Weekly Links: Race and the treatment of Evander Kane; Hockey media news and insight; Quintal replaces Shanahan at NHL head office; 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!

  • Arctic Ice Hockey examines the role of race in the treatment in Winnipeg of the Jets’ Evander Kane. [Arctic Ice Hockey]
  • William Douglas gives a historical overview of Asians’ involvement in professional hockey. [Color of Hockey]
  • Sportsnet is seeking input from fans and developing a Fan Advisory Panel. Fans can provide input on programming and other broadcast concepts.  [Sportsnet]
  • Pat Maclean looks into some of the false narratives built by media and the negative ramifications of poor information. A fantastic piece. [Black Dog Hates Skunks]
  • With news the the Canadian government is slashing its budget by $130 million, the CBC has announced that it will no longer bid on professional sports, including, obviously, hockey broadcasts. [CBC]

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Weekly Links: Life in hockey’s minor-pro leagues; Critiquing perceptions of toughness in light of Rich Peverley’s collapse; CWHL and NCAA women’s champions crowned; 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!

  • Really good read from Clare Austen on the reaction of some hockey fans to Rich Peverley’s collapse during a game a few weeks ago, with a critique of the “toughness” that many hockey people value over player safety. [Puckology]
  • Paul Hunter has a really insightful long-form piece about life for players and staff on the Brampton Beast, a new team in the Central Hockey League. Really fascinating insight into life in pro hockey’s minor leagues. [Toronto Star]
  • … while in NCAA action, Clarkson University upset the heavily favoured University of Minnesota (which had lost just one game all season) to capture the NCAA women’s hockey title. [Puck Daddy]
  • Matt Drake gives a historical overview of black hockey players in hockey, beginning with the Eastern Canadian Coloured Hockey League in the late 1800s up to the present day collection of stars such as PK Subban, Evander Kane and Jarome Iginla. [Habs Eyes on the Prize]

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Weekly Links: Successful Toronto youth program for disadvantaged and minority boys; the business of the NHL; Stu Grimson, Jim Thomson weigh in on fighting; 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!

  • A really interesting read from William Douglas about the Skillz Black Aces and the Black Mafia, two Toronto teams for male youth of colour that were “created to give minority and disadvantaged Canadian youth the exposure and the opportunity to play the expensive sport of hockey.” The teams have featured NHLers such as Kevin Weekes, Anson Carter, Joel Ward, Chris Stewart, and Wayne Simmonds. [Color of Hockey]
  • Eric Duhatschek conducted an in-depth interview with NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, that explored topics such as potential expansion, league revenues, Canadian TV contracts, and more. [Globe and Mail]
  • Meanwhile, Greg Wyshynski interviewed the NHL’s John Collins about the NHL Stadium Series and various media ventures, including its newly announced “NHL Revealed.” [Puck Daddy]

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Teaching a sociocultural course on hockey at the undergraduate level: Thoughts on course content and critically engaging students

Starting next week, I will be teaching a third year course to undergraduates in University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. The course is called “Hockey in Canadian Society” – and yes, I realize that the title is incredibly similar to the name of this blog! I am extremely excited, if a little nervous, about starting the course. I do not have nerves about public speaking or about the course preparation – I have been excited to teach this course for months and so have already spent quite a lot of time on its design – but rather whether I can successfully impart the complexities of hockey’s social construction in Canadian society to undergraduate students.

This post simply offers an overview of the course, my thoughts about engaging students critically with a sport many of them love, and presents a list of sources that students will read. I hope that it may provide a useful resource for other scholars teaching about hockey and more generally provide a useful list of some good academic and online sources about the sport. If you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions please let me know!

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The Hockey Hall of Fame and the Politics of Hockey Legacy: How and Why Are Certain Players Remembered?

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

Jack Adams Arena: A fragile island of hockey diversity

Including an interview with outgoing Detroit Hockey Association President Will McCants

Willie O’Ree, with members of the Detroit Dragons, after they won the Willie O’Ree Cup.

Take Lyndon East from Greenfield in northwest Detroit and you’ll go through a neighborhood of detached bungalows and then random industrial parks and warehouses. It’s a quiet, non-distinct stretch of road in an often eerily quiet city. To your left will emerge, after the cemetery, a long, low, grey building. You might notice it, what with the large parking lot out front, or you might not. But if it’s hockey season, there’s a good chance that inside Jack Adams Arena there’s a game on, there’s players winding down from the last game and there’s players getting ready for the next. Unless it’s Sunday or Monday, when the rink is closed due to budget cuts, or in the early fall and late spring, when the rink is closed due to budget cuts.

