Weekly Links: Stephen Harper’s New Book, Concussions in Junior Hockey, NHL Executive Salary, and More

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Source: CBC)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Source: CBC)

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!

  • Congratulations to Team Canada for winning gold at the Four Nations sledge hockey tournament in Russia! All the best to the players as they get set for the Paralympic Winter Games in 2014! [CBC News]
  • The plans for a new arena for a new hockey arena continues to be an issue as the city of Detroit struggles. [Financial Post]
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s book A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey is set to be released in early November. The book will delve into the history of the game with proceeds from the book going to the Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS). [Newswire]
  • It was announced this week that Russian legend Pavel Bure will be heading up a new KHL franchise in Sochi after the Winter Games are completed. It will be interesting to see what other long-term projects stem from the Olympics. [Ria Novosti]
  • While concussions have received a great deal of awareness and scutiny at the NHL level, Chris Peters argues that much more needs to be done at the junior and college levels in order to protect players form long term injuries to the head. [United States of Hockey]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: KHL expansion in Europe; Vancouver Canucks urge fans not to riot; NHL supplemental discipline not a deterrent?

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

  • Adam Proteau criticizes the NHL’s weak supplemental discipline for failing to create deterrents to dangerous play, and calls for much harsher suspensions. [The Hockey News]
  • An interview with Doug Smith, an ECHL and AHL enforcer whose career inspired the recent film Goon. Some interesting insight into the culture of hockey enforcers and “the Code.” [Grantland]
  • The KHL is expanding to Prague, Czech Republic for the upcoming season… [Puck Worlds]
  • … while a Slovakian club, Slovan HC of Bratislava, is also being considered for admittance to the KHL, as the league continues its aggressive European expansion. [KHL]
  • Bruce Dowbiggen discusses the CBC’s search for a new Executive Producer for Hockey Night in Canada. Interesting stuff given the context of Conservative cuts to the CBC and the possibility of the network losing its NHL broadcast rights after the 2013-14 season. [Globe and Mail]
  • Very interesting post by a Colorado Avalanche blogger seeking press credentials to cover the team, particularly in light of the fact that only one newspaper in Denver is credentialed to cover the Avalanche. He is planning to launch a summit of Avalanche bloggers to lobby for credentials. [Jerseys and Hockey Love]
  • The City of Vancouver has released alternative plans for the Vancouver Canucks playoff run, eschewing the downtown street party that was the epicentre for the Stanley Cup Final riot in favour of neighbourhood celebrations. [Puck Daddy; The Globe and Mail]
  • The Canucks also produced a video urging fans not to riot, without actually using the word “riot.” [Nucks Misconduct; Pass it to Bulis]
  • The Calgary Flames are becoming majority owners of the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders. [Globe and Mail]

General Sport Links

  • In the latest chapter of a very interesting ongoing story, 126 former NFL players have become plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the NFL that claims the league had information about the damage caused by concussions but refused to act upon it to protect players. [Shutdown Corner]
  • After years of criticism about the uniforms that female beach volleyball players are forced to wear if they want to compete, the International Volleyball Federation has relented and will allow women to wear shorts and sleeved shirts in competition. [BBC Sport]

Weekly Links: The Changing Hockey Blogosphere; All-Star Game Politics and Economics

