Hockey Research at the 2011 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference

Image from: http://nasss.org

The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) is the major scholarly society for sociocultural studies of sport in North America, and boasts membership from around the globe. It publishes the academic journal Sociology of Sport Journal and runs an annual conference at which scholars from around the world present their research. All of the writers for Hockey in Society are members of NASSS and have presented at its conference in recent years.

This year’s conference is in Minneapolis, MN, and runs from tomorrow until Saturday. Appropriately, given that it is taking place in the State of Hockey, the conference will feature a number of presentations about hockey. I am excited to attend as many of these presentations as I can, and will attempt to report on the most exciting and interesting research at the conclusion of the conference.

You can read the full conference programme online, but I’ve pasted abstracts for all of the hockey-related presentations below so you can get a sense of some of the sociological research currently being done on hockey. All abstracts are posted on the NASSS website, are reproduced in full on this website, and are copyright of their authors. I have removed email contact information, although this is publicly available on the NASSS website.

First up, what will undoubtedly be the worst of these presentations:

Cultural Citizenship and the New Media Consumption/Production of Televised Sport (Mark Norman, University of Toronto)

While scholars have argued that access to television broadcasts of live sport events can constitute an important aspect of cultural citizenship, this scholarly discussion has not extended to the various forms of new media through which live sport is also consumed and produced. Building upon Scherer and Whitson’s (2009) argument that public television access to Hockey Night in Canada is a matter of Canadian cultural citizenship, this paper uses data collected during the program’s 2011 Hockey Day in Canada broadcast to examine the ways in which new media, notably Twitter, are used by consumers of live sport to become producers of new media content. Through exploration of major themes that emerged on Twitter, the paper argues that new media can provide sites for collective discussion on important sociopolitical issues—and that, therefore, discussions about cultural citizenship and sport media should be extended to include access to new media communities. The implications of this argument are discussed in light of Jenkins’ (2006) research on “new knowledge communities” and the novel forms of democratic decision-making that are created up by such online collectives. In particular, the sociopolitcal implications of barriers to participation in new knowledge communities are discussed.

If that wasn’t too much of an inaccessible, academic-speak summary for you, I encourage you to read on about what will undoubtedly be some fascinating research presentations about a variety of important issues in hockey.

Televised Sport and Cultural Citizenship in Canada: The ‘Two Solitudes’ of Canadian Public Broadcasting? (Jay Scherer, University of Alberta, with Jean Harvey)

In this presentation we examine some of the differences between English and French sports programming, and the contradictions between the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Radio-Canada (RC) in providing over-the-air telecasts of National Hockey League (NHL) games.  In 2006, for example, the CBC secured a new six-year contract with the NHL rumoured to be worth CDN$600 million, thus preserving the network’s iconic show, Hockey Night in Canada.  However, RC was unwilling to make a similar financial commitment to the NHL, and, since 2004, hockey broadcasts have aired exclusively on the cable sport specialty network RDS. These developments, in turn, marked the end of La Soirée Du Hockey— a cultural institution in Quebec—and curtailed the ‘viewing rights’ (Rowe, 2004) of fans to watch matches involving the Montreal Canadiens in French on the public broadcaster (Harvey & Law, 2005).  Drawing from interviews with executives from the CBC and RC, we review these developments and examine the seemingly divergent mandate of the public broadcaster in providing over-the-air coverage of hockey games for all Canadians. We propose that what is ultimately at stake in these debates is not just the fate of hockey on the CBC and RC (and the Olympics, and other major sporting events that are important to Canadians): it is the type of role that the public broadcaster should play in contemporary Canadian life, and thus the future of both networks. These are not just issues for hockey fans, then, but matters of national interest (Scherer & Whitson, 2009).

I’m not a figure skater, I’m a hockey coach: The exploration of the double bind among female assistant hockey coaches (Heather Samariniotis, Northern Illinois University, Thomas J. Aicher, University of Cincinnati)

Competition and sport is an unequivocally male world (Messner, 1992) that produces and reproduces gender inequity and inequality. The institution of sport is developed to help “prove” men’s dominance over women (Adams, Anderson, & McCormick, 2010); thereby sport perpetuates and recreates male hegemony and hegemonic masculinity (Fink, 2008). The value placed on hegemonic masculinity within sport promotes a complex situation for women within sport. As a masculine occupation, coaching, like sport, values masculine traits (Aicher & Sagas, 2009). This engenders a climate for the double bind for female coaches in sport.

Participants in this study will be female assistant coaches of a traditionally masculine sport (ice hockey). Participants’ responses will then be tested against the sex of the head coach to measure the differences in perceptions of the double bind. In order to gather a large enough sample size, and to compare perceptions of the double bind, we will survey female coaches from Division I, II, and III levels. The results will begin to develop an understanding of the impact of the double bind among women within sport organizations; specifically, the coaching profession. Furthermore, the results will further the discussion regarding the culture of sport organizations.

Avery-one has an opinion: Twitter, Same-Sex Marriage and the NHL (Ann Pegoraro, Laurentian University and Naila Jinnah, Queen’s University)

Sean Avery is certainly not the NHL’s ideal spokesperson. His reputation as a pest on the ice and his long record of derogatory comments off the ice make him easy to hate. When Avery recorded a video PSA supporting “full-marriage equality” in the summer of 2011, the hockey world was slow to take notice, even on social media, where this type of news is usually quick to spread. A delayed Twitter reaction by management agency Uptown Hockey calling out Avery’s “misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage’” created awareness of the PSA’s existence and sparked a flurry of commentary. Surprisingly, backlash from sports fans, reporters, activists, and even NHL players was directed at Uptown manager Todd Reynolds, not Avery, leading us to question whether the commonly represented culture of homophobia in hockey locker rooms and audiences was shifting, and what role, if any, social media was playing in creating a more positive environment to discuss these issues.