Jack Adams Arena

This being Hockeytown and Michigan, nothing surprising about an ice rink. What makes Jack Adams remarkable is that it is one of only a few indoor rinks in Detroit proper, and it’s the only one that draws mainly from the city itself. Detroit is an 85% Black city and Jack Adams and The Detroit Hockey Association (or DHA, which runs the rink’s hockey programming) have been increasingly drawing from Detroit’s Latino community, in large part through cooperation with Southwest Detroit’s Clark Park, which includes an outdoor rink. As a result, DHA ices teams that are, let’s say, less White than you might expect. And you would expect that with good reason, because hockey is still a White-dominated sport.

Not that race really mattered within the confines of Jack Adams. I know from experience, because I, a white male, played something like eight seasons at Jack Adams. Later, I coached part of a season, and before I ever played, I watched my older brother play there. When we were on the ice together, we might have been aware that our racial makeup was somewhat unique, but it never really mattered within the team. When it did matter was when we left the city to play suburban teams, or when those teams came to our lonely stretch of Lyndon to play us. Even then, it didn’t usually matter all that much; we were just like any other team. But there were moments when it mattered intensely. To pick just one example, my final game was an intense playoff elimination game against Dearborn, the suburb founded by Henry Ford in large part so he could escape the city (thus helping set the segregating pace that would define the Detroit area). A fight broke out after the game. Whatever, fights happen after games, and I’m not sure race had anything to do with that. But the fact that the Dearborn police were on hand, just in case the game with all those Detroiters in attendance got out of control, just might have had something to do with race. Two of our players, one in the stands because of a previous suspension and one in uniform, were arrested. Both were Black.

I don’t want to make too big a deal out of that. I mention it only to illustrate the tension our games were capable of causing (to be fair, our team was not always the innocent party, we often gave into the tension ourselves). Despite all that, by icing a diverse team in a non-diverse sport and in a highly segregated metro area, DHA has done a whole lot to bridge the gaps between White and Black. But in doing so it has also revealed the racial gap that exists in both the Detroit metro area and in hockey. That gap is hardly flattering, as was blatantly obvious in the racism recently levelled at the Washington Capital’s Joel Ward.

The twitter-based vitriol aimed at Ward had me thinking about Jack Adams, so I called up an old coach of mine: Will McCants, AKA Coach Will, the outgoing president of DHA and a long time Jack Adams regular and corner stone. DHA works because of people like Coach Will–that includes parents, managers, coaches, etc.–who volunteer their time and effort to make hockey a possibility for kids who otherwise wouldn’t even think of playing hockey, but whose lives are often profoundly altered by the opportunity to do so. Sadly, there cannot be enough Coach Will’s in the world to run a hockey rink if the rink is shut down, which has been a looming possibility at Jack Adams for as long as Detroit has been in its current crisis. Here’s hoping something comes through to ensure the long-term existence of Jack Adams Arena and the Detroit Hockey Association.

My interview with Coach Will follows the jump, but if you want a better idea of what Jack Adams is all about, I suggest you watch the video below. Its story is two decades old, but it gets to the core of this unique hockey organization.  Read more of this post

Once again, hockey fans take to Twitter to hurl racist abuse at Joel Ward

Sadly, this was one of the less-offensive of the many derogatory tweets about Joel Ward this evening.

Less than two weeks ago, after Joel Ward scored in overtime of Game 7 to lead the Washington Capitals past the Boston Bruins, some hockey fans (many of whom identified as Bruins fans) took to Twitter to hurl racist abuse at the black Canadian forward from Toronto. While many fans of the Bruins and hockey more generally objected vociferously, clearly a significant amount of fans felt completely comfortable deploying racist epitaphs to insult the hockey player.

Tonight, Ward took a devastating penalty for the Capitals when, with just over 20 seconds remaining and the Capitals nursing a 2-1 lead, he high-sticked the New York Rangers’ Carl Hagelin and drew blood. The Rangers scored before the buzzer to send the game to overtime and then, with Ward still serving the second half of his double-minor, won the game on a goal by defenseman Marc Staal.

And then the Twitter racists returned in full force.


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Canadian Aboriginals and Hockey: A Complex and Conflicted History (Part 1)

In mid-February, I gave two guest lectures at York University on the topic of Canadian Aboriginal Peoples and hockey. The lectures were delivered to undergraduate students in two different courses: “Sport, ‘Race’ and Popular Culture in Canada” and “Canadian Culture and Physical Activity.”

In the lectures I attempted to explore the experience of Aboriginals in hockey in the broader and extremely complex context of Aboriginal history since colonization. Needless to say this was a challenging subject to broach, and one which is fraught with problematic issues – particularly as I, a white Canadian, was speaking about a colonized people who have been institutionally victimized throughout the past five centuries (in my lectures, I was very upfront about my positionality and its problematic nature).