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

  • Great and insightful article about the ways in which the hockey blogosphere has changed over the years, and the decline of indie hockey blogs. [A Theory of Ice]
  • Ever wonder what the glamorous life of a Canadian Women’s Hockey League player is like? Check out this report about Brampton’s travels to play Boston: “Each player had to pay her own airfare. . . . All-in-all, the weekend consisted of five hours of driving in the car, five hours of sitting around airports, three hours flying, eight hours in hockey arenas, and three hours on a bus.” [Canadian Hockey Online]
  • A great piece that echoes many of my thoughts about fighting and violence in the NHL. [Puck Buddys]
  • Greg Wyshynski examines Brendan Shanahan’s performance as the NHL’s VP of Player Safety. [Puck Daddy]
  • An editorial, with which I strongly agree, calls for an end to fighting in junior hockey. [Globe and Mail]
  • Stu Hackel explains why, despite playing an exhibition game in Brooklyn next season, the New York Islanders will not be moving there. [Red Light]
  • Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is attempting to convince the NHL to allow its players to play in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. [Puck Daddy]
  • If you were wondering what is the point of a glorified game of shinny featuring no hitting, backchecking, or defensive awareness (i.e. the NHL All-Star Game), David Shoalts will fill you in: it’s all about the money (and the fans who spend money). [Globe and Mail]
  • Speaking of the All-Star Game, Columbus will host the event in 2013 (assuming there is no lockout). [TSN]
  • Ellen Etchingham looks at the history of the All-Star Game and asks why it is not used to support players who are injured or to do further research to improve player safety. [Backhand Shelf]
  • In honour of the late Rick Rypien, the Vancouver Canucks have launched a mental health awareness campaign. [Nucks Misconduct; Canucks Army]
  • I wrote last week about Tim Thomas’ political decision not to visit the White House. Justin Bourne notes that, despite Thomas’ efforts to downplay the event, he is forever linked to the decision – sometimes in some very humorous ways. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Finally, on the heels of my post about Tim Hortons this week, I found this amusing 2006 article about the same commercial I critiqued. It also contains some interesting tidbits about the cultural resonance of the advert. [Maclean's]

Non-Hockey Links

  • Insightful look at the political implications of the recent and tragic soccer violence in Egypt. [Foreign Policy]
  • Interesting look at concussions in the NFL in light of the admission by some New York Giants that they targeted a San Francisco 49er players who had a history of concussions. [SB Nation]

Mixing Politics and Hockey: Should Tim Thomas be Condemned for Declining President Obama’s Invitation to Visit the White House?

It is an annual tradition that various US-based championship teams get invited by the President to visit the White House to be honoured for their accomplishments. I am not certain how far back this practice dates, but at least can confirm that it was already an established tradition as early as 1985. Usually these visits are jovial and non-confrontational affairs, with the height of controversy usually peaking with President Obama cracking jokes about the superiority of Chicago sports teams. That being said, as Greg Wyshynksi noted on Puck Daddy earlier today, the President does sometimes get snubbed by athletes. Obama, for example, has for various reasons had a retired and current NFL player and a number of NASCAR drivers turn down invitations to visit the White House.

Yesterday, as the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins paid their visit to the White House, a controversy erupted as superstar goalie Tim Thomas refused to attend. Thomas has made no secret of his support for the Republican Party (link via Puck Daddy), although in his statement on the matter he insinuated that he would have declined the invitation even if the current President was a Republican. Although Thomas stated that his choice “was not about politics,” his full statement on the issue indicates that it was absolutely politically motivated. Via NHL.com, here is Thomas’ full statement on the matter:

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

On Twitter earlier tonight I asked the following question as a result of this incident:

After some back and forth with some Twitter users who disagreed, I realized that I need to more fully explore this question given that my subsequent tweets were vague and I feel that Twitter is too brief a medium to fully explain my thoughts on this issue. Ultimately to me, the answer to this hinges on the answer to one key question: are the visits of athletes to the White House political (or partisan) acts? After the jump, I explore this issue in more depth. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Critiquing the World Juniors; Winter Classic Reaction; How Players Become Agitators

