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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Drop-In Ball Hockey at the YMCA: An Ethnographic Study

“It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A” goes the refrain of the famous Village People disco song. As someone studying sport policy, I decided to see if it’s true.

What is the experience of a new visitor to a Toronto-area YMCA drop-in ball hockey program? Some students at an English language centre where I occasionally teach have memberships at this particular YMCA location, which allows them to participate in drop-in ball hockey alongside other fitness programs. None of them (to my knowledge) has tried this sport, though some have considered participating especially after being “inspired” from watching hockey during the recent Winter Olympics.

I have played ball hockey extensively at various different settings. Some friends at one location would affectionately call me “Captain” because I would be the most outspoken in terms of enforcing fair play. To be honest, my understanding of “sportsmanlike conduct” was inspired by years of watching Don Cherry in his Coach’s Corner segment every Saturday night: “humble” but “vicious competitors” that exemplify the spirit of being “good ol’ Canadian boys” (Allain, 2011). Other times, particularly when I play drop-in hockey with complete strangers as a younger, smaller, and less-skilled participant, I want to blend in as seamlessly as possible without questioning the “old boy’s club” culture of playing hard and leaving non-hockey topics out of the conversation.

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Weekly Links: Terry Trafford’s death raises questions about mental health responses; Shannon Szabados debuts in men’s hockey league; Rogers unveils details about its NHL coverage for 2014-15; 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!

  • Sad news this week, as OHL player Terry Trafford took his own life after being sent home by the management of the Saginaw Spirit. Neate Sager has an excellent post calling for the league to develop a more comprehensive and effective strategy for dealing with its players mental health struggles. [Buzzing the Net]
  • In light of Rich Peverley’s scary collapse on the Dallas Stars bench during a game, Bruce Arthur weighs in on the expectations of toughness for hockey players. A good read. [National Post]
  • Melissa Geschwind has an excellent post titled ” The institutional sexism of NHL Ice Girls.” I suggest you give it a read. [Puck Daddy]
  • In more positive news for gender equity, Shannon Szabados – the goaltender for Canada’s gold medal women’s hockey team in Sochi – is now playing professionally for the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Adam Proteau and Karen Crouse have excellent profiles of Szabados. [The Hockey News; New York Times]
  • Hockey in Society contributor E. Martin Nolan writes about being a Detroit Red Wings fan in the absence of retired star Nicklas Lidstrom. [The Barnstormer]
  • An excellent critique of the funding of the Red Wings’ new arena, which will bring yet another new sport stadium built largely with public funds to the bankrupt city. [Deadspin]

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Olympic Dissonance

Games Against a Messy Background

from thestar.com

Sport lends itself to a condition of moral simplicity. A major reason we turn to sport is for the undeniable certainty of its win/loss, rule-bound dynamic. At no time does sport’s artificial certainty stand out more than it does at the Olympics, because at no other time does it clash more with the deviousness of the world at large. Like the World Cup, the Olympics produces the same tension each time: between the simplified morality of sport itself and the problematic morality of the forces that control sport, or of the nations represented.

Putin’s games provide a case in point of that. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Rogers secures NHL broadcasting rights; Former NHL players file lawsuit against the NHL; Referee abuse; Varlamov officially charged; and more


Source: CBC Sports

Source: CBC Sports

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!

  • Rogers Communications signed a 12 year, $5.2 billion agreement with the NHL for the league’s broadcasting and multimedia rights. Hockey Night in Canada will still be available, but CBC will lose significant control over the content that airs. [National Post]
  • Jonathan Willis examines what the new deal between Rogers and the NHL means for Don Cherry. [Cult of Hockey]
  • More details about the agreement and what it means for Sportsnet and TSN can be found here: [A Rouge Point]
  • Sean Fitz-Gerald looks into what the new broadcast deal means for league expansion into Quebec City. [National Post]
  • What does the new NHL TV deal mean for the viewers? Robert Macleod looks into how the deal will impact cable costs in different Canadian markets. [Globe and Mail]
  • Ten former NHL players filed a lawsuit against the NHL, claiming the league did not do enough to protect players from concussions. Included in the ten are Rick Vaive and Gary Leeman. There are reports that 200 more former NHL players have also joined the lawsuit. [Globe and Mail]
  • Sean McIndoe provides an excellent summary of the concussion lawsuit against the NHL. [Grantland]
  • TSN legal correspondent Eric Macramalla provides some in-depth analysis of the case, including what sort of evidence the players will need to provide. [TSN]
  • Former NHL player Brian Sutherby, who continues to live with post-concussion syndrome, gives some insight into his experience with head injuries and the lawsuit filed against the NHL. [OilersNation]
  • A 14-year old boy from Quebec is suing Hockey Canada and other minor leagues for a concussion he sustained in a pee-wee hockey game in 2010. [CBC]
  • Greg Wyshynski reports that the abuse of officials (referees and linesmen) in minor hockey, often cases in which parents or coaches are berating teenagers, is driving young people away from the job. It remains to be seen whether leagues will take steps to protect their young officials and retain their participation in this role. [Puck Daddy]
  • Colorado Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov has been charged with third-degree assault by the Denver District Attorney. Varlamov was arrested in October after his girlfriend filed a complaint with the police. [SB Nation]
  • Eric T. responds to some of the criticism hockey analytics has received from around the NHL. Included are some useful links to better understand the role of data analytics in hockey. [Broadstreet Hockey]
  • An interesting interview by Dave Cunning with Jonathan Cheechoo, a former NHL superstar with the San Jose Sharks who is now playing for Medvescak Zagreb in the KHL. [Backhand Shelf]
  • New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr continues to set NHL records at the age of 41. Here’s hoping he musters up a few more years. [Mayor’s Manor]

Weekly Links: High cost of minor hockey hindering participation; 2013 Hockey Hall of Fame inductions; World Cup of Hockey or Olympics participation for NHL players?

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 really interesting article from James Mirtle that looks at the how the high cost of hockey participation is increasingly excluding children from middle class backgrounds from participating [Globe and Mail]
  • Three minor hockey coaches in Nova Scotia have been suspended for allegedly using bounties to encourage players to throw large hits during games, as well as for verbally abusive behaviour. [CBC News]
  • Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis weighed in on the ongoing discussion about the role of analytics (AKA advanced stats) in hockey, expressing skepticism at their value but remaining open to using them. [Globe and Mail]
  • Chris Johnston reports that, despite ongoing debates around headshots and concussions, the NHL is making strides in more cautiously treating head injuries. [Sportsnet]

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‘The Code': A powerful mechanism of control or just plain laziness?


Photo from MileHighHockey.com

I just finished playing an extremely dirty recreational playoff game.  It was the kind of game that makes me dislike hockey.  The hockey I play is as recreational as recreational gets. No one is going to get a college scholarship. No one will play for the Olympics. No one is even going to make a provincial team.   Now, I get it.  Teams who don’t have speed have to hack and slash to survive.  My team on the other hand is built upon a ‘first to the puck’ mentality.  We have no one on our roster good enough to dominate a game; therefore, as it should be, we win and lose as a team.  This particular team we played tonight we also played a week ago in the final game of the regular season; we won 8-2.  We just so happened to draw them for the first two games of the playoffs.  Our team expected a hacky game but what we ended up participating in was absolute lawlessness and a perfect example of why The Code doesn’t work.

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