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.

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Reaction to Voynov’s arrest for domestic violence; Ex-players’ lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League; Szabados and Raty play in men’s pro leagues; 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!

  • After a gunman killed a Canadian reservist and attempted an attack on Parliament in Ottawa, the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Canadian anthem before their game against the Philadelphia Flyers as a show of respect. [Sportsnet]
  • The news that Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings had been arrested for domestic violence has generated a huge amount of discussion and debate (currently charges are likely or will be dropped, depending on whether you listen to the DA or to his Voynov’s lawyer). Adam Proteau argues that the NHL should adopt a zero tolerance policy for domestic violence and ban players found guilty of this crime for life. [The Hockey News]
  • Meanwhile, writer stace_ofbase from Battle of California uses the Voynov case to discuss domestic violence more broadly and call for empathy for victims. [Battle of California]
  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is receiving kudos, and favourable comparisons to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of Ray Rice’s violent assault, for handling this situation swiftly and suspending Voynov indefinitely until a verdict is reached. I find it sad that this response even needs to be applauded rather than taken as granted, but given the pro sport world’s track record on domestic violence perhaps we need to start by pointing out when a league acts sensibly in response to a new incident. [Puck Daddy; Globe and Mail]
  • For those wondering about the moral quandary of cheering for athletes who do bad things off the ice/court/field, this scholarly roundtable discussion (written in light of the Ray Rice case) is fascinating reading. [The Allrounder]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Taxes paid by NHL players; Attendance issues in Florida; History of Nassau Coliseum; Growth of women’s hockey in Mexico; and more

10279542

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!

  • A look into the different taxes NHL players pay depending on their province or state. Montreal is listed as the worst for players, while Florida and Nashville have lower tax rates. [TSN]
  • A recent NHL game in Florida was poorly attended, drawing criticism from fans who feel the market cannot sustain a professional hockey club. But other factors other than the market are impacting the poor attendance, including the team’s performance. [SB Nation]
  • An excellent profile of Nassau Coliseum, which the New York Islanders will be vacating to move to Brooklyn. [The Cauldron]

Read more of this post

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.

Read more of this post

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.

Read more of this post

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?

Read more of this post

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.

Read more of this post