Weekly Links: Bobby Orr’s New Book; Panthers Host LGBT Night; Research on Concussions in Hockey; Hockey Analytics; and more

Source: Sportsnet

Source: Sportsnet

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!

  • Hockey legend Bobby Orr recently spoke with Peters Mansbridge on The National  to discuss his thoughts on minor hockey and the methods of developing players. Orr also released a book entitled “Orr – My Story” this past week. A link to the full interview can be found here. [CBC News]
  • The Florida Panthers are partnering with the You Can Play Project to host LGBT hockey night this weekend. [Miami Herald]
  • Jeff Klein provides an excellent summary of the research discussed at a recent health conference regarding concussions in hockey. [New York Times] Read more of this post

Ice Hockey: A Slippery Roadmap for Peace

 

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

The above quotation from the noted anti-apartheid former South African President Nelson Mandela is how we want to view sports. At a time when the “Road Map for Peace” has not yet been settled, this video showing former American President Bill Clinton’s lighthearted rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” with 40 Jewish and 40 Arab children is how we want to view the relationship among Israeli Jews, Arabs in Israel, the Palestinian territories, the rest of the Middle East, and the world. However, as much as my conflict-averse self yearns for perpetual peace, I also recognize that I am an outsider. As such, I cannot fully comprehend the complexity of this situation from people in these regions of instability. With that being said, I still hope to critically analyze the goals of “Neutral Zone: The Story of Hockey in Northern Israel,” a short 24-minute documentary by Michael Farber which recently aired on TSN.

Read more of this post

The Aftermath of the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association (CHLPA)

Photo courtesy of http://www.chlpa.com

Now that the aftermath of the collapse of the Canadian Hockey League Player’s Association (CHLPA) has simmered, a period of sincere reflection is perhaps due. The CHLPA, whose mission was to represent all Canadian Hockey Players (CHL) players in a fair and equitable manner, disintegrated under pressure from the CHL. The organization vowed to provide unionized protection to over 1,400 hockey players across Canada, aged 15-20 years.

The greatest misstep of the organization was its association with Randy Gumbley, a former coach who was charged by Hockey Canada for committing fraud. Whether true or not, the allegations were enough to seize any momentum the CHLPA had gained. The Gumbley lawsuit is not black and white. After having organized a tournament in Europe during the 2004-2005 National Hockey League (NHL) lockout, things got messy and the tournament folded. Players paid substantial money to attend the tournament, and eventually a lawsuit unfolded. According to Gumbley, Hockey Canada is to blame and as you can imagine, going to war against the most powerful sport organization in Canada is not trivial. The story is interesting, yet extensive.

The CHL hired a private investigator to uncover the identities of the CHLPA founders, and once they realized it was a Gumbley project the organization hit a downwards spiral. Interestingly enough, although Randy Gumbley had little to do with the organization, and it was in fact Randy’s brother Glenn Gumbley who was the backbone, the CHL was successful in convincing media outlets all around the country that a fraudster was attempting to unionize and protect the hockey hopefuls of the CHL.

The saga of the Gumbley story is not over, and the end remains distant. The important thing though, to take from it all is that the information available to the public on the matter is not enough to make anything more than an opinion. With that said, there were many positive steps taken by the CHLPA in uncovering the realities occurring in regards to player treatment in the CHL.

Read more of this post

A Stipend or Restriction? Why CHL Players are Unable to Gain NCAA Eligibility

Image

Photo courtesy of unitedstatesofhockey.com

What changes need to occur to allow Canadian Hockey League (CHL) major junior players to be granted eligibility to play in US college system, the NCAA? The NCAA requests two alterations: 1) remove the stipend 2) remove the classification of “major” junior. The letter below received by the CHLPA from Natasha Oakes, Assistant Director of Academic and Membership Affairs of the NCAA, outlines the distinct barriers disallowing CHL players NCAA eligibility.

Image

I received this document from an inside source and was puzzled by the simplicity that would be involved in allowing CHL players to head down South. Then I began wondering what the ever so modest “stipend” CHL players receive is really for.

Read more of this post

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!

Read more of this post

“Our game”: What does it mean and who does it include?

Photo from the Society Pages.

