Tensions: The Changing Demographics of Hockey


Harnarayan Singh. Screen capture from the Calgary Flames.

At the end of January the Calgary Flames became the first Canadian team to offer commentary in a language other than English or French.  Flames TV Punjabi will be hosted by none other than Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) – Punjabi Edition’s Harnarayan Singh.  Punjabi is the third most spoken language in Canada and, despite the large Punjabi populations in Vancouver and Toronto, Calgary is the first to capitalize on this growing hockey crazed demographic.  Singh explains that the broadcasts facilitate inter-generational love of the game enabling immigrant Punjabi grandparents to watch the games with their grandchildren.  Many kudos have been passed around for this move by the Calgary Flames, which will hopefully encourage more teams to join suit – and rumour has it that the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking into a similar broadcast opportunity. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Nichushkin adjusts to North American culture; Flames to provide more Punjabi content; Safety concerns at Sochi

Source: Hockey's Future

Source: Hockey’s Future

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!

  • Dave Lozo provides some insight into the cultural adjustments Valeri Nichushkin has made since staring his NHL career. The Russian rookie has had a rocky rookie season in Dallas but appears to be settling in nicely as his club chases a playoff spot. [Bleacher Report]
  • Katie Baker travels to Russia to explore Ilya Kovalchuk’s new career with SKA St. Petersburg and the broader politics of the Kontinental Hockey League. [Grantland]
  • Nick Cotsonika explains that a number of NHL players heading to Sochi for the upcoming Olympics are expressing concern about security at the Games, and as such many of them will not be accompanied by their families. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Ken Campbell argues that youth hockey players spend too much time practicing and playing, thus risking injury or missing other developmental opportunities. [The Hockey News]
  • The Calgary Flames announced that they will be providing more coverage in Punjabi. Harnarayan Singh, who currently provides Punjabi commentary for CBC broadcasts, will be producing weekly features to discuss the Flames. [Calgary Sun]
  • Former Edmonton Oilers head coach Ralph Kreuger has accepted a position with Southhampton football club in England. Kreuger is also currently working on the Team Canada coaching staff. [Inside Sports]
  • Carson Shields, a former junior player and now coach in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League is raising awareness to the issue of hazing. Hockey Canada continues to work with coaches and parents to prevent hazing incidents. [CBC News]
  • A Canadian freelance reporter has been arrested in the United States over allegations she threatened to kill her boyfriend, who plays in the WHL. [The Globe and Mail]
  • The men’s hockey program at the University of British Columbia is facing cancellation and has been asked by school administrators to provide a five year plan to receive support from the University. [Vancouver Sun]
  • In response to criticism from fans for their eighth straight losing season, Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz released a letter to fans explaining his long term vision for the team and his support of the current management. The message was largely criticized for providing misleading information and lacking any real action plan. [The Copper and Blue]
  • Hockey Day in Canada ended with a line brawl between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks and resulted in both head coached receiving punishment from the NHL. Coach Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 for selecting enforcers to start the game, while coach John Tortorella was suspended for 15 days for trying to start an altercation in the Flames dressing room  during the first intermission. [Huffington Post]
  • Joe Pelletier provides an excellent summary of Team Canada’s performance at the 1984 Olympic Games in Sarajevo. [Greatest Hockey Legends]

Weekly Links: History of the USSR’s involvement in Winter Olympics; TSN documentary on sport and homophobia; Fallout from brawl between Canucks and Flames

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 pre-Olympics exhibition in Russia explores the USSR’s involvement in the Winter Olympics, including its significance to the Soviet regime and the political wrangling it entailed. One fascinating tidbit is how the Soviets shifted from playing bandy to playing ice hockey in order to be more competitive in international competition. [The Moscow News; h/t to Joe Pelletier (@HockeyLegends) for the link]
  • TSN is airing a three-part series called ReOrientation, hosted by Aaron Ward, that looks at the impact of homophobia and gay rights in sports. Adam Proteau gives a favourable review, arguing that the show is “another indication of a trip down a road we as a society aren’t turning back from.” [The Hockey News]
  • One unique public good in Toronto is its public skating/hockey rinks, which are maintained by the city and free to use for all. Marcus Gee tours 10 rinks in one day to give an insight into their environment and use by locals. [Globe and Mail]

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Weekly Links: Sexism in hockey media; the long-term impact of fighting and concussions; Markham and Edmonton arena news; 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!