This was an interesting, and at times very upsetting, subject to research, and I found the lectures and the following questions/discussions very stimulating. I have decided to write about key aspects of my lectures in a series of posts here on Hockey in Society.

After the jump, I present the first of these posts, which examines some aspects of Aboriginal impact on and involvement in hockey until the mid-twentieth century.

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Weekly Links: More Reaction to Herb Carnegie’s Death; Don Cherry’s pro-Ontario Rant; KHL to Play Games in Brooklyn

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

  • Earlier this week I reflected on the legacy of Herb Carnegie. Kevin van Steendelaar has a different take, criticizing the NHL for not acknowledging Carnegie’s passing: “It’s a real shame on them for missing a chance to at least slighty make a right to a terrible wrong those many years ago.” [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
  • The Globe and Mail missed the boat on publishing an obituary for Carnegie, but yesterday it finally published a Dave Shoalts piece that reflects on Carnegie’s life. [Globe and Mail]
  • James Mirtle reports that games missed due to concussions in the NHL are on the rise, although the number of concussions is around the same rate – presumably this is because of stricter precautions about returning to play. Interesting tidbit: apparently only three percent of concussions are a result of fighting. [Globe and Mail]
  • Ellen Etchingham has a good post about the 228th Battalion team, a military hockey squad that played one season in the National Hockey Association before being shipped off to fight in World War One. A very interesting historical perspective on the early links between hockey and militarism, with a brief discussion of the current state of this relationship. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Etchingham also went to bat for Don Cherry, defending him for his rant about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lack of Ontario-born players. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Harrison Mooney, on the other hand, criticizes Cherry’s comments as “subtly prejudiced nonsense.” [Puck Daddy]
  • A few years ago, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) launched a Champions League club competition. It only lasted one season. The federation is now looking to reinstate the competition and is beginning the process with a stakeholder summit. [TSN]
  • The KHL is planning to play regular season games in Brooklyn, at the new Barclays Center that is opening this fall. [Puck Daddy]
  • An inside look at how the LA Kings manages its various new and social media accounts. [The Sports Cortex]
  • Bruce Peter weighs in on the Alexander Radulov controversy and the politics of the NHL-KHL relationship, as the Russian superstar appears ready to make the jump back to the Nashville Predators from Salavat Yualev Ufa of the KHL. [Puck Worlds]

General Sport Links

  • Interesting article about the intrusion of Twitter into sports marketing and, more specifically, sports jerseys. [Social Media Today]
  • Dave Zirin comments on racist chants during the NCAA’s March Madness, directed from the Southern Mississippi University band toward a Puerto Rican player on Kansas State, and the event’s broader political context of anti-immigration sentiment in Mississippi. [The Nation]

Herb Carnegie, Hockey Legacies, and the Lingering Effects of Institutional Racism

On Friday March 9, 2012, Herb Carnegie passed away in a Toronto nursing home. He was 92 years old.

Carnegie’s name is likely not a familiar one to all but the most dedicated hockey fans and scholars of the sport’s history. Carnegie is known primarily for what he did not do – play in the National Hockey League – and for why he did not do it. Despite impressive hockey skills and some excellent seasons in Quebec’s Provincial and Senior hockey leagues (QPHL and QSHL), Carnegie never got the opportunity to play in the NHL. It is all but a certainty that Carnegie, who was a black Canadian of Jamaican heritage, would have played in the NHL if not for his skin colour.

At the peak of Carnegie’s hockey career, when he played for the Sherbrooke Saints of the QPHL and centred the “Black Aces” line (a non-too-subtle reference to the skin colour of Carnegie and his linemates), no black player had ever played in the NHL. Carnegie appears to have been skilled enough to make the league, with Toronto Maple Leafs’ owner Conn Smythe reportedly declaring that he would “give $10,000 to anyone who can turn Herb Carnegie white.” In 1948, Carnegie attended the New York Rangers’ training camp. David Davis, who penned a story about Carnegie’s life in Friday’s New York Times, writes that:

During the first week of camp, [Carnegie] said, the Rangers offered a contract with their minor league club in Tacoma, Wash. He turned it down. A day later, he received an offer to play for their team in St. Paul. He declined. Then came a third offer: to report to New Haven of the American Hockey League, just below the N.H.L.

Carnegie was 28, with a wife, three children and a fourth on the way. He could not afford to take a pay cut.

“It was hard for me to demean myself to take a pee-wee salary when I was worth a senior salary,” he said.

Carnegie believed that he had earned a spot on the Rangers.

“I was as good as the most talented player,” he said. “I was stopped by the color barrier.”

He never got another opportunity.

It was not until 10 years later, in 1958, that Willie O’Ree would finally break the NHL’s colour barrier with the Boston Bruins. Read more of this post