Weekly Links: Reconsidering “respect” in hockey culture; New hockey doc, “Red Army”; Penn State’s distasteful support for Joe Paterno; & more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!.

  • When AHL goalie Reto Berra of the Lake Erie Monsters scored an empty net goal, he reacted as most players do – by skating by his bench to high-five his teammates. Players on the rival Chicago Wolves took offense, and started rough play in reaction. Jeff Veillette argues that this incident reflects an out-dated conservative hockey culture, and that the sport needs to start taking its construction of “respect” less seriously. [Faceoff Circle]
  • An in-depth look at the new documentary Red Army, and its director Gabe Polsky. [Grantland]
  • Ryan Kennedy discusses a familiar argument: does fighting have a place in the sport anymore? [The Hockey News]
  • Ryan Lambert rages at Penn State’s men’s hockey team, which wore stickers celebrating disgraced football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno, who died in 2012, was determined to have allowed sexual abuse of children by his assistant coach to go unreported. [Puck Daddy]

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CapGeek, Hockey Analytics and the NHL’s Reluctance to Provide Information

CapGeek has announced that it would be ceasing operations as its founder and director, Matthew Wuest attends to some personal matters. CapGeek was the definitive source for NHL salary information used by fans, NHL teams and media outlets. It also provided interactive tools to determine if teams could take on player salaries, a cap calculator for armchair GM’s and what future rosters could potentially look like. It really improved the public’s understanding of the salary cap model and the numerous financial intricacies involved in building NHL rosters.

The website filled a need after the NHL implemented the salary cap in 2005. Team’s were no longer able to outspend one another and had to find a way to put together a roster with financial constraints. Team were on more of a level playing field, forcing fans to learn more about the cap and what implications it can have on their club.

img003CapGeek provided a service that really should’ve been provided by the NHL. The league had the resources and time to build a website and share information that fans demanded, but instead allowed a third party to be the source of information. By leveraging various sources and contacts within the NHL, CapGeek forced the information into the public realm. It’s a fantastic example of how individuals can collect and distribute information outside of traditional means using communication technology and strengthen the overall discourse. Not only did CapGeek publish the information, but they also gave their site visitors the ability to create new ideas and knowledge using the content and interactive tools on their website. This was a critical success factor for the website as it further pushed discussion pertaining to trade speculation, roster development and cap implications. It was a fantastic method to cut through the many misleading narratives that fans are inundated with and forced a higher level of  critical thinking when discussing the game.

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Beyond the Foster Hewitt Media Gondola: A Review of the CWHL All-Star Game

“Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland” goes the saying by legendary commentator Foster Hewitt, whose name is engraved on the broadcast booth of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. In order for this article to be written, I am grateful to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League media coordinator Kristen Lipscombe for allowing me to sit in the press box as well as inviting me to the all-star draft party (a private function) the night before.

It is certainly easier to record observations high up in the 600-level press box section, where I could jot down notes frequently without facing the scorn of fellow fans for staring at my portable electronic device instead of making noise. There was also a television that showed Sportsnet One’s live broadcast next to me. Overall, when I write reviews of events, I try to document minor details that many people don’t already know and can’t find anywhere else. These details may be trivial, but they offer insight into many broader themes.

I strongly believe in making my research accessible to academics across different disciplines and I also want to present it in a way that won’t be easily dismissed by influential policymakers and the general non-academic audience. One problem I have observed in academia is that some experts travel to conferences only to engage with a small handful of other experts who already know and agree with existing challenges. Sometimes the dialogue in academia becomes very theoretical and ideological to the point where some of these experts already know their results before beginning their observations.

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On Beliveau, Masculinity and “Class”

Image courtesy of the Guardian

Upon hearing the news of Jean Beliveau’s passing a few days ago, I was immediately taken back to my most enduring and endearing memory of Le Gros Bill. In a past life, a time when I thought a career spent toiling away in academia was for suckers (and yet here I am), I worked in numerous capacities at the Hockey Hall of Fame – some glamourous, some not so glamourous. One of my jobs at the annual Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies was to patrol the front of the hotel at which most honoured members in town for the event would stay. I was responsible for escorting the various Hall of Famers and their families through the crowd of (often aggressive, almost always professional) autograph seekers to the limo bus that would then take them to the red carpet at Yonge and Front.

One of the people I had to guide through this organized chaos each year was Jean Beliveau. As the flood of tributes after his death demonstrate, he is revered as a hockey legend and beloved by most with a knowledge of the sport’s history. This well-deserved respect and public veneration makes memorabilia featuring his likeness or signature worth a pretty penny (and like an artistic masterpiece, the value of this type of merchandise has undoubtedly increased after his passing). For me on Induction night, this meant the assembled horde of “fans” carrying unsigned pieces of memorabilia were especially eager for a moment of Mr. Beliveau’s time.

One year, I met him at the top of the hotel ramp, (re-)introduced myself, and began leading him and his wife toward the curb where the bus was waiting. With the help of a co-worker, I attempted to shield them from the hungry mob gathered in front of the hotel. He stopped a couple times and politely signed some autographs; meanwhile my co-worker and I absorbed more than a few shoves, jabs and insults from members of the crowd who were less than pleased with our efforts to keep them from obtaining their big ticket item (that would almost always be up for sale on eBay the next morning). We finally got Jean and Elise to the doors of the bus and we wished them a pleasant evening. But before the doors closed, Beliveau lightly grabbed my shoulder and asked, “Are you okay?” After I assured him that I was just fine, he patted me on the back and said “Great. You’re doing a great job. Thank you.” On a night entirely organized around treating these “honoured members” like unparalleled VIPs, he cared enough to stop for a second and ask how I was doing. This was certainly not a heroic or courageous deed; but it was an example of a genuine act of kindness and gratitude from a man who by all accounts was chalk full of them.

