Weekly Links: Ownership and CBA issues; Rob Zombie to make Broad Street Bullies film; Why are NHL teams wary of Russian 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.

Hockey Links

  • With the NHL Draft being held this weekend, there was lots of talk about NHL teams’ aversion to drafting Russian players and the possible xenophobic underpinnings of this decision. Damien Cox explores the cultural and business issues affecting the declining numbers of Russians in the NHL in light of the draft and Evgeni Malkin’s recent Hart Trophy win. [The Star]
  • Cam Charron looks at the perceived risk of drafting Russian players in the first round. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Meanwhile, Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey raises lots of interesting questions about judging “work ethic” in 18 year-olds – an issue that contributed to Russian prospect Mikhail Grigorenko slipping over a number of months from being the consensus second pick to being selected 12th overall. [Lighthouse Hockey]
  • Joe Pelletier writes that, unlike when the players were cast as villains in the last NHL labour dispute, the owners will be the villains if this summer’s CBA negotiations do not go smoothly. [Greatest Hockey Legends]
  • Meanwhile Roy MacGregor pessimistically cautions that there may be no NHL season in 2012-13. [Globe and Mail]
  • The New Jersey Devils could, like the Phoenix Coyotes, be bought by the league if the current owner cannot pay back the team’s debt or a new owner cannot be found. [Puck Daddy]
  • Speaking of the Coyotes: Greg Wyshynski also explores whether a referendum by Glendale voters could derail the latest bid to purchase the team. [Puck Daddy]
  • The NHL will not allow Bell and Rogers, co-owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, to co-purchase the rights to Hockey Night in Canada when they are negotiated next summer. Good news for the CBC and its efforts to hold on to the program. [Globe and Mail]
  • Musician and filmmaker Rob Zombie has announced that he will produce a film about the infamous Philadelphia Flyers teams of the 1970s, AKA the Broad Street Bullies. [Backhand Shelf; IMDB]
  • Ken Dryden reflects on the career of Montreal hockey journalist Red Fisher, who recently retired after nearly 60 years. [Globe and Mail]
  • Interesting story on the one year anniversary of the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots: the Museum of Vancouver has a public exhibit displaying the art and messages that Vancouverites drew on the boarded-up windows of stores that were damaged in the rioting. [Puck Daddy]
  • Finally, a good read from Ross Bonader about homophobia in hockey and what it will take for the first openly gay player to come out. [The Hockey Writers]

General Sport Links

  • Courtney Szto discusses the murky area of athlete migration and national identity in an era of elite sport and globalization. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • Jerry Sandusky has been convicted for the many sexual assaults he perpetrated while an assistant football coach at Penn State. [Globe and Mail]
  • Dave Zirin takes journalist Brent Musburger, who infamously slammed Tommie Smith and John Carlos for their civil rights protest at the 1968 Olympics, for never apologizing for his irresponsible and slanderous reportage of the protest. [Edge of Sports]

Weekly Links: Hockey culture’s fear of personality; The impact of a Stanley Cup win in non-traditional NHL markets

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

  • In light of the Los Angeles Kings’ recent Stanley Cup win, an interesting post by Mike Chen about the impact of a championship on the fan base and grassroots hockey participation of non-traditional hockey markets. Chen looks back at the impact of the Tampa Bay Lighting (2004) and Carolina Hurricanes (2006) wins on those teams’ local success. [SB Nation]
  • Harrison Mooney has an excellent article about hockey culture’s suspicion of personality, with the examples of Ilya Bryzgalov and Tim Thomas as evidence, and how this could militate against a gay player coming out. [Puck Daddy]
  • Meanwhile, more NHLers have joined the You Can Play campaign. Check out the new PSA featuring Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks and Dustin Byfuglien and Tanner Glass of the Winnipeg Jets. [You Can Play]
  • Thomas Drance also has an excellent post about hockey personality, in this case looking at Roberto Luongo’s anonymous Twitter account and how he is able to craft an alternative image through his new media interactions. [Canucks Army]
  • Speaking of new media: check out this awesome infographic about the frequency with which NHL-related topics were mentioned on Twitter during the 2012 Playoffs. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Gary Mason reflects on the memory and legacy of the Vancouver’s Stanley Cup Riot one year after it occurred. [Globe and Mail]
  • Michigan Stadium, a dry venue given NCAA rules, has received a temporary liquor permit for the 2013 NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. [Wood TV 8, via Backhand Shelf]
  • The New Jersey Devils’ playoff run brought the team a handsome profit, but it pales in comparison to the organization’s debt. [Puck Daddy]

Weekly Links: Reactions to “While the Men Watch” and reflections on hockey media; US participation rates rising; New arenas in Detroit, Edmonton, and Seattle

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.

