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]

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Tim Hortons and Olympism

At a recent conference, I presented on Asians in my university’s kinesiology program and drew upon the “Proud Fathers” commercial from Tim Hortons (Mark Norman has also written about this commercial on this blog). Tim Hortons initially ran that ad during the 2006 Winter Olympics and followed up with another multicultural ad entitled “Welcome Home” during the 2010 Winter Olympics. From Tim Hortons’ marketing standpoint, it seems like the Olympics can serve as the visual site of cultural integration. While American statistics indicate that ethnic minorities disproportionately watch less of the Olympics, the Nielsen ratings do not categorize by the type of sport in the Olympic Games. With the NHL already holding the “least diverse” audience distinction in the United States, it is a low bar for the Olympics to surpass the NHL in ethnic minority viewership.

In the Canadian context, with a reported 26.5 million (80% of all Canadians) watching at least part of the men’s hockey gold medal game – smashing all previous records of hockey viewership – it can be inferred that many non-traditional fans watched hockey for the first time. In the non-traditional fans group are those who belong to an ethnic minority, and of those people categorized, some might have become hockey fans. Of those newly-turned hockey fans, some might not have the resources to participate themselves. It would be incorrect to say that ethnic minorities are, as a generalized block, poor. At the same time, the people participating, particularly those at the high-performance level, are not always indicative of the broader demographics.

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“The Good Ol’ Hockey Game”: The Cultural Resonance of Stompin’ Tom Connors’ “The Hockey Song”

Canadian musician “Stompin’ Tom” Connors passed away two days ago, at aged 77. Connors is a legend in Canadian music, releasing 40 albums or compilations career and penning a number of Canadian country music hits. But it is one song that made Connors a household name across Canada and amongst hockey fans around the world: “The Hockey Song,” a 1973 track, is routinely played at hockey rinks throughout North America and has become, in many ways, hockey’s version of baseball’s iconic “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“The Hockey Song” is a simple, straightforward ode to “the good ol’ hockey game,” with a catchy sing-along chorus that latches itself in your unconscious and doesn’t let go. It is simultaneously a charmingly hokey Canadiana folk song, with its twangy riffs and lyrical simplicity; and an anthemic, arena-sized rock song that is virtually guaranteed to get 15,000 hockey fans singing along together in a packed stadium. In this sense, it manages to symbolically bridge the paradox of hockey’s mythologized representation as a rural game emerging from the frozen Canadian landscape, evoking images of frozen ponds and ramshackle small town rinks, and its contemporary reality as a multibillion dollar, transglobal entertainment industry.

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“A N*gger in Net”: A proud product of Canadian immigration and Canadian integration?

Malcolm Subban. Photo from the Toronto Sun.

Like peanut butter and jam, with Malcolm Subban in net for Team Canada during the World Junior Tournament also came the racist tweets and comments.  It is becoming old news: black hockey player = racist taunts.  If you would like to see what was tweeted check out this article by Rachel DeCoste, ‘A N*gger in Net': Racism at the World Juniors, or this one by Neate Sager, World junior championship: Racial tinge to social media slams of Canada goalie Malcolm Subban.  Like I said, it’s nothing new when social media enthusiasts capitalize on the rarity of a watching a person of colour play hockey to write about bananas, cages, and monkeys, but what I noticed this time is how writers and commenters are so quick to defend Canada’s multicultural identity.  Granted, not all of the tweets are from Canadians but regardless of where they come from we as noble Canadians often uncritically stand up and say “Whoa! Racism is not cool and that is not what the maple leaf stands for.”  I think it’s time to face that fact that maybe it is what we are about, at least a little.

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Teaching a sociocultural course on hockey at the undergraduate level: Thoughts on course content and critically engaging students

Starting next week, I will be teaching a third year course to undergraduates in University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. The course is called “Hockey in Canadian Society” – and yes, I realize that the title is incredibly similar to the name of this blog! I am extremely excited, if a little nervous, about starting the course. I do not have nerves about public speaking or about the course preparation – I have been excited to teach this course for months and so have already spent quite a lot of time on its design – but rather whether I can successfully impart the complexities of hockey’s social construction in Canadian society to undergraduate students.