It would seem that when the players take the summer off so too do the hockey bloggers.  Well, while everyone else has been glued to the Olympics I have been combing through hockey literature in preparation of grad school applications.  If you can’t watch hockey in the summer, reading about it is a close second. I have been going through Gruneau and Whitson’s book, Artificial Ice: Hockey, Commerce and Cultural Identity, and I would like to share some passages (specifically from Mary-Louise Adams’ chapter – The game of whose lives? Gender, race, and entitlement in Canada’s national game) that have made me reflect on the glorious game of hockey.  Thus, this post is less a commentary or an opinion and more of a sharing piece to give you something to think while pool-side, lying on the beach or heading to the rink (because summer doesn’t change the schedule for Canadians that much). Also, the surrounding Olympic fervour sets a nice background to think about our own national identity. *Apologies for not boxing the passages. WordPress has refused to cooperate so the passages are italicized.*

The men’s hockey victory in Salt Lake City made clear the place of hockey in popular versions of Canadian nationalism.  The victory also made clear the centrality of gender to national mythmaking.  Four days before the nation came to a standstill for the men’s final, members of the Canadian women’s hockey team had won their own gold medal match, also against the Americans.  Although the women’s victory was certainly seen to be sweet, it was celebrated in much the same way as victories in speed skating or skiing. It was not portrayed, as the men’s victory would be, as confirmation of the “hockeyness” of this country or as a boost to national morale. While the women’s win added to Canada’s gold medal tally, the men’s victory propped up the national psyche…

Simply put, so-called national sports afford men – in general, and certain men in particular – an opportunity to represent the nation in a way not open to women.  Sport helps to construct the different versions of citizenship available to men and women. Would national teams generate such frenzied patriotism if national teams had no men?  Could we ever imagine a game played primarily by women as this country’s (or any other’s) national game, as central to its national identity?…

Benedict Anderson says that nations are distinguished from one another by the stories they tell about themselves.  The homogenization of difference and other processes of exclusion are key to this national story-making and to the formation of national identities.  In the drive to construct a cohesive representation of the “imagined community,” not all stories are equal…

THOUGHT:  Let’s extend the “stories” outside of gender.  Who else is not represented by “Canada’s game”? Our aboriginal population, those with disabilities, persons of colour and anyone who isn’t 100% heterosexual is missing from “our game”.  So if it’s not my game like I have been told, whose game is it?  Can it be Canada’s game if it does not include everyone? Logically, not everyone can be included so do we base our “story” on nostalgia? Myth? Majority? Or maybe it’s just the ideal?

And while national stories do change over time, their taken-for-grantedness can make them appear very solid.  As Philip Corrigan writes, “In confirming our sense of what and how we are, [the taken for granted] allows us to forget how we might be different.”…

Anyone who has spent any time around rinks in this country could offer a range of similar examples of gendered practices around hockey.  In a discursive context in which hockey is already given pride of place, where the hockey that really counts is undeniably men’s hockey, everyday rink practices reinforce and represent a sense of male entitlement – even among young boys who are among the primary users of these facilities. Will more women getting out on the ice change this? I don’t think so, not until women’s hockey actually counts, until women can make claims not just on the material aspects of the game but on all its symbolic attachments too…

I thought this was a brilliant statement.  Since a large portion of the scholarship and activism for female participation in sport revolves around numbers, rules, and physiological differences, Adams touches on something that counts for so much more – cultural relevance. Women (among many others) have no part in Canada’s hockey mythology.  I’ve gotten used to not having a change room at the rink. I’ve gotten used to not getting the puck when playing co-ed.  But when you think of it apart from gender equality/equity you realize how large the divide really is. Numbers are easy to fix.  Adding change rooms are easy. Altering a national psyche to include people that were meant to be discriminated against – where do we begin?

I digress, and Adams moves on to write about the significance of shinny in our national identity:

Most discussion of sport and national identity tend to focus on issues related to national teams, Olympic medals, international competition. I certainly can’t say whether this is the case in other countries, but in Canada, “Our Game” means more than this. Not only is it supposed to make us smugly proud of our place – our superiority – in the world, it is supposed to run through our veins.  Hockey is, we are often told, part of who “we” are.  Shinny is supposed to be the source of that connection…

Shawna Richer writes:

On Mother Nature’s rinks, teams of four men were posed to play out the most Canadian of reveries…Arguably the most inherent part of our national landscape, pond hockey is the opportunity to play the game at its purest, most creative form.  Shinny is where the professionals began, where children have the best fun, where grown men feel like boys…This is Canada in a box, right here.

