Weekly Links: Hockey growth in the US and abroad; Belarus regime continues to face protests; Racism in hockey; NHL to introduce new tracking technology; and more


Source: Edmonton Oil Kings

Source: Edmonton Oil Kings


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!

  • Congratulations to the Edmonton Oil Kings on winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup! [Cult of Hockey]
  • An international group of artists published a public letter, urging players at the World Championships in Belarus to support the protest movement against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who they argue is using the tournament to legitimize his regime. [The Guardian]
  • Harrison Mooney looks at the way black NHL players like PK Subban and Evander Kane are treated by the NHL, the media and the fan community. [Puck Daddy]
  • Over the past five years, participation in ice hockey in the US has grown 5.1%. [FiveThirtyEight]

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Weekly Links: P.K. Subban targeted by racist Tweets; Larry Kwong honoured at Hall of Fame; Shifts in body-checking since the 1970s; 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!

  • Larry Kwong is considered to be the first man of colour to play in the NHL, having suited up for one shift with the New York Rangers in the 1947-48 season. He is being honoured by having a jersey from his days with the Nanaimo Clippers displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Color of Hockey]
  • Avi Goldberg on notable issues surrounding Twitter during the NHL and NBA playoffs, including  a discussion of reaction to Ron Maclean’s comments about French Canadian referees on Hockey Night in Canada and the dangerous play of the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Cooke. [The Barnstormer]
  • PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens was the target of racist tweets by Boston Bruins fans following Game 1 of the teams’ series, and his response to them has earned him praise from fans and journalists. [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
  • Nick Cotsonika discusses the cultural significance of the Canadiens in Montreal and the passion of their fans. [Yahoo Sports!]

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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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Tensions: The Changing Demographics of Hockey


Harnarayan Singh. Screen capture from the Calgary Flames.

At the end of January the Calgary Flames became the first Canadian team to offer commentary in a language other than English or French.  Flames TV Punjabi will be hosted by none other than Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) – Punjabi Edition’s Harnarayan Singh.  Punjabi is the third most spoken language in Canada and, despite the large Punjabi populations in Vancouver and Toronto, Calgary is the first to capitalize on this growing hockey crazed demographic.  Singh explains that the broadcasts facilitate inter-generational love of the game enabling immigrant Punjabi grandparents to watch the games with their grandchildren.  Many kudos have been passed around for this move by the Calgary Flames, which will hopefully encourage more teams to join suit – and rumour has it that the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking into a similar broadcast opportunity. 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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“A N*gger in Net”: A proud product of Canadian immigration and Canadian integration?

Malcolm Subban. Photo from the Toronto Sun.

Like peanut butter and jam, with Malcolm Subban in net for Team Canada during the World Junior Tournament also came the racist tweets and comments.  It is becoming old news: black hockey player = racist taunts.  If you would like to see what was tweeted check out this article by Rachel DeCoste, ‘A N*gger in Net’: Racism at the World Juniors, or this one by Neate Sager, World junior championship: Racial tinge to social media slams of Canada goalie Malcolm Subban.  Like I said, it’s nothing new when social media enthusiasts capitalize on the rarity of a watching a person of colour play hockey to write about bananas, cages, and monkeys, but what I noticed this time is how writers and commenters are so quick to defend Canada’s multicultural identity.  Granted, not all of the tweets are from Canadians but regardless of where they come from we as noble Canadians often uncritically stand up and say “Whoa! Racism is not cool and that is not what the maple leaf stands for.”  I think it’s time to face that fact that maybe it is what we are about, at least a little.

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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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Playing the White Way: Whiteness and hockey

Nazem Kadri. Photo from OnIslam.net.

Don Cherry has stated outright that “Racism is not in the NHL. Of all the sports in the world, it’s the one that doesn’t have racism.”  Whether true or false his statement is worthy of examination.  If it is true then we have to figure out what it is about hockey that naturally eliminates racism.  Is it the coldness? If that were true then all winter sports would look like the General Assembly at the United Nations.  Is it the condoned fighting? No, that doesn’t seem right.  If Cherry’s statement is false then it his this denial of racism that is in need of critique.  Frankly, I wish that it were the former because then not only would hockey be the greatest game on earth it would also be the key to peace and harmonious international relations. Sadly, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

In 2009, the Globe and Mail (one of Canada’s national newspapers) published a lengthy article on Nazem Kadri titled, Nazem Kadri: Canada’s new game face.  In it we glimpse the Canadian dream – immigrants who move to Canada and their son makes it to the NHL.

The extended Kadri family – typically 60 aunts, uncles and cousins at each game – is scattered around the John Labatt Centre.  Sam’s [Nazem's father] own, elderly parents – his mother easily spotted in a white hijab among clumps of hockey jerseys – are across the ice, two rows up.

They don’t speak much English – Sam’s father refers to the penalty box as habis, Arabic for jail – but having arrived almost empty-handed 40 years ago from Lebanon, where they’d never heard of hockey, they understand the feat their grandson has achieved.  They don’t miss a game.

…He has a fairy-tale story that hockey, more than ever, wants to tell.  Nazem Kadri is not the first Muslim to be drafted into the National Hockey League – perhaps his most prominent predecessor was Montreal’s Ramzi Abid, a left-winger who played several seasons before heading to Europe in 2007.  But none has faced such expectations of stardom.

And why does the NHL want so badly to tell his story? Because as the article says, Kadri “comes at a time when both minor and professional hockey are intent on drawing ethnic communities into the game.”  Surely, this desire stems from an economic standpoint because the more people who play hockey the more money hockey makes, but also in a time where globalization is the norm having a sport that is overwhelmingly white speaks loudly about who has been welcomed into the game and who has not.  Hockey needs a Venus or Serena Williams or a Tiger Woods.  Someone that the NHL can point to and say – what racism?  It needs an alibi.  If non-Whites can not only make it to the pros but dominate a league you can essentially throw the racism card away, right? Read more of this post

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