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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Weekly Links: Remembering Pat Quinn and Viktor Tikhanov; Prince Albert Raiders drop controversial mascot; Impact of Arizona State in men’s NCAA hockey; and more

  • Two legendary hockey coaches passed away this week: Viktor Tikhanov, who coached the USSR through many successful decades in international hockey; and Pat Quinn, who coached Canada’s Gold Medal winning 2002 Olympic Men’s team and (in various stings between 1979 and 2010) the Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Edmonton Oilers. Elliotte Friedman reflects on the life and legacy of both men. [Sportsnet]
  • Two further reflections on Tikhanov’s legacy, from Stephen Smith and Dmitry Chesnekov. [puckstruck; Puck Daddy]
  • Roch Carrier’s classic Canadian tale, The Hockey Sweater, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. [CBC News]
  • Many college hockey pundits and fans are celebrating Arizona State’s entry into NCAA men’s hockey competition. Jeff Cox offers a dissenting opinion, considering how this could damage the sport at the college level. [SBN College Hockey]
  • After the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders stirred controversy with a mascot that presented a cartoonish caricature of an Arab man, the team decided to pull the mascot. [Huffington Post]
  • Quebec used to produce a large number of NHL-calibre goalies, but no longer. Ken Campbell considers why. [The Hockey News]
  • With an NHL-controlled World Cup of Hockey likely to launch soon, the league is hoping the tournament will generate $100 million in revenue. [Puck Daddy]

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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Weekly Links: Major television deal for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League; Raising Awareness for Mental Health; NHL Expansion; Fighting in Junior Hockey; and more

Ben Scrivens of the Edmonton Oilers

Ben Scrivens of the Edmonton Oilers

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!

  • Big news for women’s hockey as Sportsnet has agreed to a four-year television deal with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, making the league available nationally. A look into what this means for the league and women’s hockey. [Toronto Observer]
  • The NHL is considering expanding, and will likely add a new team in Las Vegas. The ownership group will include William Foley and the Maloof family, who gained notoriety as owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. [SB Nation]
  • Larry Brooks reports that because of the weak Canadian dollar, there is a chance that the NHL salary cap will not go up next season. [New York Post]
  • A piece on how Prime Minister Stephen Harper is using hockey to build better relations with the Chinese Government. [National Post]

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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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Weekly Links: Gordie Howe suffers stroke; Impact of AHL’s Overtime rule changes; Largest stick tap for spinal research; 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!

  • Best wishes to the legendary Gordie Howe who recently suffered a serious stroke. [SB Nation]
  • In case you missed it, here’s a recent interview of Gordie Howe….by Wayne Gretzky. [TSN Bardown]
  • While the You Can Play project has helped fight homophobia in North American hockey culture, Paul Wheeler reports that homophobia remains a serious problem in British professional hockey. [Chasing Dragons]
  • The Florida Panthers will be launching Spanish broadcasts of three games this season, in an effort to reach out to the Hispanic community of Miami. [Litter Box Cats]
  • Hockey Canada is attempting to improve the quality of Canadian goaltending through a learning exchange with Swedish and Finnish hockey federations. [Sportsnet]
  • Jack Jablonski, who suffered a severe spinal injury, is organizing the largest stick tap this weekend. Awareness is being raised for spinal research by this unique initiative. [Puck Daddy]
  • The story of Willy Alexander Thomas, an American youth hockey player, who committed suicide at the age of 17.  [New York Times]
  • Ottawa Senators prospect Brad Mills has been suspended for 20 games for violating the AHL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. [Metro News]
  • Rule changes pertaining to overtime sessions have reduced the number of shootouts in the AHL. A look into the rule change and the possibility of the NHL adopting similar policies. [The Hockey Writers]
  • A look at incentives and disincentives for removing fighting from hockey. [Arctic Ice Hockey]
  • Mementos in the digital age. A look into the decline of printed tickets. [Sport Heritage Review]