There was a time when female Canucks fans could either throw on an oversized men's jersey or wear a kid-sized jersey with sleeves that would go only as far as their forearms.
Now, women have many more options. For both the die-hard fan who has been following the Canucks since time immemorial, or the neophyte who just learned about that Luongo guy three weeks ago, choices range from form-fitting women's jerseys and head-turning, V-neck T-shirts to sparkly "playoff nails" with Canucks logos.
A Canucks marketing representative was not available for comment, but Vancity Sports owner Suki Sadhre, who has been in the sports merchandise business for 11 years, said the focus on the female fan market really began four or five years ago, when suppliers offered slimmer-fit, women's-sized Canucks jerseys. The selection was limited to the home-game design. Now, for anywhere from $100 to $190, women can choose from home- and away-game jerseys, as well the 40th-anniversary jersey. A pink jersey was even available at one time.
"Women's hockey clothing makes up 50 per cent of our sales now," he said, adding that he sold out of women's jerseys three weeks ago. "I think they have always wanted jerseys that fit, but it was never available to them. They want to be a part of the game, too, and they want to look exactly like what's on the ice."
Of course, many of them want to look good, too.
Mr. Sadhre said that besides the women's jerseys, the bestselling item in his store is by far the women's vintage-style V-neck T-shirt that sports various Canucks logos and comes in yellow and red, as well as blue, white and green.
"Those started flying off the shelves since the playoffs started," he said. "They come in nice, summery colours, so it becomes a fashion piece and a sport piece."
That women are into hockey is nothing new. But the fact that professional sports industries are acknowledging this fan base and realizing that there is money to be made is relatively recent, according to University of British Columbia marketing professor Ann Stone.
"When you learn it's not just bulky guys with husky bodies, but that you actually have female fans, there are two things you could do," Ms. Stone said. "You could ignore them because you want to continue to portray big, bad boys, or you could realize they are a very legitimate fan base, and that they have credit cards, too, and you'd like them to be part of your franchise. It's just smart marketing."
And part of smart marketing, Ms. Stone said, is understanding the needs of your target market.
One Vancouver salon has nailed this growing niche of female fans who want to support the Canucks and look attractive, offering playoff manicures and pedicures for as much as $94.
"Before the 'Canucks nails,' we would have about 10 customers a day," said Glamstar Beauty and Nails nail technician Amy Nguyen. She paints logos such as the orca, Johnny Canuck, the hockey stick and hockey jerseys on her clients' nails. "Now we get 20, 25 people and they keep calling to book appointments."
Obviously, not every female Canuck fan cares to be fashionable. Katie Maximick, a hockey blogger, said she wouldn't be caught dead wearing the seemingly sexist V-neck. She might fix her hair and put on some makeup to watch a game at Rogers Arena (in case she gets on the jumbotron), but she would proudly wear any of her loose-fitting men's-sized jerseys or T-shirts.
"I understand the marketing, it's smart," she said. "It's hot, there's cleavage, and women want to look sexy, I get it. But it does bug me and a lot of other girls who are really hardcore fans.
"I'm proud of the number on my back, and it's not about what my body looks like underneath. It's about who I'm representing, and the team."