Image from: http://www.cbc.ca

Hockey Links

  • Two more great post from the Hockey in Society writing team this week: Matt Ventresca on the World Junior Championships and Courtney Szto on the forthcoming film “Goon.”
  • An excellent critique of selective Edmonton media coverage and how it shifts public perception of specific players, and thus takes heat off of management by suggesting that certain individual players, not the organization itself, are responsible for the team’s recent lack of success. [Copper and Blue]
  • Lots more interesting World Junior Championships reading this week. First up, a great critique of Eric Francis’ (of the Calgary Sun) criticism of Russian star Yevgeni Kuznetsov – noting that Francis deflects criticism away from Canada’s losing performance or the actions of its fans by focusing on the Russian teenager. [Buzzing the Net]
  • And from the same blog, an interesting post about the possibility of a future Toronto WJC – and whether players should share in the massive profits generated by the tournament when it is held in large Canadian cities. [Buzzing the Net]
  • Joe Pelletier criticizes TSN’s coverage of the WJC tournament, including the “over-the-top nationalism that TSN forces upon us,” for killing his love of the tournament. [Greatest Hockey Legends]
  • Similarly, Stephen Brunt finds the entire spectacle to be “overkill.” [Sportsnet]
  • The Globe and Mail looks at why the WJC has such an allure in Canada. Personally, I think Matt’s post is much closer to the mark than this article. [Globe and Mail, via Kukla's Corner]
  • From the WJC to the Winter Classic, which took place on January 2. The event produced its lowest ratings since it started in 2008, though it is increasingly becoming a merchandise juggernaut. [Puck Daddy]
  • There were mitigating factors in the ratings, and Steve Lepore offers five reasons why he predicts a ratings bounce back next season. [Puck the Media]
  • And Puck Daddy looks at where the NHL Winter Classic is likely to be played in future years. [Puck Daddy]
  • Interesting article by former referee Kerry Fraser about trash-talking in the NHL, and how some players are forced into an agitator role if they want to progress in their hockey careers. [TSN, h/t to Hockey in Society Peter for the link]
  • Was the NHL oversensitive in its one game suspension of Krys Barch? Barch asked P.K. Subban, a Canadian of Jamaican heritage, whether he slipped on a banana peel after losing his footing during an altercation. While it was not a sensitive choice of words, apparently this is a common on-ice expression in hockey. What do you think? [Puck Daddy]
  • Former NHL superstar Pat Lafontaine speaks about concussions and athletes’ feeling of invincibility: “I should have been sent to the hospital. I should have spent the night, but I remember as an athlete that, you know, you’re gonna overcome these things.” [SB Nation]
  • Following on our post about Adam Proteau’s new book, Fighting the Good Fight, Greatest Hockey Legends had an interview with the author back in November. [Greatest Hockey Legends]
  • This is a little bit old, but Puck Daddy had an interesting post about whether the ways in which HBO represents the NHL in its documentary series 24/7 is at odds with the league’s current approach toward violence and aggressive play. [Puck Daddy]
  • The Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident is still working its way through the courts, eight years after the attack occurred. The latest wrinkle: Bertuzzi has dropped his lawsuit against ex-coach Marc Crawford, who Bertuzzi claimed ordered him to attack Moore as retribution for a borderline hit on Canucks captain Markus Naslund. [Globe and Mail]
  • Is Brian Burke’s claim that hitting is on the decline in the NHL accurate? [Pension Plan Puppets]

General Sport Links

  • Hockey in Society’s own Courtney Szto critiques the claims that sports mega-events such as the Olympics improve the economic circumstances of the host cities and countries. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • Meanwhile, Brazil’s World Cup preparations are justifying mass evictions, the razing of neighbourhoods, and other human rights abuses. [Huffington Post]
  • Interesting story about Qatar’s efforts to improve its female representation at international sporting events, particularly as it bids for the 2020 Olympic Games. Lots of  intersecting issues here, including gender norms in a conservative Muslim country and the role of sports in the crafting of a nation’s international image. [Muslim Women in Sports, via Women Talk Sports Network]
  • The National Football League is facing a series of lawsuits from former players, who claim that the league is partially responsible for the brain trauma suffered during their playing careers. [New York Times]
  • Interesting story looking at New York Times sports coverage in 1912, 1937, 1962, and 1987, in which time the types and extent of coverage obviously changed a huge amount. [The Atlantic, via @wparker]
  • Looking at the challenges facing Afghan women who are competing in boxing for their country. [Globe and Mail]
  • Finally, an interesting post about the impact of sport and popular culture website Grantland. [LA Times]

Weekly Links: World Juniors Turn Massive Profits, Players Play for Free; More Discussion About Hockey Concussions

Editor’s Note: Weekly Links, which usually publish on Friday, are late due to the holiday weekend. We should be back to the regular schedule this week.

