Weekly Links: History of the USSR’s involvement in Winter Olympics; TSN documentary on sport and homophobia; Fallout from brawl between Canucks and Flames

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 pre-Olympics exhibition in Russia explores the USSR’s involvement in the Winter Olympics, including its significance to the Soviet regime and the political wrangling it entailed. One fascinating tidbit is how the Soviets shifted from playing bandy to playing ice hockey in order to be more competitive in international competition. [The Moscow News; h/t to Joe Pelletier (@HockeyLegends) for the link]
  • TSN is airing a three-part series called ReOrientation, hosted by Aaron Ward, that looks at the impact of homophobia and gay rights in sports. Adam Proteau gives a favourable review, arguing that the show is “another indication of a trip down a road we as a society aren’t turning back from.” [The Hockey News]
  • One unique public good in Toronto is its public skating/hockey rinks, which are maintained by the city and free to use for all. Marcus Gee tours 10 rinks in one day to give an insight into their environment and use by locals. [Globe and Mail]

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“Our game”: What does it mean and who does it include?

Photo from the Society Pages.

It would seem that when the players take the summer off so too do the hockey bloggers.  Well, while everyone else has been glued to the Olympics I have been combing through hockey literature in preparation of grad school applications.  If you can’t watch hockey in the summer, reading about it is a close second. I have been going through Gruneau and Whitson’s book, Artificial Ice: Hockey, Commerce and Cultural Identity, and I would like to share some passages (specifically from Mary-Louise Adams’ chapter – The game of whose lives? Gender, race, and entitlement in Canada’s national game) that have made me reflect on the glorious game of hockey.  Thus, this post is less a commentary or an opinion and more of a sharing piece to give you something to think while pool-side, lying on the beach or heading to the rink (because summer doesn’t change the schedule for Canadians that much). Also, the surrounding Olympic fervour sets a nice background to think about our own national identity. *Apologies for not boxing the passages. WordPress has refused to cooperate so the passages are italicized.*

The men’s hockey victory in Salt Lake City made clear the place of hockey in popular versions of Canadian nationalism.  The victory also made clear the centrality of gender to national mythmaking.  Four days before the nation came to a standstill for the men’s final, members of the Canadian women’s hockey team had won their own gold medal match, also against the Americans.  Although the women’s victory was certainly seen to be sweet, it was celebrated in much the same way as victories in speed skating or skiing. It was not portrayed, as the men’s victory would be, as confirmation of the “hockeyness” of this country or as a boost to national morale. While the women’s win added to Canada’s gold medal tally, the men’s victory propped up the national psyche…

Simply put, so-called national sports afford men – in general, and certain men in particular – an opportunity to represent the nation in a way not open to women.  Sport helps to construct the different versions of citizenship available to men and women. Would national teams generate such frenzied patriotism if national teams had no men?  Could we ever imagine a game played primarily by women as this country’s (or any other’s) national game, as central to its national identity?…

Benedict Anderson says that nations are distinguished from one another by the stories they tell about themselves.  The homogenization of difference and other processes of exclusion are key to this national story-making and to the formation of national identities.  In the drive to construct a cohesive representation of the “imagined community,” not all stories are equal…

THOUGHT:  Let’s extend the “stories” outside of gender.  Who else is not represented by “Canada’s game”? Our aboriginal population, those with disabilities, persons of colour and anyone who isn’t 100% heterosexual is missing from “our game”.  So if it’s not my game like I have been told, whose game is it?  Can it be Canada’s game if it does not include everyone? Logically, not everyone can be included so do we base our “story” on nostalgia? Myth? Majority? Or maybe it’s just the ideal?

And while national stories do change over time, their taken-for-grantedness can make them appear very solid.  As Philip Corrigan writes, “In confirming our sense of what and how we are, [the taken for granted] allows us to forget how we might be different.”…

Anyone who has spent any time around rinks in this country could offer a range of similar examples of gendered practices around hockey.  In a discursive context in which hockey is already given pride of place, where the hockey that really counts is undeniably men’s hockey, everyday rink practices reinforce and represent a sense of male entitlement – even among young boys who are among the primary users of these facilities. Will more women getting out on the ice change this? I don’t think so, not until women’s hockey actually counts, until women can make claims not just on the material aspects of the game but on all its symbolic attachments too…

I thought this was a brilliant statement.  Since a large portion of the scholarship and activism for female participation in sport revolves around numbers, rules, and physiological differences, Adams touches on something that counts for so much more – cultural relevance. Women (among many others) have no part in Canada’s hockey mythology.  I’ve gotten used to not having a change room at the rink. I’ve gotten used to not getting the puck when playing co-ed.  But when you think of it apart from gender equality/equity you realize how large the divide really is. Numbers are easy to fix.  Adding change rooms are easy. Altering a national psyche to include people that were meant to be discriminated against – where do we begin?

