Weekly Links, Bonus Sochi Edition: Should the NHL participate in the Olympics?; The status of women’s hockey at the Games; NCAA hockey alumni at Sochi; 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!

Editor’s note: Not surprisingly, most of the hockey world is focused on the Winter Olympics currently underway in Sochi, Russia. However, there is still great hockey writing being done about non-Olympics issues. This edition of the Weekly Links is thus divided into two posts: on Friday we posted non-Olympics links, while this post is devoted exclusively to writing about the Sochi Games. We hope you enjoy both posts!

  • There has been a great deal of discussion about whether NHL players should continue to participate in the Olympic Games. Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, offered outspoken comments about the NHL’s participation in the Olympics, calling it “ridiculous.” [Broad Street Hockey]
  • Nick Cotsonika offers a good take on the dilemma posed to the NHL by Olympics participation, particularly given the popularity of the event with players like Zdeno Chara, who missed two Boston Bruins’ games to carry the Slovakian flag at the Opening Ceremonies. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • And Harrison Mooney also discusses whether the NHL should send players to the Games, arguing that the current situation “create[s] a situation where players have to serve two masters” – their club and their country. [Puck Daddy]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Reaction to Shawn Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik; Big news in Canadian women’s hockey; Academic conferences on hockey 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!

  • The attack by the Boston Bruins’ Shawn Thornton on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik, which Courtney Szto discussed on this blog last weekend, has dominated the hockey headlines this week. Nicholas Cotsonika weighed in harshly against the act and the culture of violence in which it occurred. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Jonathan Willis discussed the incident and argued that the “grey area” around self-policing in hockey places players in untenable situations: “As long as the NHL persists in its tight-rope walk between policing the game and allowing the players to dispense . . . “frontier justice” it’s only going to be a matter of time until something like this happens again.” [Cult of Hockey]
  • Jay Rosehill of the Philadelphia Flyers came to Thornton’s defense in this lengthy interview. If you want an insight into the culture of hockey fighting and the “Code” then give this a listed. [Sportsnet]

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Edmonton’s November Project – Building Community Through Fitness

A few weeks ago, I saw an interesting tweet from Andrew Ference, the newest member of the Edmonton Oilers.

November Project

If you’re not familiar with the November Project, it’s  a year-round, outdoor group fitness class for anyone and everyone to join for free. It was started by a small group of people in Boston who were looking to get into shape without having to splurge on expensive equipment and memberships. Pretty quickly, using social media to announce locations, their sessions grew, with some workouts involving over 300 people. Today, the November Project has been established in Madison, WI and San Francisco. It really is a grassroots movement that emphasizes community and fitness.

One member of the November Project tribe is Andrew Ference who attended sessions as a player in Boston. Now that he’s a member of the Oilers, Ference is starting up a chapter here in Edmonton.

Read more of this post

Promoting Grassroots Participation while Building the Brand: To What Extent are NHL Teams Community Institutions?

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail ran an interesting article by James Mirtle about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ contributions to grassroots hockey in Western Pennsylvania. For the past four years, the Penguins, and in particular captain Sidney Crosby, have been extremely active in promoting hockey amongst Pittsburgh youth by providing free equipment and on-ice instruction. The initiative, while obviously having a major commercial motivation in terms of growing the Penguins’ business in the long-term, is an interesting example of how professional sport franchises can be more than simply entertainment spectacles and commercial enterprises, and actually invest socially in their local communities.

Read more of this post

Once again, hockey fans take to Twitter to hurl racist abuse at Joel Ward

Sadly, this was one of the less-offensive of the many derogatory tweets about Joel Ward this evening.

Less than two weeks ago, after Joel Ward scored in overtime of Game 7 to lead the Washington Capitals past the Boston Bruins, some hockey fans (many of whom identified as Bruins fans) took to Twitter to hurl racist abuse at the black Canadian forward from Toronto. While many fans of the Bruins and hockey more generally objected vociferously, clearly a significant amount of fans felt completely comfortable deploying racist epitaphs to insult the hockey player.

Tonight, Ward took a devastating penalty for the Capitals when, with just over 20 seconds remaining and the Capitals nursing a 2-1 lead, he high-sticked the New York Rangers’ Carl Hagelin and drew blood. The Rangers scored before the buzzer to send the game to overtime and then, with Ward still serving the second half of his double-minor, won the game on a goal by defenseman Marc Staal.

And then the Twitter racists returned in full force.

[WARNING: STRONG AND OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE APPEARS IN THE FOLLOWING IMAGES]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Reactions to Twitter racism against Joel Ward; Examining cultures of hitting and violence in hockey; Where in the world were NHL players born?

Where NHL players were born.

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.

Editor’s Note: Apologies for the lack of Weekly Links over the past month. It has been a very busy time personally, and I have not kept up with my posting. This Weekly Links post therefore contains some of the best reading from the past three weeks. I hope to be more diligent in my posting over the next few months!