[Note:Sorry folks, I have again been behind on these Weekly Links posts. I will continue to try to get them up each week, but please bear with me right now if they are posted somewhat irregularly.]

Hockey Links

  • There has been no shortage of reaction in the blogosphere to the CBC’s new venture, While the Men Watch, including Courtney Szto’s initial reactions and review of the show on this blog. I will do a separate roundup of these reactions, but in the meantime here are some excellent posts by Ellen Etchingham, Cassie McLellan, and Julie Veilleux respectively. [Backhand Shelf; Raw Charge; Puck Daddy]
  • Great post from Cam Charron about the monopoly on sports expertise by ex-players or entrenched media members, how it partly explains the slow uptake on advanced statistics by NHL personnel, and how the blogosphere (thankfully!) offers a wide variety of ways for fans to understand and conceptualize hockey. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Speaking of advanced statistics and new media: Please do check out Sunil Agnihotri’s excellent blog, Super Fan 2.0. His work uses sociocultural theory to examine issues related to new media and hockey fandom. As someone who is also interested in this area, I find his work fascinating and insightful. Give it a look yourself! [Super Fan 2.0]
  • Chris Peters reports that hockey participation in the US has risen to nearly 595,000, and examines some of the reasons for this increase in various areas, including sunbelt NHL markets. [United States of Hockey]
  • Daniel Wegner debunks Don Cherry’s jingoistic (and excessively pro-Ontario) rehtoric about the players needed by teams that enjoy success in the postseason. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Wayne Gretzky would like to see the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s playoff MVP, renamed after Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau. [TSN]
  • The KHL continues its global empire building, announcing plans to play regular season games at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NYC. [Puck Daddy]
  • Canadian media giant Rogers may attempt to snatch the rights to Hockey Night in Canada away from the CBC. A potentially sad day for Canada’s public broadcaster. [The Province]
  • Matt Hendricks of the Washington Capitals is the latest hockey player to support the You Can Play project, which targets homophobia in hockey. [Dump 'N Chase]
  • The World Junior Championships proved to be a cash cow for Hockey Canada and the province of Alberta, bringing in revenues of $22 million. [TSN]
  • The Red Wings press ahead with plans to build a new arena in downtown Detroit, hiring an architect to begin designs. The arena, if built, will replace the Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979. [Detroit News]
  • More arena news: Greg Wyshynski updates Seattle’s plans for a new hockey arena and briefly touches upon the new arena that is being constructed for the Oilers in downtown Edmonton. [Puck Daddy]
  • Jamaica has been admitted to the International Ice Hockey Federation, and is aiming to ice a team at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. [Puck Daddy]
  • Finally, Ellen Etchingham explores “hockey’s complex relationship with booze.” A fascinating article. [Backhand Shelf]

General Sport Links

  • Hockey in Society’s Courtney Szto examines the efforts to curb HIV transmission during the 2012 Euro Cup in Poland and Ukraine. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • ESPN’s fascinating 3o for 30 documentary series is returning with a new slate of films. [Grantland]

Weekly Links: Reactions to Twitter racism against Joel Ward; Examining cultures of hitting and violence in hockey; Where in the world were NHL players born?

Where NHL players were born.

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.

Editor’s Note: Apologies for the lack of Weekly Links over the past month. It has been a very busy time personally, and I have not kept up with my posting. This Weekly Links post therefore contains some of the best reading from the past three weeks. I hope to be more diligent in my posting over the next few months!