I digress, and Adams moves on to write about the significance of shinny in our national identity:

Most discussion of sport and national identity tend to focus on issues related to national teams, Olympic medals, international competition. I certainly can’t say whether this is the case in other countries, but in Canada, “Our Game” means more than this. Not only is it supposed to make us smugly proud of our place – our superiority – in the world, it is supposed to run through our veins.  Hockey is, we are often told, part of who “we” are.  Shinny is supposed to be the source of that connection…

Shawna Richer writes:

On Mother Nature’s rinks, teams of four men were posed to play out the most Canadian of reveries…Arguably the most inherent part of our national landscape, pond hockey is the opportunity to play the game at its purest, most creative form.  Shinny is where the professionals began, where children have the best fun, where grown men feel like boys…This is Canada in a box, right here.

Nostalgia is a powerful means of keeping us from imagining how Canada might be different; it is part of the process of marginalizing women and people of colour, of limiting the stories we can tell about ourselves…it is a process invested with “timelessness, historylessness, and, by extension, racelessness…Shinny fits well into attempts to articulate an overarching, enduring Canadian culture that persists in the face of immigration and changing social relations of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

Do we really allow Canada to be put in a box as Richer writes? For a country as large and as diverse as our is, how can Canada be represented by one (and any) game of pond hockey?  If our image of shinny suddenly changes to include men and women of all ages, races, and abilities would that be Canada in a box? I might argue that BECAUSE our country is as large and diverse as it is, we force hockey to be the one thing that ties us together.  Surely, the only other common denominator for the majority of us is that we are immigrants, and that’s not nearly as fun to talk about over a beer.

Weekly Links: Hockey’s Changing Nature; Patrick Burke on the “You Can Play” Project; More Criticism of Hockey 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.

[Note: Apologies for not writing a Weekly Links last week. I was under the weather and did not get the chance to put up a post last weekend.]

[Edit: Three links added (March 11, 2012, 12:09 AM)

Hockey Links

  • Fantastic post by Ellen Etchingham about the changing nature of hockey: "There is no essential spirit of hockey, no single tradition to refer to, there is only the hockey we knew as children and the hockey we know now. It is not one thing. It has never been one thing. It evolves, in ways technological, cultural, and wholly accidental." [Backhand Shelf]
  • Bruce Dowbiggen with a fascinating article about Canadian NHL clubs’ unhappiness with Hockey Night in Canada and the CBC. A must read. [Globe and Mail]
  • I wrote earlier in the week about Patrick Burke and the You Can Play project. Burke participated in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit yesterday. [Reddit, h/t to Hockey in Society reader Alison for the link]
  • Puck Buddys concluded its series of interviews with an anonymous teenage gay hockey player, in which the player reveals his identity and speaks about his experiences in hockey and at high school. [Puck Buddys]
  • Ryan Lambert critiques the NHL for promoting dangerous hits, such as the one made by Niklas Kronwall on Jakub Voracek earlier in the week, which NHL.com declared to be a candidate a “hit of the year.” [Puck Daddy]
  • Paul Busch with an open letter to the NHLPA, urging it to support a ban on fighting in hockey. [It's Not Part of the Game]
  • David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General and a former hockey player at Harvard University, voices his opposition to “fighting and goonery” in hockey. [Globe and Mail]
  • Chris Peters on why banning fighting in junior hockey will be a good thing. [United States of Hockey]
  • As the Province of Ontario threatens to eliminate a tax break to professional sports teams, the Ottawa Senators cry poor and threaten to fold. (Sssssh! No one mention that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is one of Canada’s 100 richest people, with a net worth just under $1 billion.) [National Post]
  • Interesting piece from Adrian Dater about the former prevalence of smoking in the NHL. Times certainly have changed. [SI.com, via Puck Daddy]
  • A new study suggest that outdoor shinny may soon be a thing of the past, given the effects of climate change. [Globe and Mail]
  • The New York Times reports that the NHL and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund will provide hockey scholarships to students at historically black colleges in the United States, with the long-term aim of increasing African American participation in the sport. [Slap Shot]
  • Via Puck Daddy, two responses to a Sports Illustrated gallery of “puck bunnies” – that is, female hockey fans who were inaccurately assigned this pejorative label – that defend female fans and dispute the puck bunny label. [Hockey Broad; Aerys Sports]
  • Bob McKenzine reports that Saskatoon is looking to acquire an NHL franchise, and has a proposal in place to upgrade the Credit Union Centre to make it appropriate for NHL hockey. [TSN]