Roundtable: Issues and Controveries at the Sochi Olympics

Roundtables are an occasional feature on Hockey in Society. Roundtables will present brief commentaries from Hockey in Society contributors on pressing or timely issues within hockey and its culture, with the aim of presenting a diverse range of critical viewpoints on the topic under discussion.

The Olympic Games are, despite the Olympic Movement’s laughable claims about the separation of sport and politics, highly political events. Sometimes this politicization is obvious (e.g. Berlin, 1936; Mexico City, 1968; Moscow, 1980; Los Angeles, 1984; etc.) and other times it is more subtle – but every Olympics is hosted, supported, and contested by various actors seeking diverse political aims.

This year’s Winter Olympics, currently ongoing in Sochi, Russia, is one of the more overtly politicized Games in recent memory. Among the controversial political issues surrounding these Games are Russia’s introduction of repressive anti-gay laws, the massive hosting costs of over $50 billion dollars and the related allegations of corruption, the security concerns over terrorist attacks, President Vladimir Putin’s use of the Games as an empire-building exercise, the culling of stray dogs from Sochi streets, and the exploitation of labour in the construction of venues. And this does not even touch upon the sports themselves, supposedly the raison d’être for the Olympic Games!

Given the many complex and controversial sociopolitical issues surrounding the Sochi Games – and given the prominence of hockey as a marquee event at the Winter Olympics, as well as a form of soft diplomacy by Putin’s regime – it is timely for Hockey in Society contributors to weigh in on a variety of hockey- and sport-related topics. After the jump, five contributors share their views on a diversity of topics: LGBTQ rights at the Sochi Games; the hockey-related political machinations of Putin and Canada’s Stephen Harper; Canada’s increasingly hypercompetitive emphasis on its Olympic medal haul; the Games as an opportunity for hockey to evolve; and the question of whether women’s hockey will remain on the Olympic program.

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TSN’s ReOrientation Series

reorientation_649x100_57894TSN put together an excellent three-part series looking into sexual orientation in professional sports. Hosted by Aaron Ward, a 14-year veteran in professional hockey, the series interviews players to shed light on gay athletes and how professional sports are evolving.

From TSN:

In this special TSN report, Ward talks to other athletes, both gay and straight, about that culture, the need for change and how to make it happen. Included is a close look at Canada’s national sport and its apex – the National Hockey League – with intriguing comments from league commissioner Gary Bettman and players such as Dustin Brown, a tough-as-they-come Stanley Cup champion and team captain as well as former NFLer Esera Tuaolo.

Part 1 – The Culture of Casual Homophobia

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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: Reactions to hockey violence; Larry Kwong honoured; Tribalism and NHL fandom; KHL expansion; 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!

  • Fighting and violence have been hot topics this week, after a brawl between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres and two Vancouver Canucks players receiving suspensions from actions in a game vs. the Edmonton Oilers. Here, Dave Lozo has an interesting and entertaining take-down of fighting in the NHL. [Backhand Shelf]
  • James Mirtle weights in on the Maple Leafs’ “goon culture” and its consequences, in light of the brawl against the Sabres. [Globe and Mail]
  • Meanwhile, Tyler Dellow argues that the Canucks’ Zack Kassian, whose stick-to-the-face on Sam Gagner broke Gagner’s jaw and earned an eight game suspension (three preseason and five regular season games), should face criminal charges for the act. [mchockey79.com]

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Weekly Links: David Dziurzynski, the “Code,” and making it in the NHL; Islanders and Red Wings arena issues; Hockey participation rising in California, Iowa; 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 in-depth read about David Dziurzynski, the Ottawa Senators rookie who was knocked out last season in a fight with Frazer McLaren of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Amongst other issues, the article discusses the “Code” in hockey and the challenges faced by young hockey players looking to prove themselves and stick on a roster at the NHL level. [The Globe and Mail]
  • After the drawn out political saga of the New York Islanders’ attempts to redevelop their arena and remain located on Long Island, which ultimately ended last October with the team agreeing to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, Nassau County politicians are now calling for the Islanders to remain in a redeveloped Nassau Coliseum. This is just the latest twist in an extremely drawn-out political battle, and Kevin Schultz is not impressed. [Islanders Point Blank]

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Weekly Links: Sochi Olympics news; NHL stars on Russia’s anti-gay laws; Leetch and Burke join NHL’s Department of Player Safety

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!

  • Interesting read about kids’ hockey and skill development, as the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association is expanding access to ice time for children’s teams by mandating half-rink practices for teams. [Oilers Nation]
  • While problematic, the film Goon was a popular success amongst many hockey fans. Jay Baruchel is now working on writing a sequel and hopes to have it in production within a year. [Montreal Gazette]
  • Blogger Travis Yost, who has provided detailed reporting on the finances of the Ottawa Senators under the ownership of Eugene Melnyk, had his posts removed from the website Hockeybuzz – apparently as the result of the site being hacked. No responsibility has been proven, but Melynk is bizarrely and tangentially connected to the hack. [SB Nation]
  • The NHL has added two members to its Department of Player Safety: former NHL star Brian Leetch and former Philadelphia Flyers scout and You Can Play founder Patrick Burke. [Puck Daddy]

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Weekly Links: NHL Expansion and Realignment, NHL Player’s Responses to Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws, Glendale’s Service Cuts, Hockey Night in Canada Negotiations and More

Seattle, Washington (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Seattle, Washington (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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!

  • Todd Little explores the potential of expanding the NHL teams to 32, including an excellent assessment of Seattle, Quebec City and Portland as legitimate options. [Litter Box Cats]
  • A good, in-depth look at the implications of Russia’s anti-gay laws on NHL players at the Olympics and the expectations for athletes at the Games, including discussion of recent comments made by NHL stars Henrik Lundqvist and Henrik Zetterberg. [United States of Hockey]
  • Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk, when asked about gay rights, replied “I’m an orthodox, and that says it all”. The Russian Orthodox church strongly supports anti-gay legislation, which will lead to more questions about Datsyuk’s position regarding homosexuality. It’s also an interesting time in the state of Michigan, which is currently debating the issue of gay marriage. [SB Nation]

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Weekly Links: Boycotting the Sochi Games?; Ratner to redevelop Islanders’ arena; Devils get new ownership; Rick Rypien’s legacy

After a one year hiatus, Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post returns! 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!

  • Given the dangerous homophobic climate in Russia and the anti-gay legislation passed by Russian lawmakers, should hockey players and other athletes boycott the Sochi Games in 2014? Pierre Martin says that male hockey players should boycott the tournament while other athletes should attend. [Toronto Star]

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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.

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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]