Weekly Links: MLSE service workers strike, settle; Teenage boys must choose between CHL and NCAA; USA Hockey to ban fighting?

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!

  • Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the multibillion dollar corporation that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, settled with its striking concession and service workers this week. Final details have not yet been released, but the MLSE proposals included wage rollbacks or freezes for many employees. [Rank and File; Toronto Star]
  • Big news in junior hockey, as USA Hockey is looking into banning fighting at all levels of its amateur system, including the junior league the USHL. [SB Nation]
  • Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe has an inside look at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, which is headed by Brendan Shanahan and responsible for fining and suspending players for dangerous play. [Boston Globe]

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Weekly Links: Reaction to Shawn Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik; Big news in Canadian women’s hockey; Academic conferences on hockey research; 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!

  • The attack by the Boston Bruins’ Shawn Thornton on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik, which Courtney Szto discussed on this blog last weekend, has dominated the hockey headlines this week. Nicholas Cotsonika weighed in harshly against the act and the culture of violence in which it occurred. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Jonathan Willis discussed the incident and argued that the “grey area” around self-policing in hockey places players in untenable situations: “As long as the NHL persists in its tight-rope walk between policing the game and allowing the players to dispense . . . “frontier justice” it’s only going to be a matter of time until something like this happens again.” [Cult of Hockey]
  • Jay Rosehill of the Philadelphia Flyers came to Thornton’s defense in this lengthy interview. If you want an insight into the culture of hockey fighting and the “Code” then give this a listed. [Sportsnet]

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Weekly Links: Taylor Fedun’s Remarkable Comeback; Blackhawks Honored at the White House; Fallout from the Flyers-Capitals Line Brawl; Ken Dryden’s Response to Bobby Orr; and more

Source: NHL.com

Source: NHL.com

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!

  • Edmonton Oilers defenceman Taylor Fedun capped off a remarkable comeback to the NHL by scoring a goal in his first NHL game. The Princeton graduate shattered his leg almost two years on an icing play and missed an entire year due to the horrific injury. After playing a full season in the AHL, registering 27 points for the Oklahoma City Barons, Fedun returned to the NHL to resume his career. [Oil Spills]
  • The Chicago Blackhawks were honored at the White House by US President Barack Obama for their Stanley Cup championship. [Second City Hockey]
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new book A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs & The Rise of Professional Hockey was officially released this week. Tony Keller provides an excellent book review. [The Globe and Mail]
  • Ray Emery and the Philadelphia Flyers have taken some heat for the line-brawl against Washington. Even though Emery went after Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who really wanted no part Emery, it doesn’t appear any suspensions are looming. [Broad Street Hockey] Read more of this post

Hockey Research at the 2013 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference

The annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS), a scholarly association for sport sociologists, will take place this week in Quebec City, QC. As usual, the program is packed with interesting presentations on a wide range of critical issues in sport; also as usual (e.g. the 2011 conference), there will be a number of presentations focused on or around the sport of hockey.

Many of the writers for Hockey in Society will be in attendance, and one – Vicky Grygar – will be presenting research on hockey. You can read the full program here, but after the jump I have pasted the abstracts of the hockey-related presentations that will be delivered (please note these are direct quotations of the abstracts and that the intellectual property belongs to the authors). Hopefully this gives readers a sense of some of the research being conducted by sociologists about hockey.

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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

Review: “Hockey: A People’s History” (2006)

In 2006, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired a 10-part series entitled Hockey: A People’s History (HAPH). Adopting the approach used in its popular 2000 miniseries Canada: A People’s History, the CBC focused in this series on the experience of Canadians with the sport of hockey for over a century. Beginning with early ball and stick games played in various societies over human history, the documentary quickly moves on to introducing European ball and stick games played on ice and First Nations baggataway (the forerunner to what became institutionalized as the sport of lacrosse) as the predecessors to modern hockey. After this very brief homage to hockey-like folk games, the documentary discusses the early organization of ice hockey by amateur athlete in Montreal and proceeds from there to focus entirely on the development of hockey in Canada over a roughly 125 year period.

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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


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.


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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Outside the Glass: Linking the “Virtual Self” to Hockey Analytics

Source: The Monkey Buddah (Paul Micarelli)

Hockey analytics has become an important component of the participatory culture surrounding the game. Anyone within the hockey community, including fans and league managers, can use numerous tools and techniques to detect patterns in the data available, in order to follow and understand the game. The NHL as well as mainstream media websites provides ample data for people to work with, while others “outside” of the game, including fans and independent organizations, can develop their own data and methods to complete analysis.

Hockey analytics can be done by anyone with a computer and basic software, depending on how large of a dataset is being examined. The analytic models are dependent on an individual’s or communities’ creativity and rationale, so effective measurement of performance are up for debate and development. Numerous examples of extensive correlations, ranging from simple to complex, can be found, with the vast majority of these analyses open to feedback and collaboration. For example, fans can find a correlation between a team’s scoring chances and the quality of the shots they take (NHL Numbers) . Another example is the correlation between a player’s presence on the ice in relation to the success of the rest of his teammates on the ice (The Copper & Blue). Depending on the goals of the individual or community that analyzes the data, this could be tracked over time to make comparisons and to validate findings.

Currently, data analytics is an emerging trend that is gaining prominence in a wide array of fields. Sales, marketing, healthcare, transportation and construction are just a few of the industries relying more and more on data to understand their environment and to make the right decisions. Governments, such as the City of Edmonton,  have even begun publishing massive public datasets, available for anyone to use either for their analysis, or to develop new technological tools or services.

