Hockey Research at the 2014 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference

One of the things we like to do at Hockey in Society is highlight current sociocultural research about hockey being done by scholars across the globe (you can see various posts related to academic conferences here). Last week, the annual conference for the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS), a scholarly association for sport sociologists, took place in Portland, Oregon. Unfortunately I was not able to attend, but the program is published online, so I am still able to highlight the research being presented that it relevant to the critical study of hockey and its place in society.

After the jump, check out the abstracts from relevant presentations (including from Hockey in Society writers Courtney Szto and Matt Ventresca). Topics include entrepreneurship and the formation of all-Black sport leagues (including the Colored Hockey League in the Canadian Maritimes) in the Reconstruction Era; racialized media media representations of black players, including the Montreal Canadiens’ P.K. Subban; the demise of Hockey Night in Canada and La soirée du hockey and the loss of hockey on Canada’s pubic broadcasters; social media reaction to Punjabi hockey broadcasts; and concussions in sport.

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Weekly Links: Reaction to Voynov’s arrest for domestic violence; Ex-players’ lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League; Szabados and Raty play in men’s pro leagues; 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!

  • After a gunman killed a Canadian reservist and attempted an attack on Parliament in Ottawa, the Pittsburgh Penguins played the Canadian anthem before their game against the Philadelphia Flyers as a show of respect. [Sportsnet]
  • The news that Slava Voynov of the Los Angeles Kings had been arrested for domestic violence has generated a huge amount of discussion and debate (currently charges are likely or will be dropped, depending on whether you listen to the DA or to his Voynov’s lawyer). Adam Proteau argues that the NHL should adopt a zero tolerance policy for domestic violence and ban players found guilty of this crime for life. [The Hockey News]
  • Meanwhile, writer stace_ofbase from Battle of California uses the Voynov case to discuss domestic violence more broadly and call for empathy for victims. [Battle of California]
  • NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is receiving kudos, and favourable comparisons to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of Ray Rice’s violent assault, for handling this situation swiftly and suspending Voynov indefinitely until a verdict is reached. I find it sad that this response even needs to be applauded rather than taken as granted, but given the pro sport world’s track record on domestic violence perhaps we need to start by pointing out when a league acts sensibly in response to a new incident. [Puck Daddy; Globe and Mail]
  • For those wondering about the moral quandary of cheering for athletes who do bad things off the ice/court/field, this scholarly roundtable discussion (written in light of the Ray Rice case) is fascinating reading. [The Allrounder]

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Mark Popovic, KHL player and former NHLer, on hockey culture and labour vs. passion in a pro career

This is one in a series of posts in which I will report back from The Hockey Conference that I attended in London, ON from June 18-20, 2014. As I did not digitally record any of the proceedings, any direct quotations may contain slight inaccuracies – however, I have endeavored to capture the essence of the commentary and to reproduce it as accurately as possible.

The first keynote of the conference featured Mark Popovic, a former NHL player who played 81 games over five seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Atlanta Thrashers, and current player with Croatian club Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL. For reference, you can view his career stats here.

The keynote took a unique form, as conference organizer and Western University sport historian Dr. Don Morrow conducted a one-on-one interview in the vein of the popular Inside the Actor’s Studio television program. Popovic was gracious and forthcoming with his answers, although, as will be discussed, there was a contradiction in his views on the labour process in hockey that was not adequately resolved during the session. Nonetheless, Popovic provided great insight into the life of a professional hockey player and some of the struggles, challenges and rewards of this career. After the jump, I review three of the interesting themes that emerged from this session: hockey as labour, players as commodities, and the expression of passion and love for the sport. I conclude by briefly attempting to explore the apparent contradictions between the first two topics and the latter one. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Sochi reactions and news; Marginalization of female hockey fans; Buffalo building massive downtown hockey complex

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!

  • I just discovered the blog Puckology this week, and it’s pretty great! This article from Clare Austin gives an insightful commentary of how women hockey fans are rendered invisible in marketing. [Puckology]
  • New Englander Charles Pierce reflects on a lifetime of Montreal Canadiens fandom, including comments on Habs legends Jean Beliveau and Ken Dryden. [Grantland]
  • The Ontario Hockey League is stepping up its compensation package for its players, which is huge news. Check out Vicky Grygar’s great piece on this topic that was published on this blog last year for another take. [Sportsnet]
  • In light of Nicklas Backstrom’s failed drug test, which caused him to miss the men’s Gold Medal game between Sweden and Canada, Justin Bourne discusses prescription drug (ab)use in hockey. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin were apparently extremely frustrated with the management of Russia’s Olympic team in Sochi. Some really interesting commentary on the politics of the KHL and Russian hockey. [Pittsburgh TribLive]

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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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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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