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Hockey Helps the Homeless…but what does Canada do?

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Photo from York Region.com

Hockey Helps the Homeless (HHTH) was started in 1996 as as industry tournament by Toronto businessman, Gary Scullion.  Today, there are 14 tournaments held across Canada, and six university tournaments run by over 500 volunteers.  Players are asked raise a minimum of $250 in addition to paying the $200 registration fee which pays for 3 games, a personalized jersey, some food and a banquet.  Last year, the Vancouver tournament raised over $346,000 in gross revenues and has raised over $1 million since 2011.  HHTH partners with 35 different agencies across Canada to support front-line support projects (e.g., the disbursement of survival kits, food delivery trucks, providing medical and counselling services, and  renovations) and reintegration and transition projects (e.g., helping to prepare people to reintegrate into the workforce and independent living by providing life skills, funding libraries and skills training).

The growth of using sport for social change is becoming increasingly prevalent.  Perhaps, Right to Play is the best known champion for the use of sport as a vehicle to build capacity, teach skills, and build solidarity.  Now we have events, programs, and fundraisers such as the Skate to End Poverty,  the Homeless World Cup, and a host of charitable runs and races that all privilege the so-called power of sport.  HHTH has certainly identified an important area of social concern but while we recognize that HHTH does some tangible good for Canadian communities, we should also ask:

  • How does playing hockey help the homeless, aside from raising money?
  • If HHTH tournaments are so successful at raising funds, why are the number of tournaments growing each year?
  • Is there any way that hockey actually contributes to homelessness?
  • Is homelessness an individual concern or an issue for the government?
  • Is money and resources all that is needed?
  • If you told a homeless person on the street that you were going to play hockey on their behalf, what do you think their response would be?
  • What role does the rising cost of living play in homelessness in Canada?

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Hockey Research at the 2014 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference

One of the things we like to do at Hockey in Society is highlight current sociocultural research about hockey being done by scholars across the globe (you can see various posts related to academic conferences here). Last week, the annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS), a scholarly association for sport sociologists, took place in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but the program is published online, so I am still able to highlight the research being presented that it relevant to the critical study of hockey and its place in society.

After the jump, check out the abstracts from relevant presentations (including from Hockey in Society writers Courtney Szto and Matt Ventresca). Topics include entrepreneurship and the formation of all-Black sport leagues (including the Colored Hockey League in the Canadian Maritimes) in the Reconstruction Era; racialized media media representations of black players, including the Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban; the demise of Hockey Night in Canada and La soirée du hockey and the loss of hockey on Canada’s pubic broadcasters; social media reaction to Punjabi hockey broadcasts; and concussions in sport.

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Happy Birthday Šatan; or, How Should a Legend Retire?

The only pet I ever had was a small water turtle. I got it in the summer of 2002, and its name was Šarky (read as Shar-ke), as it was the most popular name in Slovakia at that time. You could hear it in phrases like “Šarky is God!” or “Šarky to the castle!” (in Slovakia this latter phrase doesn’t indicate any historic sightseeing, but becoming the country’s president). Šarky is not a regular given name, but it is the official nickname of Miroslav Šatan, a retired Slovak ice hockey player, who captained the national team to one gold, two silvers and a bronze in four World Championships, won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and never really said a “proper” goodbye to the ice hockey scene. On October 22, Šarky celebrated his 40th birthday and all of the Slovak media celebrated with him. However, you could sense some uncertainty about the recent position Šatan is occupying in the minds of Slovak sports fans.

If the Slovak ice hockey in the era of its independence (which means since 1993) was to have a synonym in a person of a single player, then it definitely is Miroslav Šatan. He played with the senior men’s team since 1992, moreover, the very next year he was also drafted to the NHL. As just a 19 year-old lad he was part of the Slovak national team, which after the split of the former ice-hockey empire – Czechoslovakia – was demoted to the lowest ‘C’ division. However, it took just 10 years and Šatan, as the team’s captain, was raising the top divisions’ World Championship trophy above his head. Maybe he was not as iconic a player back in those times as other notable Slovaks, Žigmund Pálffy, Peter Bondra or Pavol Demitra, but he definitely was considered to be the one defining the style Slovaks played.

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Hockey Scouting in the Modern Age: An Interview with Victor Carneiro of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

hockeyscoutingWith the development of communication technology such as the web, social media and mobile technology, information pertaining to hockey has increased both in size and importance. The NHL, their broadcasters and media outlets are producing an astounding amount of content delivered on an array of platforms. Fans continue to demand information, and have played a key role in the development of new hockey related content. And of course, hockey teams are also acquiring as much information as they can for managerial decisions and to improve on-ice performance.

Not only has the amount of and demand for information increased, but many more channels between all stakeholders to share and develop information have opened as well. Teams however, are understandably restricted as to how much they can publicly disclose, mindful of the competitive nature of their business. Scouting in particular, which is relied upon to draft and acquire players has evolved in the modern age as communication technology increases in significance.

To get a better perspective on scouting in the modern age, I reached out to Victor Carneiro, Director of Player Personnel for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Victor is also active online, at times giving a glimpse into the world of scouting in  junior hockey.