Patriots at play: An analysis of the newspaper coverage of the gold medal contenders in men’s and women’s ice hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (Jane Crossman, Lakehead University, with John Vincent, University of Alabama)

This study compared how The Globe and Mail and The New York Times covered The United States and Canadian  female and male ice hockey teams competing in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Textual analysis was used to analyze how the gendered themes intersected with national identity in the narratives. Theoretical insight was drawn from Connell’s (1987, 1990, 2005) theory of gender power relations, Anderson’s (1983) concept of the imagined community, and Hobsbawn’s (1983) theory of invented traditions. Four themes emerged: the future of hockey at the Winter Olympic Games, post-game celebrations, gendered discourses and the importance of the gold medal games. A discussion of each theme is presented.

Television Descriptions of Female Hockey Players during the 2010 Winter Olympics (Heather A. Muir, Bowling Green State University, with Dianna P. Gray)

The Winter Olympics are the best and sometimes only opportunity for fans to watch women’s ice hockey. Television broadcasts have been shown to be crucial for generating interest in a sport (Desmarais & Bruce, 2008). Past research has found that the description of athletes may impact mediated sports fans’ impressions of a sport (Billings & Tambosi, 2004). Through a feminist sports media critical lens (Daddario, 1998), this study examined how NBC broadcasters described hockey players during the 2010 Winter Olympics to determine whether the players’ sex led to differential portrayals. Typically, portrayals of male athletes have focused on their strength, talent, and hard work while commentators have focused on female athletes’ aesthetically-pleasing movements as well as their emotions, luck, and togetherness (Duncan & Hasbrook, 1988; Messner, Duncan, & Jensen, 1993). Content analysis was used to analyze the commentary of four games involving Team USA (2 women’s and 2 men’s games). Chi-square results indicated that commentators did not mention male players’ physical strength or technical skills more often than female players’. However, sportscasters referred to  female players’ emotions and personalities more frequently than those of male players. Surprisingly, they suggested strategies for success more frequently for male players than female players.

“Examining ‘Mr. Hockey:’ “Proper” Behaviour and Whiteness in the NHL” (Marty Clark, Queen’s University)

Since the incorporation of the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1917, the athletes, coaches, managers and owners who have made up the league have been, with few exceptions, white men.  However, the subject of whiteness in hockey has rarely been investigated within the socio-cultural study of sport.  Following the lead of whiteness studies scholars, and critical race scholars who investigate the policing of athlete behaviour, I attempt to “recognize” whiteness in the NHL by investigating the production of a “proper way” to play hockey that has roots in a British form of white masculinity.  As the NHL grew in popularity and profitability during the 1950s and 1960s, Gordie Howe (a.k.a. “Mr. Hockey”) became a powerful representation of how the game “should be played.” In this paper I conducted a discourse analysis of several media sources and biographies in order to investigate dominant representation(s) of Howe.  I argue that while Howe was offensively talented, his physically aggressive style of play combined with his rational, reserved, and unemotional character became an increasingly important aspect of his image that has since been used to signify “proper” hockey behaviour and thus (re)produce discourses of whiteness in professional hockey.

“It’s In Our Blood”: Understanding Hockey Fandom Through Blood Symbolism (Theresa Peterson, Simon Fraser University

Using “blood” as the cornerstone of a community of hockey fans suggests relationships that transcend that of consumer/producer or entertainer/ spectator. In this presentation I shall explore the implications of blood symbolism in the context of men’s professional ice hockey in Minnesota; specifically the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. The familial, inherent, and sacrificial facets of an imagined “blood” community will be explored. Through a series of interviews and participant observation at games with fans of various levels of interest, I was able to understand the significance of blood imagery and the ways in which it connected fans to each other. More importantly, it gave fans a sense of connection to the team. The significance of this is that while themes of family, rootedness, and even sacrifice are familiar, they are not always experienced in everyday life to the extent that they are in hockey. Thus, the community is bound by a shared, liminal experience reinforced by the symbolic implications of “blood.”

Kick ice: Nationalism in men’s hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (John Vincent, University of Alabama, jvincent@bamaed.ua.edu with Jane Crossman)

This study examined how nationalism played into The Globe and Mail and The New York Times’ coverage of the men’s Canadian and United States ice hockey teams competing at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Textual analysis was used to analyze the newspapers’ narratives about the Canadian and American men’s ice hockey teams to gain insight about how the narratives constructed, (re)produced, and challenged dominant notions of collective national identity and character in the context of ice hockey at The Games. Theoretical insight was drawn from Anderson’s (1983) concept of the imagined community and Hobsbawn’s (1983) theory of invented traditions. For the qualitative analysis, six themes emerged from the textual discourses: Canadian national identity, hockey in Canada: a religion or sex act? rivalries, the quarterfinals, the gold medal game and the final goal. A discussion of each theme is presented.

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About markdavidnorman
Mark is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto, where he researches sociocultural issues in sport and physical cultures. He is also a life-long hockey fan, becoming obsessed with the sport at a young age and cheering for the Vancouver Canucks for over two (mostly futile) decades. In addition to his work at Hockey in Society, Mark has been active as a fan hockey blogger for over three years. Mark has worked as a Research Assistant at York University (Toronto, ON) and the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto. He has presented his research at numerous academic conferences and been published in the Sociology of Sport Journal and Journal of Sport and Social Issues.

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