Hockey Links

  • This is very cool: A map showing where every NHL player was born. Hover over the city and it lists the players who were born there. Am I the only one who finds the globalization of hockey a fascinating, fascinating topic? [view the map; created by @theycallmemorty; via Backhand Shelf]
  • Lots of reaction to the racist insults hurled at the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward by Twitter users, from Harrison Mooney, Chris Peters, and Brian Floyd respectively. [Puck Daddy; United States of Hockey; SB Nation]
  • Meanwhile, Greg Ezell reflects on belonging to a Boston Bruins fan-base that is now being characterized based upon the actions of a few. [Days of Y'Orr]
  • The always thoughtful Ken Dryden discusses three hits from different eras in order to illustrate changes in hockey culture and the role of the NHL in enforcing discipline. [Globe and Mail; h/t to Luke for the link]
  • Ellen Etchingham also had a great take on the culture of hitting in the NHL. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Paul Busch with an excellent historical overview of changes in the NHL, particularly in the 1970s, which he argues established the “culture of violence” in which many of today’s NHL decision-makers (coaches, GMs, etc.) were socialized. [It's Not Part of the Game]
  • Adam Proteau with an optimistic look at the likelihood of a gay hockey player coming out in the NHL and a discussion of the You Can Play project. [The Hockey News]
  • Interesting read about the Los Angeles Kings’ attempts to market the hockey team and maintain relevance in an entertainment-saturated city. [Globe and Mail]
  • After the 2012 Women’s World Hockey Championship, in which Switzerland captured the Bronze Medal, is international women’s hockey moving closer to parity? And what steps are being taken to develop the game globally? [Globe and Mail]
  • Interesting news from the KHL. A blog post by the wife Kevin Dallman, a Canadian superstar on Barys Astana in Kazakhstan, has led to the family being kicked out of the country. Apparently the Kazakh government found the post too critical of alleged corruption in Kazakhstan. [Puck Daddy]

Hockey violence and the 2012 NHL playoffs: Why a moral panic won’t change the NHL’s cultural tolerance of violence

There has been no shortage of ink spilled in the past weeks about the surprising and upsetting levels of violence that have characterized the 2012 NHL playoffs thus far – including insightful posts from Hockey in Society’s E. Martin Nolan about psychosocial understandings of hockey violence and the fantastical nature of “hatred” between players.

NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan has certainly been a busy man during these playoffs, handing down suspensions to eight players and fining two other players. The standard of discipline has varied wildly, with Shea Weber getting just a $2,500 fine for slamming Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards and Raffi Torres receiving a 25-game suspension for a leaping hit that sent Marian Hossa off the ice on a stretcher. The level of violence, which to most observers seems unusually high even for the emotionally-charged playoff season, has created a moral panic about the state of hockey and an unsurprising bevy of counterarguments from entrenched interests in the sport. At the same time, television ratings have soared in spite (or because) of the on-ice violence.

While I sympathize with the crusaders at the vanguard of the moral panic, my optimism about their ability to fundamentally alter NHL hockey is limited. As this post will explore, the NHL has a tightly controlled and insular culture that militates against outside interference. While some influential media members may hold some sway in the NHL boardrooms, it is hard not to see the league swatting away much of the outrage with minimal damage to its brand or popular integrity.

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If you can’t beat ‘em (up), join ‘em

Yesterday, the Vancouver Canucks traded prized rookie Cody Hodgson to the Buffalo Sabres for prized prospect Zack Kassian. (Other players were involved, but let’s call this a straight up deal. In fact, for some commentators, this was a chance to reminisce over the ‘good old days’ of hockey trades, when ‘dumping salary’ suggested some kind of scatological economics).

Basically, the Canucks moved a talented, up-and-coming scorer for a tough, bruising up-and-coming power forward. (Not unlike the Montero for Pineda swap that the Yankees and Mariners made this offseason. Sorry, I couldn’t do any more posts on this site without talking baseball).

The point is that this trade can be considered a swap of valuable assets, with each player demonstrating tremendous upside, and even though Canucks’ fans seem to be upset about moving Hodgson – who was clearly growing in popularity – many observers have this deal at worst a push, and maybe even squarely in the Canucks favour.

Before I go any further, three caveats:

1)     I’m a lifelong Canucks fan. None of what follows is objective.

2)     There are several possible explanations for the trade (i.e. Hodgson was buried behind two elite centres and deserved more than 3rd line minutes. There were even rumours, according to the Vancouver Sun, that he may have quietly demanded to be traded).

3)     We’ll never know for sure what Canucks’ management was thinking or strategizing through this deal. Anything they tell the media is just what they think the media – not to mention the fans – need to know.

Yet, with all that said, this trade signifies something profound to me: the continued capitulation in the NHL of speed and skill to size and brawn. Even though player safety and Brendan Shanahan are supposedly top of mind, NHL teams still need to be able to physically dominate their opponents, as much as skate, pass and shoot better. That the Canucks may be going this route gives me pause. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Player safety issues; Tim Thomas continues to attract criticism; Seattle to get an NHL franchise?

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.

