Hockey Helps the Homeless…but what does Canada do?

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Photo from York

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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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 ( 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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Weekly Links: HNIC in Punjabi finds a new home, the Vancouver Sun finds itself in hot water, and learning to appreciate the CIS…

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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!

  • Sledge hockey hero and paralympic gold medalist, Graeme Murray, will soon have an arena named after him in Gravenhurst, Ontario.  [Muskoka Daily]
  • The Vancouver Sun caused some controversy when a photo of Jordan Subban was captioned the “dark guy”.  Do you think this was inappropriate or not? [CTV News]
  • The Daily Townsman printed their opinion on the Subban incident arguing that the caption was anything but an isolated incident of accidental racism.  [Daily Townsman]
  • Hockey Night in Punjabi is moving to OMNI television, along with a bunch of other language commentaries! [TV-eh!]
  • Canadian inter university hockey doesn’t receive a lot of press when compared to the WHL, OHL or the minor leagues, but one blog encourages us to appreciate the oft-forgotten Canadian university hockey league. [Stanks’ Sermon]
  • Young Canucks prospect, Mackenze Stewart, was born deaf and only started playing hockey at the age of 12. Read about his journey in [The National Post]
  • The Hockey Writers take on homophobia in hockey and the dominant ‘bro’ mentality found in hockey culture.  When will professional hockey have its first openly gay player? [The Hockey Writers]
  • It looks like hockey analytics is here to stay and college coaches are looking to make the most of their statistics. [College Hockey News]
  • This is not exactly from this week but we would be remiss not mention that Canadian Women’s Olympic team member and 2-time World Champion, Tessa Bonhomme, announced her retirement last week. [Hockey Canada]
  • The AHL announced a partnership with Upper Deck hockey cards.  Get your prospects now before they make the big leagues! (Do people still collect hockey cards?) [AHL]

Weekly Links: Derek Boogard, spin-o-ramas, and 24/7 and more

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Derek Boogaard. Photo from the Globe and Mail.

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!

  • We are sad to announce that ‘Miracle on Ice’ defenseman Bob Suter passes away at 57 [Pro Hockey Talk]
  • Derek Boogaard’s death prompts arrests 3 years later [CBC Sports] also covered by [The Globe and Mail]
  • Sportsnet reposted an article in memory of the 3 year anniversary of Lokomotiv tragedy [The team that disappeared]
  • Say goodbye to the spin-o-rama from shootouts! The NHL announces 10 rules changes. [The Hockey News]
  • More sad news: HBO will no longer be producing 24/7 [The Hockey News]
  • The Pens recently found themselves in social media hot water over some controversial wording. [Puck Daddy]
  • Amanda Kessel will be sitting out the 2014-2015 season due to lingering concussion symptoms.  [Puck Daddy]
  • The Pink Puck highlights some issues with age eligibility rules in minor league hockey. [The Pink Puck]
  • Emily Cornelius discusses how hard it is for players to make it to the big league [Huffington Post]

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

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

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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