  • A great read on sexism in hockey media and blogging. Puck Daddy’s Jen Neale has assembled a panel of 10 female hockey bloggers, who discuss a range of related and insightful questions. Definitely worth a read. [Puck Daddy]
  • Interesting story as two Puck Buddys writers and Washington Capitals fans use social media app Grindr in an attempt to determine if many gay men attend Capitals game. [Puck Buddys]
  • Jeff MacGregor with a persuasive argument about fighting in the NHL. Among the many great lines: “The idea that fighting in hockey somehow curbs greater, dirtier violence committed with sticks or skates has never had any empirical support. There’s no evidence that it’s a safety valve — or even that the game needs one.” [ESPN]
  • Meanwhile, Seth Wickersham has a balanced look at the Montreal Canadiens’ George Parros and his views on fighting in hockey. Another excellent piece. [ESPN]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Sean Monahan and the NHL-CHL relationship; Steve Moore lawsuit to go to trial; Ethical sourcing of hockey gear; New books by Ken Dryden and Dave Bidini; 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!

  • Ken Campbell has an interesting read, in light of the Calgary Flames’ decision to keep 2013 first round pick Sean Monahan in the NHL, about the agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League that forces players to return to junior (rather than the AHL) if they do not stick with their NHL team. [The Hockey News]
  • Steve Moore’s lawsuit against Todd Bertuzzi, ten years after the latter’s attack on the former, will finally be heard in front of a jury in September of next year. [CBC Sports]
  • Hockey Canada is working to ensure that all of their products are manufactured by ethical suppliers. This is perhaps in response to the revelation that factory workers who were killed in the 2013 Bangladesh building collapse were making products for Loblaws. [Globe and Mail]

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Film Review: “Theo Fleury: Playing With Fire” (2011)

Theo Fleury: Playing With Fire is a 2012 documentary that paints an intimate portrait of former NHL player Theoren Fleury. The film, which shares its title with Fleury’s 2009 autobiography Playing With Fire, was screened in Toronto at the Hot Docs film festival, where I watched it on Saturday. Fleury’s story is complex, tragic and inspiring, and the film does a good job of capturing the complex and contradictory aspects of Fleury’s personality.

Fleury achieved NHL stardom with the Calgary Flames in the 1990s, and later played for the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. Despite standing just 5’6”, Fleury played with a tenacious determination that won him as many admirers as enemies. While few questioned his hockey abilities, Fleury increasingly became known for erratic and aggressive on-ice actions and a host of off-ice incidents. On multiple occasions Fleury stepped away from the game to participate in the NHL’s substance abuse program, which seeks to help players who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. In addition to his mental health and addiction struggles, Fleury revealed in 2009 that as a teenager he had been sexually assaulted by Graham James, a former coach in the Western Hockey League who was imprisoned in 1997 for sexually assaulting Sheldon Kennedy.

The film is essentially a North American road trip with Fleury, who provides the filmmakers with tours of key locations in his life: his hometown of Russell, Manitoba; Winnipeg, where he moved to play junior hockey and where he was first assaulted by James; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where he also played junior hockey under James; Calgary, New York and Chicago, three of the four cities in which he played NHL hockey; and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived during some of his worst struggles with mental illness and addiction. Fleury gave the filmmakers intimate access to his life, with the notable exception of his children, whom Fleury did not want included in the film. Some of the film’s strongest moments are when it captures Fleury philosophizing or moralizing based upon his recollections of his life and his ongoing experiences. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: KHL expansion in Europe; Vancouver Canucks urge fans not to riot; NHL supplemental discipline not a deterrent?

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

  • Adam Proteau criticizes the NHL’s weak supplemental discipline for failing to create deterrents to dangerous play, and calls for much harsher suspensions. [The Hockey News]
  • An interview with Doug Smith, an ECHL and AHL enforcer whose career inspired the recent film Goon. Some interesting insight into the culture of hockey enforcers and “the Code.” [Grantland]
  • The KHL is expanding to Prague, Czech Republic for the upcoming season… [Puck Worlds]
  • … while a Slovakian club, Slovan HC of Bratislava, is also being considered for admittance to the KHL, as the league continues its aggressive European expansion. [KHL]
  • Bruce Dowbiggen discusses the CBC’s search for a new Executive Producer for Hockey Night in Canada. Interesting stuff given the context of Conservative cuts to the CBC and the possibility of the network losing its NHL broadcast rights after the 2013-14 season. [Globe and Mail]
  • Very interesting post by a Colorado Avalanche blogger seeking press credentials to cover the team, particularly in light of the fact that only one newspaper in Denver is credentialed to cover the Avalanche. He is planning to launch a summit of Avalanche bloggers to lobby for credentials. [Jerseys and Hockey Love]
  • The City of Vancouver has released alternative plans for the Vancouver Canucks playoff run, eschewing the downtown street party that was the epicentre for the Stanley Cup Final riot in favour of neighbourhood celebrations. [Puck Daddy; The Globe and Mail]
  • The Canucks also produced a video urging fans not to riot, without actually using the word “riot.” [Nucks Misconduct; Pass it to Bulis]
  • The Calgary Flames are becoming majority owners of the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. [Globe and Mail]