Hockey Links

  • Please check out Not Part of the Game, a new blog that advocates for the removal of fighting from hockey. The most recent post offers up statements from NHL enforcers, past and present, about the impact of fighting. [Not Part of the Game]
  • One suggestion for NHL player safety that is increasingly gaining traction is the reintroduction of two line passes, which would reduce the speed of the game and thus potentially the likelihood of high-speed collisions. Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is the latest to endorse this idea. [Puck Daddy]
  • Daniel Wegner has an insightful piece about Matt Cooke and the difficulty – but possibility – of changing one’s embodied style of play to eliminate dangerous hits. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Lots of buzz this week about whether Seattle – which unveiled plans this week for a new arena partially funded with public funds – will become the newest city to gain an NHL franchise, possibly through expansion but most likely through the relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes. [Globe and Mail]
  • The Minnesota Wild have suspended a prospect on its American Hockey League affiliate, the Houston Aeros, for using a gay slur on Twitter. [Puck Daddy]
  • Tim Thomas continues to attract criticism for refusing to discuss his controversial political beliefs. [Boston.com]
  • Sean Gordon argues that dirty play is “alive and well” in today’s NHL. [Globe and Mail]
  • ACTRA is claiming that Budweiser exploited the real-life performers/beer league hockey players who appeared in its famous Super Bowl commercial. Budweiser is claiming that signing the performers to union contracts would have “eliminated the surprise” of the commercial. [Puck Daddy]
  • National Geographic will be featuring Andrew Ference of the Boston Bruins in a 10-part  feature on his environmental activism. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis criticizes NBC’s coverage of NHL games. [Ted's  Take]

General Sport Links

  • Great post from Nathan Kalman-Lamb reflecting on his experiences as a striking worker at York University and the labour struggle of NBA players this past Fall. [Nathan Kalman-Lamb]
  • Courtney Szto weighs in on the announcement that Abbotsford, BC will be the latest city to feature a Lingerie Football League team. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • Human Rights Watch, a global lobbying group, is asking the International Olympic Committee to consider disallowing Saudi Arabia from competing in the Olympics due to the country’s complete lack of support for women’s sport. [Globe and Mail]

Weekly Links: Mainstream Media and Bloggers Tackle Mental Illness; Winter Classic Details; Ralph Nader Calls for NHL Fighting Ban

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.

Hockey Links

  • February 8 was Let’s Talk Day, an event organized to raise awareness and provide support for sufferers of mental illness. Kent Basky at Nucks Misconduct had a moving and personal post about about the issue. [Nucks Misconduct]
  • And Michael Landsberg, host of TSN’s show Off the Record, also spoke about his own battles with depression. [TSN]
  • If you read Ted Nolan’s post this week, you already know that although the next Winter Classic will be held in Ann Arbor, at Michigan University’s “Big House,” Detroit will host a variety of events at Comerica Park. Puck Daddy has the breakdown of these events, which include NCAA, OHL, and high school games. [Puck Daddy]
  • Meanwhile, the NHL is aiming to break an attendance record at the Big House: at least 115,000 tickets will be available for the game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. [Puck Daddy]
  • An interesting article about the ways in which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has used hockey as part of his political PR. [The Guardian]
  • Chris Lund discusses the fan movement to return an NHL team to Quebec City. Hard to imagine Gary Bettman being keen on reversing two 1990s-era franchise relocations. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Speaking of relocated franchises… A report suggests that Winnipeg’s love affair with the Jets will lower support for other cultural or artistic institutions in the city, including the CFL’s Blue Bombers. [Globe and Mail]
  • Boston Bruins players are not happy about it, but it appears that the NHL’s tougher stance on illegal plays has forced them to change their style of play. [SB Nation]
  • Tim Thomas continues to make public political statements – this time via his Facebook page – and then refuse to discuss them with the media. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Ken Campbell weighs in on this latest controversy, arguing that if Thomas passionately believes in his political stance then “he probably shouldn’t be afraid to discuss his views when someone puts a microphone into his face and asks for an explanation.” [The Hockey News]
  • Ralph Nader’s League of Fans, an organization that lobbies for changes in professional sport, published an open letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman calling for a ban on fighting. [League of Fans]
  • While I agree with Nader philosophically, Daniel Wegner raises good points about some problematic aspects of the letter – in particular, its conflation of fighting and concussions. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Minnesota, AKA The State of Hockey, is taking tough action on headshots in an effort to increase player safety at the high school level. [KARE 11]
  • 24 Women’s and 32 Men’s national teams have applied for qualification to the 2014 Winter Olympics. The list includes the usual suspects, as well as lesser-known hockey nations such as Spain, South Korea, and Hungary. [Puck Worlds]
  • I strongly believe that there is a fascinating research opportunity to trace how, as part of flows of globalization, hockey has spread to and taken root in different parts of the world. This article looks at some of the reasons behind the sport’s recent growth in the United Arab Emirates. [NHL.com]

General Sport Links

  • Hockey in Society blogger Courtney Szto looks at how sports fandom is a masculine realm, and the resultant social expectations placed upon female fans. [The Rabbit Hole]