Tell us about yourself, how you got into hockey, and how you landed with the Soo.

Well, I’m from Toronto. I’m a big sports fan. I like a lot of sports outside of hockey, soccer probably being number two. I find a lot of the flow sports have some similarities with hockey as well. 

As for getting into hockey, growing up, like most Canadian kids, I was a big hockey fan. But I realized at a young age I wasn’t going to make it as a pro hockey player. Luckily the school I went to had a hockey arena on campus and I just ended up being a rink rat. I mainly did the scorekeeping and timekeeping for our school’s games but I also helped with the ice and at times in the snack bar. I remember being asked to do the scorekeeping and timekeeping for a high school tournament and I ended up getting paid. I thought it was so great to watch hockey and get paid.

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It’s time to say goodbye to sock tape!

Slide1When I was a part-time sales associate at Sportchek, a mother once commented to me that once her sons had balled up all of the sock tape they used in a month and each created a tape ball the size of a basketball.   Her boys played rep hockey; therefore, they were on the ice quite a few times a week.  After their little experiment the boys substituted sock tape for velcro shin pad straps to hold their shin guards in place.  Her story made me get rid of my sock tape years ago.  After all it’s a win-win: I save money, and the environment doesn’t have to pay (as badly) for my recreational hockey.  After my last game, a teammate sat in the locker room holding a wad of sock tape and asked aloud “I wonder how much sock tape we go through?” Her recognition of the problem has inspired me to try and see if I can actually start a movement: SAY NO TO SOCK TAPE.  And, lucky for me, I happen to have this lovely little platform to start such a movement.   Sock tape is one of the few pieces of equipment that has a sustainable and CHEAP alternative.  So I am issuing a challenge to my own team, the writers on this blog, your team, and everyone who plays hockey to stop using sock tape.  The ultimate goal would be to get the NHL to support this movement (so if you are an NHL player and reading this, your help would be greatly appreciated!) but let’s see how far we can spread this at a grassroots level.

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Roundtable: 4th Annual IIHF Girls’ Hockey Weekend – Assessing the state of the game

Roundtables are an occasional feature on Hockey in Society. Roundtables will present brief commentaries from Hockey in Society contributors on pressing or timely issues within hockey and its culture, with the aim of presenting a diverse range of critical viewpoints on the topic under discussion.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is hosting its fourth annual Girls’ Hockey Weekend this weekend (which, coincides with the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child), a weekend designed to expose girls and women to *ahem* the greatest game on earth! ( I might be a little biased). The IIHF encourages teams, clubs, and organizations to find a way to draw more girls to the game whether it be through autograph sessions, practice sessions, or off-ice activities. You can check out the official (pink) website here: Girls’ Hockey Weekend. This is the first time that we at Hockey in Society have ever heard of the Girls’ Hockey Weekend, so we thought it would be appropriate to use the opportunity to offer an assessment on the current state of women’s hockey, both in Canada and globally.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.32.40 PMThere are two recent events that show promising signs for the growth of women’s hockey. First, is Sportsnet’s new agreement with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to broadcast the league’s playoff games from the Clarkson Cup and “at least one special event to be announced in early October.” This agreement is slated for the next four years and it has also earned the CWHL space on the website (sportsnet.ca) for game scores. The second exciting recent event for women’s hockey is that the Anaheim Ducks invited, US Olympic team member, Hillary Knight to skate in practice. This was the first time that a female non-goalie has ever practiced with an NHL team. However, despite these two newsworthy developments, it is still important to recognize that women’s hockey still has a long way to go. The Sportsnet agreement will show three playoff games. This is certainly better than nothing but it also doesn’t seem like a huge commitment on Sportsnet’s part. Also, this will be the first time that CWHL scores will be shown on the website. FIRST TIME! The fact that a national sportscaster has waited until 2014 to add “professional” women’s hockey scores on the ticker is less than exciting. And, I put the word professional in quotations because the women of the CWHL are unable to support themselves from their hockey careers and are forced to have other jobs. Plus, there this snappy list of “10 reasons why the NHL should commit to women’s pro hockey before expanding the men’s game (again)” floating around the Internet, which further highlights the gap between the men’s and women’s games. Moreover, Anaheim Ducks’ coach, Bruce Boudreau was apparently pleasantly surprised with Knight’s skill at practice because he has never seen a women’s hockey game live and didn’t realize that “they were that good”. I don’t know what is more sad: the fact that he has never felt it worth his time to watch women’s hockey, or that there has probably been few opportunities for him to take in a live game. Either way, I think Boudreau’s experience (as someone who lives the game) is telling.

One last example I will contribute to the discussion here is how Warrior (equipment company) fails to recognize women as either a valuable or viable market demographic and that they have faced zero consequences for their misogynistic stance. Warrior feels that it is unnecessary to serve the female demographic, which from a consumer standpoint isn’t that big a of a deal, but from a social perspective is reflective and reproductive of the lack of value afforded to women’s hockey. Lululemon has faced both social and financial backlash for not valuing any person that the company deems overweight but they essentially continue business as normal because, while consumers don’t appreciate size discrimination, the stigmatization of obesity remains a prevalent ideology. Similarly, I think that many people may think even though Warrior’s stance on female consumers is rude and outdated, it is situated as poor business practice rather than a reproduction of unequal power relations that manifest beyond the store shelves. Unless an NHL player publicly chastises Warrior and drops them as a sponsor, very little will happen. Even then, they might not give a flying #uck. And as long as companies such as Warrior are not forced to change their ways, or collapse entirely, their very existence affirms the notion that women’s hockey is of little value. While it is exciting to see initiatives such as the Girls’ Hockey Weekend and players like Knight skating with the big boys, we still have a long way to go. Should we find it encouraging or discouraging to know that most other women’s sports are in the exact same fight?