Hockey Links

  • This is very cool: A map showing where every NHL player was born. Hover over the city and it lists the players who were born there. Am I the only one who finds the globalization of hockey a fascinating, fascinating topic? [view the map; created by @theycallmemorty; via Backhand Shelf]
  • Lots of reaction to the racist insults hurled at the Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward by Twitter users, from Harrison Mooney, Chris Peters, and Brian Floyd respectively. [Puck Daddy; United States of Hockey; SB Nation]
  • Meanwhile, Greg Ezell reflects on belonging to a Boston Bruins fan-base that is now being characterized based upon the actions of a few. [Days of Y'Orr]
  • The always thoughtful Ken Dryden discusses three hits from different eras in order to illustrate changes in hockey culture and the role of the NHL in enforcing discipline. [Globe and Mail; h/t to Luke for the link]
  • Ellen Etchingham also had a great take on the culture of hitting in the NHL. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Paul Busch with an excellent historical overview of changes in the NHL, particularly in the 1970s, which he argues established the “culture of violence” in which many of today’s NHL decision-makers (coaches, GMs, etc.) were socialized. [It's Not Part of the Game]
  • Adam Proteau with an optimistic look at the likelihood of a gay hockey player coming out in the NHL and a discussion of the You Can Play project. [The Hockey News]
  • Interesting read about the Los Angeles Kings’ attempts to market the hockey team and maintain relevance in an entertainment-saturated city. [Globe and Mail]
  • After the 2012 Women’s World Hockey Championship, in which Switzerland captured the Bronze Medal, is international women’s hockey moving closer to parity? And what steps are being taken to develop the game globally? [Globe and Mail]
  • Interesting news from the KHL. A blog post by the wife Kevin Dallman, a Canadian superstar on Barys Astana in Kazakhstan, has led to the family being kicked out of the country. Apparently the Kazakh government found the post too critical of alleged corruption in Kazakhstan. [Puck Daddy]

Weekly Links: Reaction to Duncan Keith’s Elbow on Daniel Sedin; Montreal Stars Win the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup

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

  • The Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League are this year’s Clarkson Cup champions, defeating Brampton HC 4-2. But you probably already knew that from watching it live on TV or reading about it on the front page on newspapers across Canada or… oh, right. Maybe not. At least TSN2 is showing the game on tape delay. [TSN]
  • In the aftermath of Duncan Keith’s elbow to Daniel Sedin’s head, which left the Canucks winger concussed and earned the Blackhawk a five-game suspension, Cam Charron writes about the xenophobic attitudes that are still directed toward European players in popular and media discourses. [Canucks Army]
  • Kerry Fraser’s reaction to the Keith hit: “In too many situations witnessed this season, the officials have either missed the mark altogether or came up short by at least three minutes plus a game misconduct.  The judgment of the referees needs to be collectively and immediately retooled by NHL V.P. of Officiating, Terry Gregson, to conform to a higher standard that is currently being maintained by the Player Safety Committee.” [TSN]
  • Graham James was sentenced this week to two years in prison for sexually abusing players on his team, including Theoren Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy, in the 1980s and ’90s. Many, including Todd Holt, one of James’ other victims, are calling the sentence extremely inadequate. [CBC]
  • Ellen Etchingham reflects on the function and performance of hustle in hockey. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Quebec City continues its push to regain an NHL franchise, with the city announcing that an 18,000 seat arena will be built by the Fall of 2015. [Puck Daddy]
  • Very interesting article by Benjamin Wendorf on the changes in hockey helmet usage over the decades. [SB Nation]
  • A hockey parent’s perspective on change in hockey and hockey culture. [Down From the Peak]

General Sport Links

  • A story about a gay Queen’s University volleyball star who quit the team because of homophobia, but rejoined it after the team learned of his sexual orientation and completely altered its culture. [The Journal]
  • The NFL demonstrates its determination to improve player safety by suspending New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, as well as suspending other coaches, fining the team, and stripping away draft picks. This is in response to the recent revelations that the team’s defense operated on a bounty system that rewarded players for deliberately injuring opponents. [Shutdown Corner]

“If you can play, you can play”: New campaign targets homophobia in hockey

Earlier this week, the You Can Play Project launched with a PSA video that preaches acceptance for LGBT hockey players. You Can Play was co-founded by Patrick Burke, the brother of the late Brendan Burke and an activist for gay rights in sport. The organization, whose board includes Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke (father of Brendan and Patrick and gay rights advocate), has the following mission statement:

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.

