Column: We have ESPNW – what about a Canadian equivalent such as a … TSN-W?

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

Even with all of the flack that women’s basketball fans have given ESPN over the years, one of its bright spots has to be ESPNW, its women’s sports-centric site.

Mechelle Voepel and the team at ESPNW do a great job covering not only women’s basketball and the WNBA, but the full spectrum of women’s sports. Whether it is Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart or Diana Taurasi competing for championships in the WNBA, Serena Williams winning another Grand Slam tennis event, Simone Biles training for the upcoming Olympics or the new softball program at Clemson, ESPNW is all over it.

It had us to thinking – ESPNW does such a great job being the women’s sports bureau for ESPN that its equivalent in Canada could use something similar. Call it a…TSN-W, perhaps?

For those that do not know, TSN is one of two major sports channels in Canada with the other being the NHL-centric SportsNet. Bell Media, which owns CTV, also owns 80 percent of TSN with ESPN claiming a minority stake in the channel.

The women’s sports scene in Canada is every bit as robust as the women’s sports scene in the United States – and if a similar ESPNW site were to arise in Canada, our guess is that it would be extremely successful.

Let us start with the basketball scene (we will get to hockey in just a bit), but Canada boasts some of the best basketball talent in the world. Look at Kia Nurse of the New York Liberty or Natalie Achonwa of the Indiana Fever or Kayla Alexander from the Chicago Sky or Bridget Carleton of the Minnesota Lynx. And that is not even mentioning the ongoing conversation about the WNBA potentially expanding to Toronto.

That, of course, is only scraping the tip of the iceberg. A Canadian women’s sports website would more than likely be centric on Canada’s favorite pastime – ice hockey. While the sport suffered a crushing blow when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League recently folded, the National Women’s Hockey League has aspirations of taking its place.

The NWHL’s headquarters is in New York City and is now at five teams – the Boston Pride, the Connecticut Whale, the Metropolitan Riveters, the Buffalo Beauts and the Minnesota Whitecaps. If it continues to expand and grow as women’s sports fans should hope so, it may not be long before Canadian cities such as Toronto or Montreal are next on the NWHL’s radar.

Oh, we are just getting started. As Canadian sports fans know for the past decade and a half, one of its most famous and internationally known athletes is, indeed, a woman.

Does the name Tessa Virtue ring a bell? It should because for over 20 years, she and Scott Moir were the figure skating duet to beat – and it was not often that they were. Among her accolades – gold medals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in addition to silver medals at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. She is also a three-time gold medalist at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Heck, the buzz around them was so huge and they had built such a passionate fanbase they were constantly asked questions on if their on-ice chemistry was something … more.

That is not even mentioning Canada has one of the premier women’s soccer national teams in the world led by Christine Sinclair (plus Sydney LeRoux, who is part of the NWSL, was born in Canada). That is not even mentioning that three of the most famous wrestlers in WWE history – Trish Stratus, Gail Kim and Natalya Neidhart – both hail from Canada. Brooke Henderson is a Canadian golfer. Biana Andreescu is a Canadian golfer. There is more than enough potential content out there highlighting Canadian women athletes.

Interestingly enough, there once was a “WTSN.” It launched in 2001 then folded in 2003. The difference between it and ESPNW is that WTSN was a full-fledged linear sports channel, which is what many have clamored for ESPNW to eventually evolve into.

The sporting climate is very different in 2020 than it was in the early 2000s. Slowly, but surely sports leagues are now understanding that it is an imperative (in addition to good business) to support women in sports. There is still plenty of ways to go in this endeavor, but the rise of women’s basketball, soccer and softball in addition to the continued strides of hockey should be more than enough for TSN, SportsNet, the CBC or someone to put a greater spotlight on Canadian women athletes.

So…TSN? SportsNet? CBC? Step up to the plate…before someone beats you to it.

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