Nostalgia is a powerful means of keeping us from imagining how Canada might be different; it is part of the process of marginalizing women and people of colour, of limiting the stories we can tell about ourselves…it is a process invested with “timelessness, historylessness, and, by extension, racelessness…Shinny fits well into attempts to articulate an overarching, enduring Canadian culture that persists in the face of immigration and changing social relations of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

Do we really allow Canada to be put in a box as Richer writes? For a country as large and as diverse as our is, how can Canada be represented by one (and any) game of pond hockey?  If our image of shinny suddenly changes to include men and women of all ages, races, and abilities would that be Canada in a box? I might argue that BECAUSE our country is as large and diverse as it is, we force hockey to be the one thing that ties us together.  Surely, the only other common denominator for the majority of us is that we are immigrants, and that’s not nearly as fun to talk about over a beer.

Trade Deadline Day – The Great Canadian Pseudo-Event

Everyone remembers where they were when Martin Skoula got traded to the Devils

I think the powers that be at TSN are going to start wondering about me. It may seem to some readers that I can’t make up my mind whether to praise the Canadian sports broadcasting powerhouse or criticise them. In my last post about the World Junior Hockey Championship, I applauded the network for its stroke of marketing genius in turning the WJHC from an unheralded and overlooked event into a “holiday tradition,” while condemning them for the blatant overproduction of the tournament. And now we are mere days away from Trade Deadline Day, and I’m at it again. The trade deadline is a logistical technicality that passes virtually unnoticed in other sports, yet TSN (here is the marketing genius part) has transformed this non-event into one of the most anticipated days on the NHL calendar and has forced its competitors (most noticeably, Rogers Sportsnet) to follow their model of relentless, wall-to-wall coverage. In many ways, the trade deadline has eclipsed other hockey media spectacles like the NHL Draft and the All-Star Game (although TSN is also trying to change that with their “All-Star Fantasy Draft” gimmick) as must-see TV – or at least as a reason to spend 9 hours continually refreshing tsn.ca.

Despite our implicit understanding that deadline deals are almost never the blockbuster trades that will immediately make or break a team’s fortunes (Sportsnet’s list of Top Ten Deadline Deals will attest), it is quite difficult for anyone who closely follows professional hockeyto resist getting swept up in all the hype around the trade deadline. As our fearless editor Mark Norman pointed out to me, what’s really interesting here is how up front media companies tend to be about their unabashed and unashamed transformation of this non-event into media spectacle. Case in point: when the “breaking news” hit the airwaves regarding the sudden availability of superstar forward Rick Nash, the NHL on TSN’s James Duthie commented, “We will be covering this story until a deal is done or the deadline passes because, as you know, when it comes to the trade deadline, we will take a story and we will run with it.” This may have been merely praise for the depth of coverage TSN is able to provide on possible trades; but knowing Duthie and his penchant for sarcasm, this could also have been a subtle acknowledgement that months of relentless analysis and speculation on player transactions that may or may not happen is slightly absurd. Read more of this post

The Corporate Construction of Hockey: Tim Hortons, Hockey, and the Canadian Immigrant Experience

“The Corporate Construction of Hockey” is an occasional feature on Hockey in Society that examines and critiques the ways in which corporations construct the social meaning of hockey through their marketing efforts. If you have suggestions for future features please contact us.

Tim Hortons has, over a period of decades, established itself as a quintessentially Canadian corporation. The success of this effort is self-evident: as of 2006, Tim Hortons accounted for a whopping 76 percent of the coffee and baked goods market in Canada by customers served. To reiterate: roughly three out of every four purchases of coffee and backed goods in Canada are made from Tim Hortons. The company has clearly been extremely successful at making its products a key part of many Canadians’ consumption habits.

In recent years, Tim Hortons has quite brilliantly incorporated the changing racial and ethnic demographics of Canada into its marketing, while maintaining a clear focus on the construction of a particular form of Canadian identity (often, as will be discussed, using hockey). This is in sharp contrast to, say, Molson’s, a company that frequently presents a vision of Canadian culture that is overwhelmingly populated by young white males. Tim Hortons, which admittedly has a much wider target demographic than Molson’s, has obviously recognized the financial potential of expanding its representation to include a broader cross-section of Canadian society. In doing so, however, it draws upon a range of cultural stereotypes and a sanitized immigrant narrative to make this minority representation palatable and accessible to the broader Canadian population. Consider this commercial, which first aired during the 2006 Winter Olympics:

Read more of this post

Future Reading: “Fighting the Good Fight: Why On-Ice Violence is Killing Hockey” by Adam Proteau (2011)

Future Reading is an occasional feature that highlights new or upcoming publications on sport, and particularly hockey, that relate to Hockey in Society’s content and/or that may be of interest to its readers.