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IIHF’s “Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend”: A Chance to Reflect on Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Hockey Culture

The International Ice Hockey Federation is celebrating its fourth annual Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend this coming weekend. The event is designed to raise the profile of women’s hockey globally and to offer participation opportunities for girls, especially those who have never played. From the IIHF:

The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is a global opportunity for girls to try out hockey as a new sport. Thousands of participants took part in the editions in 2011, 2012 and 2013. . . . It is an opportunity for girls of all ages to try ice hockey. We are looking for hosts all around the world to bring girls from their community together on the ice.

This certainly seems like a noble initiative by the IIHF, although it is certainly debatable to what extent such efforts will close the very significant gender gap that exists between men and women when it comes to their experience as hockey players, fans, or even media members. One way in which this may prove to be a positive initiative is that it provides a prominent and public platform through which to foster dialogue about the opportunities for, barriers against, and experiences of women in hockey.

One of the fantastic consequences of the widespread adoption of new media technologies has been the democratiziation of media production – and, in the case of hockey media, this has meant the emergence of new voices that have challenged traditional narratives, entrenched members of the mainstream media, and long-held ways of understanding the sport. It has also meant that hundreds of women, who were barely represented in hockey media, have had a public platform to demonstrate their brilliant insights about the sport, celebrate their fandom, and – perhaps most importantly – to highlight the many ways in which women continue to be marginalized, excluded, and ignored in various facets of hockey culture. There are too many pieces to link, but highlights include insights into to learning to play hockey in a physically aggressive manner, commentary on the lack of opportunity for elite women players, strong critique of CBC’s disastrous “While the Men Watch” broadcast in 2012 (here, here, and here), and criticism of gimmicky attempts to market the sport to women fans. The work of these bloggers has, I believe, helped create space for male allies to criticize sexism and misogyny in hockey culture and to call on all actors – including fans, media, teams, and leagues – to do better when it comes to gender equality.

It is in this spirit that, with the IIHF’s Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend upcoming, Hockey in Society will be running two pieces this week to offer diverse perspectives on women’s hockey in Canada and around the world. This blog has made women’s hockey a major area of focus since its inception, and is currently in the process of recruiting more female writers to broaden the diversity of voices represented on the site. Later in the week, we will run a new Hockey in Society Roundtable featuring insights from female bloggers, academics, and players about women’s and girls’ hockey. Meanwhile, in this initial post I have collected together some of the many pieces about women’s hockey and the role of women in hockey culture that have been posted here since Hockey in Society launched three years ago. If you missed them the first time around, I encourage you to check out some of the past pieces on these topics.

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Mark Popovic, KHL player and former NHLer, on hockey culture and labour vs. passion in a pro career

This is one in a series of posts in which I will report back from The Hockey Conference that I attended in London, ON from June 18-20, 2014. As I did not digitally record any of the proceedings, any direct quotations may contain slight inaccuracies – however, I have endeavored to capture the essence of the commentary and to reproduce it as accurately as possible.

The first keynote of the conference featured Mark Popovic, a former NHL player who played 81 games over five seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Atlanta Thrashers, and current player with Croatian club Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL. For reference, you can view his career stats here.

The keynote took a unique form, as conference organizer and Western University sport historian Dr. Don Morrow conducted a one-on-one interview in the vein of the popular Inside the Actor’s Studio television program. Popovic was gracious and forthcoming with his answers, although, as will be discussed, there was a contradiction in his views on the labour process in hockey that was not adequately resolved during the session. Nonetheless, Popovic provided great insight into the life of a professional hockey player and some of the struggles, challenges and rewards of this career. After the jump, I review three of the interesting themes that emerged from this session: hockey as labour, players as commodities, and the expression of passion and love for the sport. I conclude by briefly attempting to explore the apparent contradictions between the first two topics and the latter one. Read more of this post

Diffusion of Hockey Analytics

Applying Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations theory to understand the adoption of hockey analytics

As fans, we all watch, follow and engage with the game very differently. Hockey analytics really is a supplement to our experience with the game, much like gambling, fantasy league and video games. What a person pays attention to during a game depends on their own experience, including their biases and preferences.

Aside from the information it’s creating and the impact it’s having on the game, hockey analytics is first and foremost a method of engagement with the game. Fans are far more than passive consumers and have used the communication technology available to fully immerse themselves in an active, participatory culture.

Having said that, hockey analytics is an innovative way to understand the game as fans try to detect some sort of meaningful patterns. Again, it’s not for everyone, but the fact is analytics, especially the work fans and bloggers are doing, can possibly change how the game is being played.

And like any innovative idea or product, it tends to go through a process to become adopted by the masses. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory (1964) in particular, provides some context to the current dissemination of hockey analytics.

A summary of the Diffusion of Innovation theory from UTwente:

Diffusion research centers on the conditions which increase or decrease the likelihood that a new idea, product, or practice will be adopted by members of a given culture. Diffusion of innovation theory predicts that media as well as interpersonal contacts provide information and influence opinion and judgment.