This post simply offers an overview of the course, my thoughts about engaging students critically with a sport many of them love, and presents a list of sources that students will read. I hope that it may provide a useful resource for other scholars teaching about hockey and more generally provide a useful list of some good academic and online sources about the sport. If you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions please let me know!

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You can have hockey or gay rights but not both (under the Harper Government)

Please note this article is cross-posted on The Rabbit Hole.

Stephen Harper. Photo from the Huffington Post.

While doing research on hockey and Canadian masculinity I read an article by Jay Scherer and Lisa McDermott, from the University of Alberta, titled “Playing promotional politics: Mythologizing hockey and manufacturing “ordinary” Canadians.”  In the article the authors argue that Canada’s conservative government has used our beloved sport of hockey to redefine Canadian citizenship and identity in order to achieve a particular brand of Canadianness.  They outline how the Conservative Party (CP) conjured up a strategy that

has endeavoured to soften Harper’s image as an uncharasmatic, right-win ideologue, making the [Prime Minister] more palatable to middle- and working-class Canadian voters.  While Harper has actively pursued an association with a range of popular sporting practices (e.g. curling, the Canadian Football League, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, etc.), hockey remains the key element in a promotional arsenal that has habitually marketed him as a passionate hockey fan, an avid and dedicated hockey historian, and an “ordinary” Canadian hockey dad, thereby obscuring his ideological leanings and the effects of the CP’s neoliberal agenda of Canadians. (p.111)

The notion of using sport to bolster nationalism is anything but new.  However, what I do take exception with is how the CP chose to substitute the legacy of Canada’s progressive gay rights movement with trivial hockey facts.

Perhaps the CP’s most conspicuous (and long-lasting) attempt to pin down and promote what it means to be an “ordinary” Canadian has transpired through its placement of the Liberal’s Citizenship and Immigration study guide used by immigrants in their preparations for taking their citizenship exams….”The land, the environment and healthcare, mainstays of Canada’s self-image through the past two decades, are largely ignored” (A1).  In assessing the new guide and the re-envisioned “Canadian” projected through it, the Canadian historian Margaret Conrad remarked “[i]t’s kind of a throwback to the 1950’s.  It’s a tough, manly country with military and sport heroes that are all men….Conrad’s observations point to not only the CP’s masculinized representation of Canada, but also to its continued strategic deployment of hockey as an apparatus through which to promote the party’s brand, its leader, and its policies, as well as a medium through which it attempts to forge dominant understandings of “ordinary” Canadian identity.

Such efforts clearly continue to be played out on the cultural terrain of values.  For example, in contrast to the new citizenship guide’s numerous references to hockey (13 in total), Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism ordered the removal of all references to gay rights in Canada from an earlier iteration of it, including its decriminalization in 1969, the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2005. (p.123)

I’m not sure how many Canadians were aware of this 2010 development, but probably not too many considering the CP government seems to prefer a clandestine form of governance.  Upon a cursory Google search of “Kenney removes LGBT from Canada immigration guide” a whopping two articles appear, one from the CBC and one from the Globe and Mail.  When challenged on his, or the CP’s, decision to remove Canada’s LGBT history from the immigration guide Kenney responded by saying that it had been overlooked and that “We can’t mention every legal decision, every policy of the government of Canada.”  Canadian gay-rights group Egale Canada met with Kenney to discuss the issue and were told that it would be updated in the next edition.  It’s now the end of 2012 and there are only 2 brief mentions of the word gay, but there is hockey to be learned!   Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Homophobia in hockey; Fallout from Cam Janssen comments; The politics and economics of hockey arenas

[Editor’s Note: This post is two days late. Apologies that I was not able to get it posted on the weekend.]