You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

This project appears to have a lot of promise in challenging the homophobic locker room culture that typifies hockey. The involvement of high-profile NHLers such as Rich Nash, Duncan Keith, Claude Giroux, Daniel Alfredsson, and Dion Phaneuf should help legitimize the campaign within hockey cultures. More promising is that the organization, though currently focused on men’s hockey, is reaching out to female athletes and athletes in other sports in hopes of spreading the movement.

After the jump, check out the PSA video and some reactions from media and bloggers. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Player safety issues; Tim Thomas continues to attract criticism; Seattle to get an NHL franchise?

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

  • Please check out Not Part of the Game, a new blog that advocates for the removal of fighting from hockey. The most recent post offers up statements from NHL enforcers, past and present, about the impact of fighting. [Not Part of the Game]
  • One suggestion for NHL player safety that is increasingly gaining traction is the reintroduction of two line passes, which would reduce the speed of the game and thus potentially the likelihood of high-speed collisions. Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is the latest to endorse this idea. [Puck Daddy]
  • Daniel Wegner has an insightful piece about Matt Cooke and the difficulty – but possibility – of changing one’s embodied style of play to eliminate dangerous hits. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Lots of buzz this week about whether Seattle – which unveiled plans this week for a new arena partially funded with public funds – will become the newest city to gain an NHL franchise, possibly through expansion but most likely through the relocation of the Phoenix Coyotes. [Globe and Mail]
  • The Minnesota Wild have suspended a prospect on its American Hockey League affiliate, the Houston Aeros, for using a gay slur on Twitter. [Puck Daddy]
  • Tim Thomas continues to attract criticism for refusing to discuss his controversial political beliefs. [Boston.com]
  • Sean Gordon argues that dirty play is “alive and well” in today’s NHL. [Globe and Mail]
  • ACTRA is claiming that Budweiser exploited the real-life performers/beer league hockey players who appeared in its famous Super Bowl commercial. Budweiser is claiming that signing the performers to union contracts would have “eliminated the surprise” of the commercial. [Puck Daddy]
  • National Geographic will be featuring Andrew Ference of the Boston Bruins in a 10-part  feature on his environmental activism. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis criticizes NBC’s coverage of NHL games. [Ted's  Take]

General Sport Links

  • Great post from Nathan Kalman-Lamb reflecting on his experiences as a striking worker at York University and the labour struggle of NBA players this past Fall. [Nathan Kalman-Lamb]
  • Courtney Szto weighs in on the announcement that Abbotsford, BC will be the latest city to feature a Lingerie Football League team. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • Human Rights Watch, a global lobbying group, is asking the International Olympic Committee to consider disallowing Saudi Arabia from competing in the Olympics due to the country’s complete lack of support for women’s sport. [Globe and Mail]

Weekly Links: ESPN Ignores Hockey Deaths, Fans Fight Back; 2011 Was the Year of Hockey Concussions; Economic Impact of World Junior Championships