Diffusion is the “process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over a period of time among the members of a social system”. An innovation is “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived to be new by an individual or other unit of adoption”. “Communication is a process in which participants create and share information with one another to reach a mutual understanding” (Rogers, 1995).

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Making Warrior Accountable: A social media campaign

It was recently brought to my attention that Warrior is a horrible company.  When I say “horrible” I don’t mean that their equipment is horrible.  This is the same Warrior worn and used by Alex Burrows, Shane Doan, Ilya Kovalchuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Alexei Kovalev among others.  I myself purchased a Warrior Covert DT1 a few months ago. I love the stick, but I no longer love Warrior.  And, unless they change their sexist and misogynistic ways I will no longer be consuming any more Warrior products.  I encourage you to do the same.

I have never shopped on Warrrior’s website and I don’t follow them on social media, so up until last Friday I had no idea what Warrior considers “marketing”.  Someone on Twitter informed me that the following comment can be found on Warrior’s FAQ page:

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Funny thing is that Warrior does serve “that” demographic, just not with women’s specific clothing or equipment.  And if you search “women’s,” this is what comes up:

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So, okay they don’t make women’s gear – they have made that abundantly clear. And no one is asking them to go out of their way to include women.  But then why does Warrior go out of its way  to make women (or men shopping for women) with the intent of purchasing its equipment feel like crap?  I’m going to go out on a limb and speak on behalf of all women athletes and tell you right now, we already feel like outsiders so there is no need to rub it in.  We know that there are very few women’s specific items on the shelves.  We know that even if we find something in a men’s that we like it probably won’t come in an appropriate size for us.  We know that hockey, lacrosse and soccer (the three sports that Warrior deals with) were not made for us.  No need to put it in writing. Read more of this post

Beyond the Stats: An Interview with Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf

Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Four

Los Angeles Kings

The popularity of hockey analytics continues to grow as fans, teams and the NHL embrace new methods of measuring team and player performance. The uptake of analytics is dependent on the individual doing the analysis, as each person has different opinions and biases regarding what impacts a game result and what doesn’t. As a result, a number of websites have emerged providing various levels of data and analysis, putting the onus on the end user to interpret it as they please.

It’s important to note that fans in particular have lead the charge when it comes to developing and discussing new ideas regarding the game. The online environment has been critical for the growth of hockey analytics as fans connect online, publish ideas and develop the knowledge that surrounds the game. In recent years, a number of data visualization tools such as Super Shot Search and Shift Chart, have been developed by fans making data accessible, readily available, and easy to use. A major shift has occurred moving fans from passive consumers of information to more active participants when it comes to developing new ideas and information.

Extra Skaterfor instance, has become a go-to source for anyone interested in learning about hockey analytics, including the modern metrics (i.e., Corsi, Fenwick, etc), and has established itself as a solid reference point for fans. The website uses and extends data from NHL.com and has worked collaboratively to include Vollman and Tufts’ Player Usage Charts. Recently, the website has expanded to include advanced statistics for major junior league (CHL) players, and partnered with Cap Geek to include players’ UFA statuses.

Darryl Metcalf, the man behind Extra Skater, was kind enough to answer some questions about the field of hockey analytics, his motivation for launching the website and the importance of the online fan community.

Tell us about yourself/profession background and how you got into hockey?

I played hockey growing up and have been a fan since I can remember, not unlike many kids who grow up in Canada. Today I’m a consultant for a web firm and work on Extra Skater in my spare time.

How did you get into hockey statistics and analytics?

My interest in stats comes from being a fan of the game and wanting to understand it better. I’m a baseball fan, too, and seeing the stats revolution there certainly had some influence.

Click to learn more about the data and information available at ExtraSkater.com

Click to learn more about the data and information available at ExtraSkater.com

What was your motivation to launch Extra Skater?

There was, and is, a lot of great info and tools on other stats sites like Behind the Net. I used those sites regularly but wanted to do more with the numbers so I started putting data into my own spreadsheets and playing around with different ideas. Eventually I got to the point where I thought other people might find useful what I was putting together, so I started developing what would become Extra Skater.

Where do you pull your information from for Extra Skater? How much time and effort does it take to maintain the website?

Most of the raw data comes from NHL.com, which publishes various types of reports for every game. Updates are mostly automated, so regular operation of the site doesn’t take much time, which lets me spend time improving it instead.

What has the traffic been like for Extra Skater? Which teams or players get the most attention?

Traffic has grown fairly consistently since I launched the site before the 2013-14 season, much like general interest in advanced stats, I think. I don’t have stats on the popularity of specific teams or players but I’d venture that this season the Leafs were the biggest draw. Many identified them before the season started as a sort of test case for advanced stats and attention to their stats was definitely high throughout the season and especially so during their eventual collapse.

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A Story of 15 CHL Players, Together, On One Journey

Last year I had the privilege of speaking with 15 former and current CHL players. Below are their journeys, combined into one. Each paragraph comes from a different player’s story.


A Story of 15 Players, Together, on One Journey

Ever since I can remember I was on the ice.

My Grandpa would take me skating,
started out on the pond.
Those times were my first memories of hockey.

I asked my parents if I could be enrolled one year.
I asked if I could play.

I still remember my first loss.

I had a yellow jersey on.

I was in grade 4 and it was the second or third game of the season in house league.

My mom said I came off the ice bawling my eyes out.

I just think that right away I was pretty much hooked though,
for the game. Read more of this post

On “NHL Bloodlines” and Social and Cultural Capital: Why Do NHL Fathers Produce NHL Sons?