Adam Proteau’s new book, Fighting the Good Fight: Why On-Ice Violence Is Killing Hockey, is incredibly timely. In particular, one can’t help but feel that the subtitle is a conscious allusion to the off-ice death of three hockey enforcers this past summer. Hockey fighting quickly became a hot button issue following the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, and this debate has taken on increased intensity following the New York Times‘ series on the life and untimely death of Boogaard. It is in this climate that Proteau’s book has been released, and while Fighting the Good Fight was most likely undertaken well before the events of this past summer, it will instantly become part of the ongoing, but recently intensified, debate about the role and consequences of fighting in hockey.

Proteau is an excellent columnist for The Hockey News, a rare writer who can simultaneously be informative, analytical, and entertaining. He is noted as a prominent anti-fighting voice within the mainstream media, and brings this perspective to bear in this book. The early reviews from the hockey blogosphere suggest that Proteau’s book could be quite influential in swaying the opinions of some of those who remain in the pro-fighting crowd. A review on The Hockey Writers states:

I was skeptical at best before reading Proteau’s book. However, his factual evidence, persuasive arguments, and straight-forward ideas have forced me to rethink what hockey actually is versus what it should/could be. Fighting the Good Fight should be mandatory reading for all hockey fans. It may just make one think about what really belongs in the sport.

What gets me really excited as a sociologist is that Proteau not only appears to have used extensive interviewing to reach his conclusions, but also that he expands the discussion from the single issue of fighting to critique the broader culture of hockey. From a review on Hockey Book Reviews:

[Proteau] talks with medical experts on head injuries and concussions. He talks with players, coaches, managers and experts about head shots, aggressive bodychecking, injuries and discipline. . . . Furthermore he expands his attack to the entire established hockey culture.

This definitely looks to be valuable contribution to the popular hockey literature, and it is a book that I am excited to read. I purchase the book over the holidays, and hope to have a review of it up on this site early in the new year.

Presentations on Hockey at North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Conference

Image from: http://nasss.org

The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) is the major scholarly society for sociocultural studies of sport in North America, and boasts membership from around the globe. It publishes the academic journal Sociology of Sport Journal and runs an annual conference at which scholars from around the world present their research. All of the writers for Hockey in Society are members of NASSS and have presented at its conference in recent years.

This year’s conference is in Minneapolis, MN, and runs from tomorrow until Saturday. Appropriately, given that it is taking place in the State of Hockey, the conference will feature a number of presentations about hockey. I am excited to attend as many of these presentations as I can, and will attempt to report on the most exciting and interesting research at the conclusion of the conference.

You can read the full conference programme online, but I’ve pasted abstracts for all of the hockey-related presentations below so you can get a sense of some of the sociological research currently being done on hockey. All abstracts are posted on the NASSS website, are reproduced in full on this website, and are copyright of their authors. I have removed email contact information, although this is publicly available on the NASSS website.

First up, what will undoubtedly be the worst of these presentations:

Cultural Citizenship and the New Media Consumption/Production of Televised Sport (Mark Norman, University of Toronto)

While scholars have argued that access to television broadcasts of live sport events can constitute an important aspect of cultural citizenship, this scholarly discussion has not extended to the various forms of new media through which live sport is also consumed and produced. Building upon Scherer and Whitson’s (2009) argument that public television access to Hockey Night in Canada is a matter of Canadian cultural citizenship, this paper uses data collected during the program’s 2011 Hockey Day in Canada broadcast to examine the ways in which new media, notably Twitter, are used by consumers of live sport to become producers of new media content. Through exploration of major themes that emerged on Twitter, the paper argues that new media can provide sites for collective discussion on important sociopolitical issues—and that, therefore, discussions about cultural citizenship and sport media should be extended to include access to new media communities. The implications of this argument are discussed in light of Jenkins’ (2006) research on “new knowledge communities” and the novel forms of democratic decision-making that are created up by such online collectives. In particular, the sociopolitcal implications of barriers to participation in new knowledge communities are discussed.

If that wasn’t too much of an inaccessible, academic-speak summary for you, I encourage you to read on about what will undoubtedly be some fascinating research presentations about a variety of important issues in hockey. Read more of this post