Emerging trends

Along with the data collected and supplied by organizations such as the City of Edmonton or the NHL, an extensive amount of data is being supplied by individuals themselves. Mobile technologies, along with countless applications, have given individuals the ability to generate data about themselves and their own behaviors. This data is released both unintentionally, such as when mobile gaming applications receive access to the users web browsing history , as well as intentionally, such as when individuals publish their location when using Twitter or Facebook. This intentional release of data has become a popular activity amongst users from various demographics and backgrounds, as they track their own activities and goals. In her book “The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us”, Nora Young (2012) uses numerous examples and case studies to not only highlight this emergence of self-reporting, but also the societal ramifications of this behavior.

“For all its pleasures and benefits, digital life fundamentally time-shifts and place-shifts us out of the here and now. It is precisely this disembodied, distracted, digital life we lead…that is creating the urge to document the physical body” (Young, p. 3).

While Young’s focus is on the potential application of personal data to benefit the needs of society as a whole, including Government and communities, one could also envision how this personal data can be used for specific purposes, such as hockey analytics.

The next generation of hockey players

The reason this self-reported data is important to hockey analytics is because of the young class of players entering minor and professional leagues. A rising number of players are using web technology to interact with fans and promote the game, but also to maintain their own personal networks and participate within their own online communities. In doing so, these players are leaving behind a digital trail of their online activity that develops this “virtual self” Young (2012) describes. Some of their activity is from before they even became popular professional players. This trend of publishing personal data, whether intentionally or not, is becoming common, especially for those who are “born digital” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008). Those who are born after 1980 have developed in the digital age, according to the authors, and have a different understanding of identity, privacy and information than their predecessors. This generation is more comfortable exchanging their data for services to simply track their behavior or to construct their online identity.

Future of hockey analytics

Based on the current technological environment and various traits of the hockey industry, there are strong indications that the data players release themselves will have a significant impact on the future of hockey analytics. This linking of real data, or that created from actual hockey games, to the “virtual self”, or data published by individual hockey players, is a strong possibility.

For one, the amount of attention young players receive, starting from an early age, demonstrates the demand the hockey community, including fans and the NHL, have for information. Young players are being tracked and analyzed to find information about their personal backgrounds, other interests or academics as well as their stories of making it to the NHL. By the time they reach the NHL draft, their statistics and back stories are developed and ready to be analyzed. Second, hockey analytics is developing at a significant rate due in part to a growing online community working together that develops new ideas and research methodologies. If a correlation between two or more variables is suspected, based on some sort of reasoning, this community has demonstrated their ability to either search for the data or somehow find a way to generate that data. Third, analytic tools and mobile technology are becoming easier to use. For hockey players, this means their personal data is more and more readily available. For the analytic community, this means data is easier to acquire, share and utilize for various purposes.

Today, a player’s performance can be tied to a number of variables, typically available from game performances and results. In the future, a player’s personal workout schedule, practice regime or data outside of game results could potentially be correlated to their on-ice performance. It may seem farfetched now, but as more and more creative web and mobile applications get released, combined with the demand of data and information by the hockey community, hockey analytics will evolve and utilize the personal data published by this new generation of hockey players.


Micarelli, P. (2010, December 3). [Image]. Drawing the Internet. The Monkey Buddah. Retrieved from http://monkeybuddha.blogspot.ca/2010/12/drawing-internet.html

Nowak, P. (2012, June 8). The Virtual Self: Nora Young on digital self-tracking. Canadian Business. Retrieved from http://www.canadianbusiness.com/blog/tech/87106–the-virtual-self-nora-young-on-digital-self-tracking

Palfrey, J. and Gasser, U. (2008). Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. Basic Books: USA.

Young, N. (2012). The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering the World Around Us. McClelland & Stewart: Canada.

Film Review: “Theo Fleury: Playing With Fire” (2011)

Theo Fleury: Playing With Fire is a 2012 documentary that paints an intimate portrait of former NHL player Theoren Fleury. The film, which shares its title with Fleury’s 2009 autobiography Playing With Fire, was screened in Toronto at the Hot Docs film festival, where I watched it on Saturday. Fleury’s story is complex, tragic and inspiring, and the film does a good job of capturing the complex and contradictory aspects of Fleury’s personality.

Fleury achieved NHL stardom with the Calgary Flames in the 1990s, and later played for the Colorado Avalanche, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. Despite standing just 5’6”, Fleury played with a tenacious determination that won him as many admirers as enemies. While few questioned his hockey abilities, Fleury increasingly became known for erratic and aggressive on-ice actions and a host of off-ice incidents. On multiple occasions Fleury stepped away from the game to participate in the NHL’s substance abuse program, which seeks to help players who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions. In addition to his mental health and addiction struggles, Fleury revealed in 2009 that as a teenager he had been sexually assaulted by Graham James, a former coach in the Western Hockey League who was imprisoned in 1997 for sexually assaulting Sheldon Kennedy.

The film is essentially a North American road trip with Fleury, who provides the filmmakers with tours of key locations in his life: his hometown of Russell, Manitoba; Winnipeg, where he moved to play junior hockey and where he was first assaulted by James; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where he also played junior hockey under James; Calgary, New York and Chicago, three of the four cities in which he played NHL hockey; and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived during some of his worst struggles with mental illness and addiction. Fleury gave the filmmakers intimate access to his life, with the notable exception of his children, whom Fleury did not want included in the film. Some of the film’s strongest moments are when it captures Fleury philosophizing or moralizing based upon his recollections of his life and his ongoing experiences. Read more of this post