General Sport Links

  • In the latest chapter of a very interesting ongoing story, 126 former NFL players have become plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NFL that claims the league had information about the damage caused by concussions but refused to act upon it to protect players. [Shutdown Corner]
  • After years of criticism about the uniforms that female beach volleyball players are forced to wear if they want to compete, the International Volleyball Federation has relented and will allow women to wear shorts and sleeved shirts in competition. [BBC Sport]

Weekly Links: Stephen Harper’s hockey book nears completion; Trade deadline reaction; The tragedy of sexual abuse in hockey

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

  • If you haven’t done so, please check out the great posts by Matt Ventresca and E.M. Nolan this week.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been working on a hockey history book for some time. It is nearing completion and is expected to have a publisher confirmed next week. [The Star]
  • Speaking of world leaders and hockey: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin states that the Kontinental Hockey League will soon “become real, good, healthy competition for the NHL.” [Ria Novosti, via Puck Daddy]
  • And speaking of the KHL, HBO has criticized the Russian league as negligent in light of the 2011 plane crash that claimed the lives of the entire Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. [Puck Daddy]
  • Lot’s of interesting trade deadline reactions this week. Ellen Etchingham, like Matt, is  not a fan of the NHL trade deadline. This post is a great read. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Matt linked to this article in his post on the trade deadline, but if you missed it James Mirtle and Paul Wildie have excellent comments from NHLers David Steckel and Jason Arnott about the personal experience and impact of being traded. [Globe and Mail]
  • An anonymous player’s perspective on the deadline. [Puck Daddy]
  • Graham James was in court this week to face the charges of sexual abuse against him. Adam Proteau calls for the hockey community to honour the brave advocacy of victims like Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy by working to prevent future abuse from taking place. [The Hockey News]
  • Ken Dryden has a harrowing article about the consequences of doing nothing in light of sexual abuse in hockey, including some upsetting outcomes from the Maple Leaf Gardens sex scandal. [Globe and Mail]
  • A very insightful and critical look at the hockey programming run by sport-based humanitarian organization Right to Play in Northern Ontario Aboriginal communities. [Sport for Development]
  • An awkward moment in NHL social media history: a post on the Calgary Flames official Twitter feed, presumably intended to be sent from a personal account, insults the Edmonton Oilers’ re-signing of Ales Hemsky. The Flames organization quickly pulled the offending tweet, but was left with some egg on its face. [Puck Daddy; Backhand Shelf]

General Sport Links

  • This is a fantastic story. Joseph Williams, an NCAA football player for Virginia University, is taking part in a hunger strike in support of a Living Wage campaign by university employees. It is a rare moment of political consciousness and activism by an elite athlete. [Dr. Saturday]
  • NASCAR is arguably the most blatantly political (and partisan) of professional North American sports. One car at this weekend’s Daytona race will feature advertizing in support of Rick Santorum, who is running to be the Presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Mitt Romney, his major rival, will be at the race. [CBS News]

The Politics of Sending Stanley Cup “Loser Gear” to the Developing World

You might notice something funny about the picture above – although they played in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, the Calgary Flames lost Game 7 and the Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But, of course, the NHL licensed official Flames championship gear in case the Flames did win the Stanley Cup. This is standard practice for many North American professional leagues, including the NHL – as players pull on official championship hats and t-shirts seconds after winning a Stanley Cup or Super Bowl, and fans rush out to snap up championship merchandise, distributors and manufacturers quietly pack up the “loser gear” that was produced in case the other team won the decisive game. In simple economic reasoning, the leagues and their distributors know that the profits to be made by having championship gear immediately available for sale far outweighs the cost of producing a separate set of merchandise that will never be sold.

So what happens to the “loser” gear? As a recent post at The Post Game explains, most often it is donated to international NGOs that distribute it in various developing countries around the world:

For World Vision International and a small number of other nonprofit groups, the gear that proclaims the wrong team champion is a windfall. The leagues can’t very well destroy thousands of perfectly good caps and shirts, sizes ranging from petite to double extra large. So they donate it to humanitarian organizations to hand out in developing nations.

“The clothing has been distributed in more than 100 countries, all over Africa, to Asian nations, to Latin America and Europe,” said Dean Owen, a World Vision executive. “It goes to places of the greatest need, definitely not to Sweden, but definitely to Zimbabwe.”

As with many micro-level issues in hockey, the charitable efforts of the NHL (and other sports leagues) must be situated in their broader sociopolitical context to be properly understood. At first glance, these donations appear to be a win-win: leagues such as the NHL offload useless and potentially embarrassing merchandise, and people living in poverty receive aid in the form of clothing. Sure, t-shirts and hats might not be as high priority as food or medicine, but it’s free and better than nothing, right?

Turns out it is not nearly that simple, and there are some compelling arguments as to why these donations of “loser gear” contribute toward some international aid practices that are very damaging to the economies of developing countries and the livelihoods of their citizens. As with most international development programs, there are two sides to the coin: after the jump I explore the arguments for and against this practice. Read more of this post