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

  • Tyler Shipley published a great piece about homophobia in hockey in light of the criticism received by Brian Burke for his decision to march in Toronto’s Pride Parade rather than man the phones to make free agent signings on July 1. A great read. [Left Hook]
  • Meanwhile, Steve Dangle has a good interview with Patrick Burke about the You Can Play Project, which continues to gather momentum to fight homophobia in hockey. [Leafs Nation]
  • Cam Janssen of the New Jersey Devils unleashed some extremely sexist and homophobic comments on a radio show last week. He also stated that his role on the ice is to hurt players, to catch them with their heads down and injure them. Needless to say this sparked a huge amount of controversy. [SB Nation]
  • Not surprisingly, Janssen quickly apologized. While many people vilified Janssen for the comments, Patrick Burke reached out to him over the homophobic comments and appealed for people to forgive Janssen for the mistake. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Ellen Etchingham had a scathing critique of Janssen and one-dimensional goons, discussing his comments about injuring players and his very limited on-ice role with the Devils. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Ryan Lambert also weighed in on Janssen’s comments and role as an NHLer. [Puck Daddy]
  • I recently wrote about the construction of legacy in relation to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Ellen Etchingham has a great post in the same vein about Harvey Jackson, who starred for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1930s but who had off-ice issues (including alcoholism and domestic assault) that created a rift with Leafs’ owner Conn Smythe and kept him out of the Hall for many decades. An interesting discussion about what the Hall represents, what characteristics it should honour, and how it whitewashes the controversy that surrounds many hockey players and events. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Former USSR and Canada players are preparing for a friendly game that will be rematch of the 1972 Summit Series. The game, celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Series, will take place in Moscow in September. While the article overdramatizes the impact of the Summit Series, it is notable politically as both Vladimir Putin and Stephen Harper will be part of the ceremonies. [Globe and Mail]
  • A new reality show will feature young Aboriginal men trying to earn a shot at advancing in hockey and performing before scouts. It will air on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network. [Ottawa Citizen, via Puck Daddy]
  • Ken Campbell argues that, while it has temporarily increased their local popularity, winning the Stanley Cup will not have a serious long-term impact on the Kings’ place in the Los Angeles sports market. [The Hockey News]
  • Lots of arena news last week. To start, Lighthouse Hockey has an update on the latest political wrangling over the fate of the Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders. [Lighthouse Hockey]
  • Meanwhile, could the Islanders move to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY? [Puck Daddy]
  • David Ebner reports on David Katz’s attempts to get a downtown arena built for the Edmonton Oilers, and his veiled threat to move the team if the arena deal does not go through. A good read on the politics of sport venues. [Globe and Mail]
  • Another story about a Canadian NHL team’s arena: the Vancouver Canucks are planning to construct rental apartments adjacent to Rogers Arena in the city’s downtown. [Globe and Mail]
  • Also lots of labour news, as the NHL and NHLPA begin negotiations over a new CBA. Greg Wyshynski examines the hypocrisy of Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, who three months ago was claiming that salaries were causing him to lose money on the team and who then approved the signing, for a combined $198 million, of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. [Puck Daddy]
  • Also on Puck Daddy, The Player – an anonymous NHL player/blogger – explains what the players’ issues are in the labour process. [Puck Daddy]
  • Interesting post about expansion in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), including new Women’s Hockey programs at Nipissing (North Bay, ON) and Ryerson (Toronto, ON) Universities and a new hockey program for both men and women at Laurentian University (Sudbury, ON). [Eh Game]

General Sport Links

  • Hockey in Society contributor Courtney Szto has a couple good pieces up on her blog, The Rabbit Hole. This one discusses Serena Williams and the myth of “colour-blindness” in sport. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • And this post discusses double-amputee Oscar Pistorius, who will be competing in the London Olympics this summer. A great discussion of how society constructs disability. [The Rabbit Hole]