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

  • As the World Junior Hockey Championships gets underway in Alberta, Roy MacGregor has an interesting read about the annual tournament. One of the few articles I’ve seen that mention, if not in much detail, the fact that the tournament generates huge revenues for a variety of organizations, businesses, and individuals – all on the back of free teenage labour. [Globe and Mail]
  • Interesting mix of politics and hockey, as the US Congress calls on the International Ice Hockey Federation to pull the 2014 World Championships from Belarus. This hockey event was specifically highlighted as part of broader legislation aimed at punishing Belarus for violent repression of political protestors. [AFP, h/t to @Sean_Leahy for the link]
  • If you have not seen it yet, Ken Dryden has an excellent piece about concussions and the need for proactive action. [Grantland]
  • Good video blog from CBC announcer Jim Hughson about concussions: “There’s still too much pretending that concussions aren’t really what they are. What we do know is that there’s no mild, no severe concussion, no concussion-like symptoms – it’s either a concussion or it isn’t. Everyone at every level of hockey accepting that admission might be a great next step.” [CBC Sports; via Canadian Sports Fan]
  • Steve Lepore praises an episode of the VERSUS show NHL Live, which focused on concussions, for its restraint and its acknowledgement of different perspectives. [Puck the Media]
  • Much more reaction to the Montreal Canadiens hiring of Randy Cunneyworth, who does not speak French. [Yahoo! Sports; SB Nation; Globe and Mail]
  • Meanwhile, some Quebec social movement groups are planning to protest against the Canadiens outside the Bell Centre at an upcoming game. [Puck Daddy]
  • Eric Duhatschek explores why Quebec no longer produces a large number of NHL-caliber goaltenders. [Globe and Mail]
  • Interesting article about hockey in Israel, where there is only one hockey rink in the entire country and the sport interacts with religion and ethnicity in unexpected ways. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Finally, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell turns environmentalist as his favourite fishing habitat is threatened by a proposed hydroelectric project. [Globe and Mail]

General Sport Links

  • The NFL has improved its concussion protocol by having an independent trainer, rather than a team-employed medical professional, on the sidelines to check out suspected concussions. [Globe and Mail]

Weekly Links: Chris Pronger, Sidney Crosby, and Concussions in the NHL; Rogers/Bell Purchase of MLSE

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

  • First up, I am pleased that in the past month we have welcomed two new writers to Hockey in Society: Matt Ventresca and Ted Nolan. Please check out their recent first posts on the politics of NHL support for Movember and fighting and hockey justice, respectively. The additions of Matt and Ted bring our awesome writing crew up to five people!
  • Shocking news from the Philadelphia Flyers late this week, as GM Paul Holmgren announces that star player Chris Pronger has suffered “severe post-concussion syndrome” and will not play for the remainder of the season and playoffs. Eric Duhatschek wonders if this is the end of Pronger’s career and explains the rarity of such long-term concussion planning. [Globe and Mail]
  • Greg Wyshynksi weighs in on Pronger and questions whether or not there is a concussion “epidemic” in hockey. [Puck Daddy]
  • Pronger’s concussion comes hot on the heels of Sidney Crosby being ruled out of play indefinitely for NHL teams’ euphemism du jour, “concussion-like symptoms”. [PensBurgh]
  • Maple Leafs Sport & Entertainment has been sold to telecommunications rivals Bell Communications and Rogers Communications, who each own nearly 40% of the company. [Pension Plan Puppets]
  • A breakdown of how this surprising deal was consummated. [Globe and Mail]
  • Travis Hughes examines this “absolutely bizarre” deal between rival companies. [SB Nation]
  • After Montreal Gazette writer Pat Hickey criticized Theoren Fleury for not speaking up about his abuse at the hands of former coach Graham James, Andrew Berkshire offers a strong rebuttal against Hickey. [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
  • CBC and NBC commentator Mike Milbury – once described by Roy MacGregor as “Don Cherry with training wheels” – has been charged with assault for an incident in a youth hockey game in which he was coaching. Jonathan Willis has a solid take, noting that Milbury’s actions are not likely worse than many hockey parents (though this does not justify them) but that this incident could doom his broadcasting career. [Leafs Nation]
  • UPDATE: Milbury has left the CBC indefinitely, while the legal process plays out. [Globe and Mail]
  • Interesting stuff: A map of the five professional hockey leagues operating in 1926-27, including the American Hockey Association and the Prairie Hockey League. [Hockey Historysis]
  • A number of doctors have offered a medical perspective on the impact of hockey fighting. [New York Times]
  • Sweden opens its own Hockey Hall of Fame. [Nucks Misconduct]

General Sports Links

  • Fascinating article about a professional luca libre wrestler in the US whose conservative, anti-immigrant persona is designed to rile up the Hispanic supporters of the sport. Very interesting fusion of sport, theatre, and politics. [BBC News]
  • As Major League Baseball institutes a dress code for members of the press, Charles Pierce criticizes the league’s attempts at controlling the media and the underlying sexism of its new policy. [Grantland]
  • Great read from my fellow PhD student about his research on child trafficking in European soccer. [Darragh McGee Blogs]
  • A strong critique of NFL concussion policies. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Costs for the 2012 Olympic Games in London are soaring. This should not be shocking to anyone who has studied sport mega-events, which routinely run over budget and fail to deliver many of the promised benefits to their hos communities. [Globe and Mail]