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

  • ESPN caused a furor amongst hockey fans by not including any hockey players on its tribute to sport figures who passed away in 2011. During its Year in Review Sports Center program, ESPN failed to mention the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, or the KHL’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl team. Greg Wyshynski had a good reaction to the ESPN program. [Puck Daddy]
  • As did Travis Hughes, who also examines the relative lack of US mainstream media attention given to hockey in contrast with the thriving hockey blogosphere. [SB Nation]
  • Meanwhile, a fan post on Broad Street Hockey, the Philadelphia Flyers’ SBN blog, has become an unofficial online tribute to all the hockey figures who passed away in 2011. Hockey fans contributed their individual knowledge to produce this collective and comprehensive tribute. [Broad Street Hockey]
  • It sounds like ESPN heard the complaints: Pierre LeBrun reported on Twitter that an updated version of the program will be aired and will include hockey players in its tribute. [@Real_ESPNLeBrun]
  • Good story on the challenges facing the Canadian Women’s Hockey League as it struggles to attract fans. Obviously this is a topic that Courtney and I both feel strongly about. [Globe and Mail]
  • Bruce Arthur with a terrific, but worrisome, post about Sidney Crosby: “Sidney Crosby played just 10 games in 2011. . . . And we were left to wonder if Sidney Crosby would ever be quite the same again.” [National Post]
  • Ryan Lambert with a good post about the reporting of hockey concussions, in reaction to Brian Burke’s admission that Colby Armstrong should not have hidden his concussion and continued to play. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Bruce Dowbiggen’s list of 2011′s biggest stories contains some interesting analysis on the sale of MLSE to Bell/Rogers, Sidney Crosby’s concussion, the emergence of long-form sports reporting such as that on Grantland, and other interesting sports media tidbits. [Globe and Mail]
  • This is a few months old, but still interesting: in his forward to Paul Henderson’s book How Hockey Explains Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is very forthcoming about his hockey fandom and experience. Hockey has, at times, been featured in Conservative Party adverts or other PR. [Vancouver Sun]
  • The IIHF World Junior Championships is projected to bring $80 million into the host cities of Calgary and Edmonton. Take this with a grain of salt as, for a variety of reasons, economic impact assessments of large sports events are often overly optimistic about the revenue generated. [Globe and Mail]
  • Eric Lindros, who retired because of concussions, believes that the speed of the game due to post-lockout rule changes has made hockey more dangerous. [SLAM! Sports]
  • Stu Hackel reports on the NHL’s “awful month” for concussions. So far this season 64 players have suffered concussions. [SI.com]
  • The corporate sponsorship of NHL jerseys inches closer to reality, as the Montreal Canadiens become the latest team to place adverts on their practice jerseys. [Puck Daddy]
  • The Torontoist names hockey homophobia as one of its “Villains of 2011.” The article gives a brief overview of the various ways in which homophobia intersected with hockey in the past calendar year. [Torontoist, via @HockeyAgainstH8]

General Sport Links

  • Fantastic article about Venus With Muscles, a new book by David L. Chapman and Patricia Vertinsky that examines historical popular portrayals of muscular women. [Brain Pickings]
  • Interesting post about Twitter is reshaping media, including sports media, and opening up new opportunities for writers. [Outkick the Coverage, via Puck Daddy]

Weekly Links: Patrick Burke’s Fight Against Homophobia; Georges Laraque and Dick Pound on PEDs in the NHL

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

  • Don Cherry was offered an honourary degree from Royal Military College, but declined the offer after at least one faculty member severely criticized the offer. Unfortunately I was on the road and very busy when this story broke, so could not get into the matter in any depth, but it’s an interesting topic – especially around issues of free speech and the politics of honourary degrees. [Globe and Mail]
  • Lots of interesting recent commentary about the potential (likely?) performance-enhancing drug (PED) problem in the NHL. Puck Daddy reviewed excerpts from the autobiography of ex-NHLer Georges Laraque, in which he calls out the NHL and NHL Player’s Association for not inadequate testing for PEDs. [Puck Daddy]
  • Meanwhile, Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency who has previously criticized the NHL’s drug testing policies, weighed in on the issue. [Globe and Mail]
  • If you missed our story about efforts to erode homophobia in hockey (in which these two stories were quoted and linked), do check out the two fantastic pieces written about the activism of Patrick Burke, the son of Maple Leafs GM Brian and brother of the late Brendan Burke. [Puck Buddys and Vancouver Sun]
  • The details about the NHL’s overseas television deal. I feel that some media scholar has a thesis-in-waiting examining the NHL’s efforts to grow its brand globally. This broadcast deal is a major part of these efforts. [Globe and Mail]
  • The Ontario Hockey League takes a hard line on dangerous hits, serving up a 20-game suspension for an elbow to the head. Are such suspensions enough to curb destructive violence in hockey? [The Star]