In its preview of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, The Hockey News features a Matt Larkin article entitled “Rising Son,” the subtitle of which reads: “Former NHLers’ sons, other relatives are on the radar as top prospects.” Larkin’s piece highlights no fewer than 22 draft eligible players with fathers, uncles, or brothers who used to or currently play in the NHL, including the sons of notable ex-NHLers such as Pierre Turgeon, Claude Lemieux, Al MacInnis, and Glen Wesley. Furthermore, three sons of former NHL regulars are expected to be drafted in the top 10: Sam Reinhart (son of Paul Reinhart and brother of NHL draftees Max and Griffin), Kasperi Kapanen (son of Sami Kapanen), and William Nylander (son of Michael Nylander).

Meanwhile, there are numerous current and past NHLers whose fathers enjoyed successful careers. The Howe family may be the most famous of these, with father Gordie playing along his sons Marty and Mark for the New England/Hartford Whalers of the World Hockey Association in the 1970s. Bobby and Brett Hull are another well-known father/son duo. Current NHLers whose fathers also played in the league include Paul Stastny (son of Peter), Nick Foligno (son of Mike), Brandon Sutter (son of Brent), Alexander Steen (son of Thomas), and Jarred Tinordi (son of Mark). And more players of famous lineage may never become regulars in the NHL, despite their hockey pedigree: Ray Bourque and Patrick Roy, for example, both have sons toiling in the KHL and AHL respectively.

The intergenerational success of these hockey families is often explained in popular discourse as a product of genetics or “bloodlines.” Read more of this post

Hockey Research at the 2014 “Putting it on Ice” Conference

Starting tomorrow in London, ON, hockey researchers and academics will gather at Western University for the fourth Putting it on Ice Conference. This conference, which was last held in Halifax, NS in 2012, is exclusively focused on scholarship related to hockey, whether that be sociological, political, historical, media, literary or economic research. Not surprisingly, there are lots and lots of fascinating papers being presented this year that align with the interests and focus of this blog – and I am happy to say that I will be in attendance to hear them all. While I don’t have space to summarize every paper that will be on the program, after the jump I have copied and pasted the titles and abstracts of just some of the papers I am particularly interested in – but I am sure that many other papers will also catch my interest and stimulate my intellect! You can check out the full program here and the abstracts here.

Full disclosure: I am co-presenting a paper, with Tobias Stark from Linnaeus University in Sweden, which for the sake of interest I am including in the selection of abstracts below.

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Hockey Research at the 2014 North American Society for Sport History (NASSH) Conference

I attended the NASSH annual conference last year in Halifax, and was sufficiently inspired by some of the presentations and discussion to write a blog post upon my return. Later this week the 2014 edition of the conference takes place in Colorado Springs, but I will unfortunately not be in attendance. However, the program is available online and there are a handful of hockey presentations amongst the many interesting pieces of research being presented. After the jump, you can read the titles of the presentations (unfortunately abstracts are not posted) and my brief commentary on each topic.

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“Don’t Play With the Dictator”: Politics and the 2014 World Hockey Championships in Belarus (Repost)

Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted on Hockey in Society on October 14, 2013. It was also published by Left Hook Journal on October 20, 2013. With the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation’s Men’s World Hockey Championships kicking off today in Belarus, we are reposting this article as it is still a highly relevant reminder of the political controversies and power struggles going on behind the scenes of this hockey tournament.

Sporting mega-events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, despite claims by their organizers and boosters about the political neutrality of sport, are deeply enmeshed in political structures. In recent months, a number of these high profile events have drawn the ire of political activists, citizens, and some media precisely because of their political implications. Consider the following examples:

Each of these examples highlights some of the ways that sport is enmeshed in, and can contribute to, unequal power relations between individuals and groups in various societies around the world. Thankfully, sport mega-events are increasingly coming under public scrutiny and are having their politics examined in the press. However, there are many other examples of sport contributing to social injustice that are happening on a smaller scale. One such event, which has gained relatively little media attention (especially in North America), is the upcoming 2014 Men’s World Hockey Championships in Belarus.

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An interview with Dr. Bruce Berglund, Editor of the Allrounder website and the New Books in Sports podcast

Dr. Bruce Berglund is a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and the Editor of the podcast/website New Books in Sports, which features interviews with authors about their recent sport books. Among the many interviewees are some people who may be familiar to hockey fans, such as Roy MacGregor and Todd Denault, as well as some academics who have at times published insightful commentary on hockey, such as Dr. Kevin Young (University of Calgary) and Dr. Mary Louise Adams (Queen’s University).

Dr. Berglund has recently launched a new venture: a sports website called the Allrounder. This website aims to bring together scholars to provide insight into and analysis of sport around the world [full disclosure: I will be an occasional contributor to the site]. He has assembled a diverse crew of writers with a variety of disciplinary, theoretical, and geographic foci. The Allrounder is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise initial operating costs to launch the site and pay its contributors.

After the jump, I have an interview with Dr. Berglund in which he explains the impetus behind New Books in Sports and the Allrounder, the present state of sports journalism and writing, and the significance of new media and the Internet for the production and dissemination of analysis about sport cultures around the world.

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Importance of Hockey Analytics II

Source: Zimbio

Source: Zimbio

It’s been remarkable to see how quickly the field has developed over the past few years. The amount of new information being derived from hockey analytics has grown and continues to be discussed across a large and diverse online community. And while the focus has rightfully been on the hockey data and extracting meaningful patterns, it’s important to assess some of the foundational concepts that have supported the development and growing popularity of hockey analytics.

