The Hockey Hall of Fame and the Politics of Hockey Legacy: How and Why Are Certain Players Remembered?
July 5, 2012 5 Comments
Last week, the Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) announced the four men who would be the Hall’s 2012 inductees. The four, who will all enter in the Player category, are Joe Sakic, Pavel Bure, Mats Sundin, and Adam Oates. Surprisingly, despite prominent figures such as former coaches Pat Burns and Fred Shero remaining outside the Hall, no person was selected in the Builders category. Sadly and not surprisingly, given that the HHOF has seen fit to elect just two women since finally opening the honour to females in 2010, no women were selected.
The HHOF selection is process is always controversial and each year there are both surprising decisions and snubs to seemingly deserving people. A major criticism of the HHOF’s selection process is its opaqueness – decisions are made by the selection committee behind closed doors, and no information about the process is made available to the public. Furthermore, reflecting the socio-demographic characteristics of hockey culture, the committee is typically composed of white males, leading to questions about its commitment to diversity. Adam Proteau summed up many of these criticisms when he wrote, in 2008:
In an era where transparency is a valued and an often-demanded approach to virtually all aspects of society, the HHOF allows its most important decisions to be made by a group of middle-aged (to be kind) white dudes who aren’t required to make the thoughts and opinions that went into their decisions available to the public.
That’s just not right – and it’s definitely not the way other modern sports’ halls of fame operate. To be sure, there are some good people who are on the HHOF’s selection committee, people whose judgment and character are beyond reproach.
Nevertheless, so long as those people allow the Hall’s induction process to be held out of view of the general public – you know, the people they depend on to pay admission to the place – they do themselves and the men (and I do mean only the men) they induct a huge disservice.
Given its problematic and political nature, the HHOF induction process offers an excellent opportunity to reflect on the concept of legacy in hockey. In particular, it raises questions about who is remembered and why; about the political and social circumstances that impact the construction of hockey legacies; and about the way in which greatness in sport is selectively constructed by certain people at certain times. After the jump, I explore three issues in the construction of hockey legacies: the power of the media; the power differentials between the hockey establishment and players; and the lingering and ongoing impact of social inequalities. Read more of this post