General Sport Links

  • A damning critique of NCAA universities that prioritize “protecting the brand” over dealing with unethical or immoral behaviour in their sport programs. Upsetting stuff not just about Penn State’s attempt to sweep under the rug a sexual abuse scandal, which has now claimed the jobs of the football team’s head coach and the university’s president, but the misplaced priorities of NCAA universities. [CSN Bay Area]
  • A UK study finds that women’s sport attracts only 0.5% of all sport sponsorship, versus 61.1% for men’s sport (mixed sport accounts for the remainder). That means men’s sport receives 122 times more funding that women’s – for the visual thinkers, imagine lining up the Empire State Building (1454 feet) next to a basketball hoop (roughly 12-13 feet, to the top of the backboard) and that gives you a sense of the disparity in dollar terms. [The Guardian; h/t to Hockey in Society reader Malinda for the link]
  • An Australian field hockey player speaks about becoming the third Australian male athlete to come out of the closet. Lots of interesting stuff in this article about the masculine Australian sport culture and how straying from the heterosexual norm carries significant risks. [Sydney Morning Herald; h/t to reader Lori for the link]
  • Hockey in Society contributor Courtney Szto examines why women are so significantly underrepresented in coaching positions. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • Good piece about the payment of athletes in NCAA sport, and the tensions between the amateur ideal in sport and the mythology surrounding the American Dream. [Grantland]
  • The perspective of a CIS athlete at University of Toronto about the psychology of athletes returning early from or playing through injury. [The Varsity]

Bursting the Dam? The Slow Erosion of Hockey Homophobia

Sport, very much including hockey, is for the most part a hostile environment for people who do not conform to the dominant ideals of the given sporting culture. Especially in physical contact sports such as hockey, football, or lacrosse – in short, sports that have always been associated with and have always celebrated an aggressive and violent masculine identity – there is minimal room for players who are seen as weak, effeminate, or non-physically dominant. Such players are tolerated at best (if they possess the skill and mental fortitude to stay in the sport) and, at worst, punished with physical or psychological abuse to the point that they may consider taking their own lives.

While this is sadly a phenomenon that occurs in various walks of life (especially in high schools) where straying from the social norm is met with suspicion or hostility, most sport sociologists agree that competitive sport can be a particularly cruel environment for those who do not conform to expected codes of behaviour. This is because sport, unlike many other spheres of social life, has been extremely resistant to change, even in the face of much broader progressive social change. In the area of gay rights, sport is light years behind a North American society that has, despite a significant and ongoing resistance in many quarters, significantly shifted its attitudes toward the acceptance of LGBTQ persons.

This resistance in sport circles can be at least partly explained by sport’s history as a crucible for the sculpting of uber-masculine men (read: tough, aggressive, and heterosexual; scholars refer to this as “hypermasculinity”), and the lingering effects of this approach. Sports – especially aggressive ones – thus have been inextricably tied to a particular kind of masculine identity that dictates what is and is not acceptable behaviour for players. It creates and inside/outside dichotomy in which failure to conform to hypermasculine ideals can make an athlete an outsider and can have devastating consequences. As a result, players who fear they might not fit the hypermasculine ideal often tolerate, or even participate in, the belittling and dehumanizing of others who also do not fit this ideal – these targets typically include women and gay men. Consider just this one example, from an OutSports.com feature on former NFL player Esera Tuaolo:

Tuaolo, a 6-3, 300-pounder who could bench press a house, has to compose himself as he recounts the nasty anti-gay epithets and jokes he heard in various locker rooms in his nine-year career.  “Faggot … queer … fudge-packer … There’s a joke and it’s about anthropologists going to this tribe and it’s about them having intercourse, so they …,” Tuaolo says, his voice trailing off as he looks away, fighting tears.

“I’m pausing,” he tells HBO correspondent Bernard Goldberg, “because you just took me back, took me back to me biting my lip again.” Tuaolo would laugh at the jokes on the outside, but “inside it would be tearing me up, that I stood there and listened to it and didn’t say anything about it.”

He never does finish the joke and the incompleteness mirrors how Tuaolo felt about himself as an NFL player with a secret he dare not reveal–he was gay.

This is just one of the countless examples that illustrate the damaging consequences of sporting hypermasculinity on those who do not conform to its ideals. However, recently in hockey there have been some encouraging signs that damaging attitudes toward gay people are slowly changing. While this process is a slow one, it hopefully is like poking holes in a dam: at first the water will flow through slowly, but eventually larger cracks will develop until the whole structure collapses. After the jump, I examine some of the recent cracks that have appeared in the homophobia of hockey cultures. Read more of this post