Analytics in any industry is a continuous process. Regardless of what patterns are found, new questions will arise to continue advancing the discussion initiated by analytics. Hockey analytics is no different as it really is a never ending process to uncover, share and build upon new information. Because it pertains to professional hockey, there is new data available almost every day and involves analysis from anyone that’s interested in the topic. The game itself, including the off-ice business (i.e., trades, free agency, draft) is highly chaotic and at times unpredictable.

Related: Importance of Hockey Analytics – Hockey in Society (2012, June 11)

What makes hockey analytics, or any sports analytics unique, is that it’s being done in an open environment that allows for anyone with basic analytic and communication technology tools to join the discussion. Using blogs and Twitter, participants have created a very collaborative environment that supports discussion and the continuous extension of ideas and information.

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Deconstructing the Jersey Toss

"The medium is the message." (1964)

“The medium is the message.” (1964)

The jersey of any sports team, professional or not, holds a history, a story, and many different meanings. The message that resonates with any sports jersey is different depending on who is involved in the communication process. To some, the jersey simply designates who plays on what team. For others, a jersey holds significant, personal meaning which can be immersed in a narrative to build and share.

During two embarrassing losses on home ice this past season, two Edmonton Oilers jerseys were tossed by fans on to the ice. Both were acts of frustration and disapproval towards the club and their miserable performance. Many understood why the fans threw the jersey, while others, including Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens, questioned why the jersey was used as the medium to send a message.

“I’m from (Edmonton). You’re not just disrespecting guys in the room you’re disrespecting guys who wore the jersey before us … Messier, Gretzky, they all take pride in wearing that jersey. You’re a fan, you get to say and do whatever you want, call me whatever name you want, but when it comes to that logo, that’s a sacred thing for us. It’s disheartening for me to see our fans treat it that way.” (Canoe.ca)

The crumpled jersey on the ice for all to see was significant because it was an extreme response to a poor performance. It brought to light the narratives, history and meaning we each have as fans of the team. And, aside from the disrespect to the past players as Scrivens pointed out, the toss of the jersey also challenged and disrupted the traditional communication channels sports fans have established with their team. Read more of this post

Drop-In Ball Hockey at the YMCA: An Ethnographic Study

“It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A” goes the refrain of the famous Village People disco song. As someone studying sport policy, I decided to see if it’s true.

What is the experience of a new visitor to a Toronto-area YMCA drop-in ball hockey program? Some students at an English language centre where I occasionally teach have memberships at this particular YMCA location, which allows them to participate in drop-in ball hockey alongside other fitness programs. None of them (to my knowledge) has tried this sport, though some have considered participating especially after being “inspired” from watching hockey during the recent Winter Olympics.

I have played ball hockey extensively at various different settings. Some friends at one location would affectionately call me “Captain” because I would be the most outspoken in terms of enforcing fair play. To be honest, my understanding of “sportsmanlike conduct” was inspired by years of watching Don Cherry in his Coach’s Corner segment every Saturday night: “humble” but “vicious competitors” that exemplify the spirit of being “good ol’ Canadian boys” (Allain, 2011). Other times, particularly when I play drop-in hockey with complete strangers as a younger, smaller, and less-skilled participant, I want to blend in as seamlessly as possible without questioning the “old boy’s club” culture of playing hard and leaving non-hockey topics out of the conversation.

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Signal Boost: Barb Underhill, the woman who teaches the NHL how to skate

development camp-4_slide

Underhill working with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Photo from Tampa Bay Lightning.

** Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole.

The Pacific Standard recently wrote an article about NHL skating coach and consultant Barb Underhill.  I have been a hockey fan since I was six and I had never heard about this woman before.  After reading the article and watching a couple of YouTube clips I am inspired and want nothing more than for her to  add me to her list of pupils.  I don’t know how the world of sports has managed to keep Underhill such a well kept secret (perhaps its because NHL hockey remains a marginal sport in the US market?) but I think that proponents of women’s equality in sports should have her face plastered on every piece of marketing material possible!

Underhill, 51, is a former Canadian competitive pairs figure skater who skated in two Olympic Games and in 2009 was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.  After her competitive career ended she moved into television commentating but for the last eight years she has been back on the ice where she belongs teaching the best of the best how to be…even better!  While not a hockey player herself she has been surrounded by the game and really, it doesn’t matter whether or not she knows hockey because she knows skating.  As Underhill points out, figure skaters take private lessons for pretty much their entire skating careers but hockey is predominantly learned in a group setting and skating, oddly enough, skating is kind of learned incidentally.  So if you have done like I have and walked by the figure skaters practicing with your hockey bag on your shoulder shooting the toe picks a snide grin of superiority maybe next time it should be an inviting grin that will hopefully turn into a new friend and free skating coach! Read more of this post

Playing Like Girls

During the brief lull in Sochi between the Canadian women’s national hockey team’s prodigious comeback to claim their fourth consecutive Olympic Gold medal, and the men’s national team winning their second, Gary Clement’s comic from the 2006 Olympics was re-shared among a number of online communities; a meme that went viral throughout Canada. The comic was created after the women’s team won their second Gold in Turin, where the men’s team finished out of the medals.Image

The image is intended as a celebration of the women’s team’s achievements, but the joke is based on an inversion and transference of the traditional, patriarchal discourses on femininity to the men’s team, who played poorly. The men are supposed to play more like the women, who are playing more like men. In this sense it feels like a reinforcement of one of an old and insidious forms of gender-bias. With this in mind the image does a disservice to the women’s team, who have not only set an impeccable standard for team dominance in Olympic competition, but who have done so through their own passion, will and sacrifice.