The Politics of Sending Stanley Cup “Loser Gear” to the Developing World

You might notice something funny about the picture above – although they played in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, the Calgary Flames lost Game 7 and the Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But, of course, the NHL licensed official Flames championship gear in case the Flames did win the Stanley Cup. This is standard practice for many North American professional leagues, including the NHL – as players pull on official championship hats and t-shirts seconds after winning a Stanley Cup or Super Bowl, and fans rush out to snap up championship merchandise, distributors and manufacturers quietly pack up the “loser gear” that was produced in case the other team won the decisive game. In simple economic reasoning, the leagues and their distributors know that the profits to be made by having championship gear immediately available for sale far outweighs the cost of producing a separate set of merchandise that will never be sold.

So what happens to the “loser” gear? As a recent post at The Post Game explains, most often it is donated to international NGOs that distribute it in various developing countries around the world:

For World Vision International and a small number of other nonprofit groups, the gear that proclaims the wrong team champion is a windfall. The leagues can’t very well destroy thousands of perfectly good caps and shirts, sizes ranging from petite to double extra large. So they donate it to humanitarian organizations to hand out in developing nations.

“The clothing has been distributed in more than 100 countries, all over Africa, to Asian nations, to Latin America and Europe,” said Dean Owen, a World Vision executive. “It goes to places of the greatest need, definitely not to Sweden, but definitely to Zimbabwe.”

As with many micro-level issues in hockey, the charitable efforts of the NHL (and other sports leagues) must be situated in their broader sociopolitical context to be properly understood. At first glance, these donations appear to be a win-win: leagues such as the NHL offload useless and potentially embarrassing merchandise, and people living in poverty receive aid in the form of clothing. Sure, t-shirts and hats might not be as high priority as food or medicine, but it’s free and better than nothing, right?

Turns out it is not nearly that simple, and there are some compelling arguments as to why these donations of “loser gear” contribute toward some international aid practices that are very damaging to the economies of developing countries and the livelihoods of their citizens. As with most international development programs, there are two sides to the coin: after the jump I explore the arguments for and against this practice. Read more of this post

Hockey and Militarism: What’s the Connection and Why Does it Matter?

On September 6, at Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg, four members of the recently relocated Winnipeg Jets stepped out of a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) transport plane in the official unveiling of the team’s new jerseys. The choreographed spectacle, not to mention the RCAF-inspired logo that now adorns the Jets’ jerseys, made overt the ties between professional sport and the military—a relationship that has a long history in North America. The choice to link the new team with the Canadian Forces was polarizing, with some decrying the decision and many others supporting it. The Jets organization, meanwhile, pronounced it a tribute both to the RCAF and to the aviation heritage of Winnipeg.

The new Jets jersey, and the manner in which it was introduced, are but one example of the increasing intertwining of professional sports franchises in Canada and the United States with their respective national militaries. From the playing of God Bless America to “honour the troops” at MLB games to features on US military members during NFL broadcasts, one need not look very hard to find overt evidence of these links.

Why do such strong ties between professional sport and the military exist? How are these links popularly represented? What are the political and social implications of this relationship? These are all important questions that are asked far too infrequently in popular discussions about sport. And they are questions that, in the coming weeks, Hockey in Society will be exploring. While the broader spectrum of North American sport will certainly be considered, the specific focus will remain on hockey and the Canadian military.

I aim to explore this topic from a variety of angles to develop an understanding of how, why, and to what extent the institutions of sport and the military became enmeshed. While I have my own opinions on the matter, I am attempting to keep this investigation as balanced and open-ended as possible and to allow you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions from the research. My current plan is to present this exploration in five parts, all of which will hopefully be posted within a month or two. Here is the form I expect this project to take:

  • Part 1 – The history of militarism and hockey
  • Part 2 – The symbolic importance of nicknames and logos
  • Part 3 – The use of martial language in hockey
  • Part 4 – Hockey and Canadian militarism since 9/11
  • Part 5 – Why does the military-hockey relationship matter?