Roundtable: 4th Annual IIHF Girls’ Hockey Weekend – Assessing the state of the game

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 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is hosting its fourth annual Girls’ Hockey Weekend this weekend (which, coincides with the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child), a weekend designed to expose girls and women to *ahem* the greatest game on earth! ( I might be a little biased). The IIHF encourages teams, clubs, and organizations to find a way to draw more girls to the game whether it be through autograph sessions, practice sessions, or off-ice activities. You can check out the official (pink) website here: Girls’ Hockey Weekend. This is the first time that we at Hockey in Society have ever heard of the Girls’ Hockey Weekend, so we thought it would be appropriate to use the opportunity to offer an assessment on the current state of women’s hockey, both in Canada and globally.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.32.40 PMThere are two recent events that show promising signs for the growth of women’s hockey. First, is Sportsnet’s new agreement with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to broadcast the league’s playoff games from the Clarkson Cup and “at least one special event to be announced in early October.” This agreement is slated for the next four years and it has also earned the CWHL space on the website (sportsnet.ca) for game scores. The second exciting recent event for women’s hockey is that the Anaheim Ducks invited, US Olympic team member, Hillary Knight to skate in practice. This was the first time that a female non-goalie has ever practiced with an NHL team. However, despite these two newsworthy developments, it is still important to recognize that women’s hockey still has a long way to go. The Sportsnet agreement will show three playoff games. This is certainly better than nothing but it also doesn’t seem like a huge commitment on Sportsnet’s part. Also, this will be the first time that CWHL scores will be shown on the website. FIRST TIME! The fact that a national sportscaster has waited until 2014 to add “professional” women’s hockey scores on the ticker is less than exciting. And, I put the word professional in quotations because the women of the CWHL are unable to support themselves from their hockey careers and are forced to have other jobs. Plus, there this snappy list of “10 reasons why the NHL should commit to women’s pro hockey before expanding the men’s game (again)” floating around the Internet, which further highlights the gap between the men’s and women’s games. Moreover, Anaheim Ducks’ coach, Bruce Boudreau was apparently pleasantly surprised with Knight’s skill at practice because he has never seen a women’s hockey game live and didn’t realize that “they were that good”. I don’t know what is more sad: the fact that he has never felt it worth his time to watch women’s hockey, or that there has probably been few opportunities for him to take in a live game. Either way, I think Boudreau’s experience (as someone who lives the game) is telling.

One last example I will contribute to the discussion here is how Warrior (equipment company) fails to recognize women as either a valuable or viable market demographic and that they have faced zero consequences for their misogynistic stance. Warrior feels that it is unnecessary to serve the female demographic, which from a consumer standpoint isn’t that big a of a deal, but from a social perspective is reflective and reproductive of the lack of value afforded to women’s hockey. Lululemon has faced both social and financial backlash for not valuing any person that the company deems overweight but they essentially continue business as normal because, while consumers don’t appreciate size discrimination, the stigmatization of obesity remains a prevalent ideology. Similarly, I think that many people may think even though Warrior’s stance on female consumers is rude and outdated, it is situated as poor business practice rather than a reproduction of unequal power relations that manifest beyond the store shelves. Unless an NHL player publicly chastises Warrior and drops them as a sponsor, very little will happen. Even then, they might not give a flying #uck. And as long as companies such as Warrior are not forced to change their ways, or collapse entirely, their very existence affirms the notion that women’s hockey is of little value. While it is exciting to see initiatives such as the Girls’ Hockey Weekend and players like Knight skating with the big boys, we still have a long way to go. Should we find it encouraging or discouraging to know that most other women’s sports are in the exact same fight?

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An interview with Dr. Bruce Berglund, Editor of the Allrounder website and the New Books in Sports podcast

Dr. Bruce Berglund is a professor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI and the Editor of the podcast/website New Books in Sports, which features interviews with authors about their recent sport books. Among the many interviewees are some people who may be familiar to hockey fans, such as Roy MacGregor and Todd Denault, as well as some academics who have at times published insightful commentary on hockey, such as Dr. Kevin Young (University of Calgary) and Dr. Mary Louise Adams (Queen’s University).

Dr. Berglund has recently launched a new venture: a sports website called the Allrounder. This website aims to bring together scholars to provide insight into and analysis of sport around the world [full disclosure: I will be an occasional contributor to the site]. He has assembled a diverse crew of writers with a variety of disciplinary, theoretical, and geographic foci. The Allrounder is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise initial operating costs to launch the site and pay its contributors.

After the jump, I have an interview with Dr. Berglund in which he explains the impetus behind New Books in Sports and the Allrounder, the present state of sports journalism and writing, and the significance of new media and the Internet for the production and dissemination of analysis about sport cultures around the world.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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