1998 marked the first Olympic tournament where NHL players were allowed into the competition, and provided Canada the opportunity to construct our own version of the ‘Dream Team’ for each tournament since. The men’s teams have been very successful, but not nearly as dominating as the women’s program.

This is meaningful for far more than the medal count.

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Olympic Dissonance

Games Against a Messy Background

from thestar.com

Sport lends itself to a condition of moral simplicity. A major reason we turn to sport is for the undeniable certainty of its win/loss, rule-bound dynamic. At no time does sport’s artificial certainty stand out more than it does at the Olympics, because at no other time does it clash more with the deviousness of the world at large. Like the World Cup, the Olympics produces the same tension each time: between the simplified morality of sport itself and the problematic morality of the forces that control sport, or of the nations represented.

Putin’s games provide a case in point of that. Read more of this post

Tensions: The Changing Demographics of Hockey


Harnarayan Singh. Screen capture from the Calgary Flames.

At the end of January the Calgary Flames became the first Canadian team to offer commentary in a language other than English or French.  Flames TV Punjabi will be hosted by none other than Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) – Punjabi Edition’s Harnarayan Singh.  Punjabi is the third most spoken language in Canada and, despite the large Punjabi populations in Vancouver and Toronto, Calgary is the first to capitalize on this growing hockey crazed demographic.  Singh explains that the broadcasts facilitate inter-generational love of the game enabling immigrant Punjabi grandparents to watch the games with their grandchildren.  Many kudos have been passed around for this move by the Calgary Flames, which will hopefully encourage more teams to join suit – and rumour has it that the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking into a similar broadcast opportunity. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Vladimir Putin and the politics of the KHL; A review of Derek Boogaard biography; Jack Johnson’s bankruptcy; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!.

  • If you missed it, check out Sunil Agnihotri’s take on the rise and demise of Cap Geek. [Hockey in Society]
  • I wrote a review of John Branch’s new book, Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard for The All Rounder. The book builds on the fantastic reporting Branch did for his insightful series of 2011 reports on Boogaard’s life and passing. [The All Rounder]
  • A really interesting look at the KHL and Vladimir Putin’s political relationship with hockey, the power of which is jeopardized by Russia’s current economic crisis. [Vice Sports]
  • A detailed look at the sad and cautionary story of NHL star Jack Johnson, who declared bankruptcy after his parents, who controlled his finances, blew through his millions in career earnings. [Deadspin]

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Weekly Links: Developing a critical approach to analyzing hockey; Ending the sexist “puck slut” label; Follow up to the World Junior Championship and the NHL Winter Classic; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • Zuzana Botiková, who contributes to this blog, produced a radio piece on the Bronze medal winning Slovakia team at the World Junior Championship, which touches on the cultural prominence of hockey in both Slovakia and Canada (and even features an interview with yours truly!). [Radio Slovakia International]
  • Jessica-Lyn Saunders writes about being a female hockey fan and the damaging label of “puck slut” or “puck bunny.” A great read. [Rabid Habs]
  • A bit of an older post, but great stuff from Stefan Wolejszo on how to develop a critical approach to doing hockey analysis. [Integrating Hockey Analysis]
  • Matt Larkin takes an in-depth look at the CWHL as it attempts to grow as a league, including the struggles faced by the unpaid players and a consideration of the WNBA’s relationship to the NBA. [The Hockey News]

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Weekly Links: Coach Shannon Miller fired by Minnesota-Duluth; Lawsuit by ex-players against the CHL; World Junior Championship news and issues; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • The University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey program has let legendary coach Shannon Miller go, citing budget constraints. Miller made $207,000 last year; the university’s men’s coach made $265,000. [New York Times]
  • Clare Austin takes a Foucauldian look at power and resistance in women’s hockey. [Puckology]
  • With ongoing controversy regarding whether junior players should be better compensated for their labour, Eric Duhatschek examines the business of the CHL and the disparity between franchise values and revenues, as well as the experience of the players in the league (for more on this topic please check out Vicky Grygar’s work on this site). [Globe and Mail]
  • Jeff J. Klein also looks at the lawsuits facing the CHL and the numerous issues at stake in this ongoing struggle. [New York Times]

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Weekly Links: CWHL All-Star Game reaction; KHL impacted by falling Russian Ruble; NHL’s mumps outbreak; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • If you missed Alvin Ma’s post on the CWHL All-Star Game at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, you can check it out here. [Hockey in Society]
  • Reina de la Isla and Zoë Hayden have both been doing great reporting on the CWHL this year. Here are their takes on the All-Star Game. [Hockey Wilderness; Stanley Cup of Chowder]
  • The plunging ruble is destabilizing the Russian economy and drastically affecting the Kontinental Hockey League. This is an interesting story worth following in the coming months. Here is some initial analysis from Dmitry Chesnokov and James Mirtle. [Puck Daddy; Globe and Mail]
  • How has the NHL been hit by an outbreak of mumps, a relatively rare disease? Matt McCarthy explores this outbreak, which has affected more than 13 players and two officials, including Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby. [Deadspin]

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