puck contest -- including removing "The Stripper" and changing how female contestants are picked -- provide appropriate attire for the women's Ice Crew and include more women moderators for future fan conventions.
"This is the time to do the right thing," Miller said recently in a phone interview. "To say to women, we hear you, and we respect you enough to treat you the same as men. You can't underestimate how difficult it is to wear a player's name on your back or a team's emblem over your heart, and it gets to the point where you don't feel like you're being treated the same."
Miller's No. 1 objective is to alter the Blackhawks' Shoot the Puck contest, which regularly occurs during the second intermission of home games. A female contestant is always included and is accompanied by the organist playing David Rose's "The Stripper," which was featured in the hockey movie "Slap Shot."
"It's gotten to the point where there's jeering in the audience, and you can hear men say some ridiculous things," Miller said. "It's more like the overall picture. It's always the woman standing there when 'The Stripper' is played. It's never the guy or the celebrity. It's her theme music.
"That just to me, I can't pretend to understand it. It's 2014. If you're having a song called 'The Stripper' and having a woman coming out [to] that, if that happened in any other environment, I think you would hear about it. If it happens at a hockey game, which makes it acceptable, I don't buy into that."
Miller also has an issue with how the female contestants are selected.
"I have no objection to women wearing high heels or women dressing up to go to a hockey game," Miller said. "I have a problem with that being the only women who are picked. You're not going to see a grandma. You're not going to see a mother. You can't say this woman is randomly picked. You see different kinds of men. You don't know what you're going to see when a man comes out, but you have a pretty good idea when a woman comes out."
Miller's second objective is for the Blackhawks to clothe the women who are members of the Ice Crew appropriately to do their job of shoveling ice during media timeouts. The Ice Crew's uniforms for women include short skirts and crop tops.
Miller's final goal is for the Blackhawks to include more women moderators at their fan conventions in the future. The Blackhawks' 2014 convention did not include a woman moderator, but previous conventions have.
McDonough told the Sun-Times that the Blackhawks had not committed to any others changes, but they would continue to listen to their fans.
"I think as our franchise's fan base has exploded, we're hearing and we're witnessing and we have to evolve with all of that, and we have to change and we have to address it," McDonough said. "We hear the feedback. We respect it. We're distilling it right now.
"We want to be respectful to everybody."
Miller plans to continue collecting signatures over the coming days and deliver them to the Blackhawks in the near future. The online petition includes a variety of questions including age, gender, amount of money spent on Blackhawks merchandise in the past two years and whether the individual would like to share any experiences tied to the petition's goals with the Blackhawks. Miller hopes the Blackhawks can use the information as research data.
"I love that the conversation is happening," Miller said. "I love the fights that people are having on the Internet. I love people finding their voices. Not all people are ever going to be convinced, but people feel empowered based off this.
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't love this team. I would otherwise go spend my time and money doing something else. I want them to succeed. I want them to be the envy of other fan bases in the country. I think they can do that. I think they're smart enough to do it. We'll see if they prove me right. I hope they do."
12dScott Burnside and Craig Custance