Both Ruggiero and Wickenheiser are four-time Olympic medalists in a sport that isn’t widely known but has grown across the world since it was first included at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. The inclusion of women in this game should help bring even more attention to the sport, as Wickenheiser said in a release from EA:
“The EA SPORTS NHL franchise took a big step last year by including female characters to create a more inclusive experience for female hockey fans,” said Hayley Wickenheiser. “I’m excited to be a part of NHL 13 and hope that the addition of women’s hockey legends will encourage greater participation in hockey from young women everywhere.”
EA, for years, has included female golfers in its Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf games, and it is facing a petition drive to add women’s teams to its series of FIFA soccer games after the success of the U.S. Women’s National Team, and the sport in general, at the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympics. EA now says it is “inevitable” that women will appear in the soccer game, even if it is too late to include them in the 2013 version.
A cynic could take the view that this is all a marketing ploy — other companies have found success by increasing their marketing efforts to young girls — but I’ll take the opposite view: in a world where women’s sports are becoming more visible, in a world where more young women are playing the games, in a world where we more often talk about the gender issues that permeate the sports world and the successes female athletes have despite numerous obstacles, EA is acknowledging not just the fact that women and girls play sports, but that they play sports video games and should have the same opportunity to participate in the gameplay experience men have every time they sit down in front of their XBox or Playstation.