Could you be a hockey mom?

According to Nielsen, it requires less than you might think.

Published October 7, 2008 5:20PM (EDT)

I've already written about how much I dislike how the term "hockey mom" is used to subdivide the female half of the American electorate. Part of my issue was that it isn't entirely clear how the expression was defined. But now I have my answer. According to Nielsen Media Research's blog, hockey moms are defined as "women ages 25 to 54 who live in homes with children and who watched at least six minutes of the most recent Stanley Cup Finals on NBC."

Really? Six minutes? This makes "hockey mom" seem less like a descriptor of an actual person's life and more like something you could pick up accidentally at a sports bar. (Stop for buffalo wings at the wrong time and, whoops!) I mean, hell, I don't even have a television and I might still qualify for the hockey half of the term.

Another thing that's strange: This isn't even how Palin uses the term. Granted, Palin obviously didn't come up with the definition for Nielsen, but there's a big difference between a woman who catches six minutes of the Stanley Cup while channel surfing and a woman who spends three hours a day at the rink and drives around town with a trunk full of sweat-soaked equipment, balancing her life with her kids' sports schedules.

Nielsen's hockey mom analysis also makes me question whether those stat people aren't hurting for news. The same post states that these "hockey moms" were 38.7 percent more likely to watch last week's debates than "average moms," which sounds dramatic until you realize that the debate drew 23.8 percent of all mothers, compared to 33 percent of hockey moms. Given that all it takes to be a hockey mom is to have watched six minutes of TV, couldn't this perhaps have more to do with television-watching habits than devotion to your children's sports teams? You're sitting on the couch, you're flipping through the channels, you can't find the Stanley Cup on the schedule, but hey, here's the vice-presidential debate! Kids, clear those pads off the couch -- Mom's got some watching to do.

Still, now that I understand better what it takes to be a hockey mom, I am left with one important question that I'm hoping Nielsen can help me answer: Who, exactly, is Joe Sixpack?

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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