Olympic Dissonance

Games Against a Messy Background

from thestar.com

Sport lends itself to a condition of moral simplicity. A major reason we turn to sport is for the undeniable certainty of its win/loss, rule-bound dynamic. At no time does sport’s artificial certainty stand out more than it does at the Olympics, because at no other time does it clash more with the deviousness of the world at large. Like the World Cup, the Olympics produces the same tension each time: between the simplified morality of sport itself and the problematic morality of the forces that control sport, or of the nations represented.

Putin’s games provide a case in point of that. Read more of this post

Roundtable: Issues and Controveries at the Sochi Olympics

Roundtables are an occasional feature on Hockey in Society. Roundtables will present brief commentaries from Hockey in Society contributors on pressing or timely issues within hockey and its culture, with the aim of presenting a diverse range of critical viewpoints on the topic under discussion.

The Olympic Games are, despite the Olympic Movement’s laughable claims about the separation of sport and politics, highly political events. Sometimes this politicization is obvious (e.g. Berlin, 1936; Mexico City, 1968; Moscow, 1980; Los Angeles, 1984; etc.) and other times it is more subtle – but every Olympics is hosted, supported, and contested by various actors seeking diverse political aims.

This year’s Winter Olympics, currently ongoing in Sochi, Russia, is one of the more overtly politicized Games in recent memory. Among the controversial political issues surrounding these Games are Russia’s introduction of repressive anti-gay laws, the massive hosting costs of over $50 billion dollars and the related allegations of corruption, the security concerns over terrorist attacks, President Vladimir Putin’s use of the Games as an empire-building exercise, the culling of stray dogs from Sochi streets, and the exploitation of labour in the construction of venues. And this does not even touch upon the sports themselves, supposedly the raison d’être for the Olympic Games!

Given the many complex and controversial sociopolitical issues surrounding the Sochi Games – and given the prominence of hockey as a marquee event at the Winter Olympics, as well as a form of soft diplomacy by Putin’s regime – it is timely for Hockey in Society contributors to weigh in on a variety of hockey- and sport-related topics. After the jump, five contributors share their views on a diversity of topics: LGBTQ rights at the Sochi Games; the hockey-related political machinations of Putin and Canada’s Stephen Harper; Canada’s increasingly hypercompetitive emphasis on its Olympic medal haul; the Games as an opportunity for hockey to evolve; and the question of whether women’s hockey will remain on the Olympic program.

Read more of this post

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]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Sochi Olympics news; NHL stars on Russia’s anti-gay laws; Leetch and Burke join NHL’s Department of Player Safety

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!

  • Interesting read about kids’ hockey and skill development, as the Edmonton Minor Hockey Association is expanding access to ice time for children’s teams by mandating half-rink practices for teams. [Oilers Nation]
  • While problematic, the film Goon was a popular success amongst many hockey fans. Jay Baruchel is now working on writing a sequel and hopes to have it in production within a year. [Montreal Gazette]
  • Blogger Travis Yost, who has provided detailed reporting on the finances of the Ottawa Senators under the ownership of Eugene Melnyk, had his posts removed from the website Hockeybuzz – apparently as the result of the site being hacked. No responsibility has been proven, but Melynk is bizarrely and tangentially connected to the hack. [SB Nation]
  • The NHL has added two members to its Department of Player Safety: former NHL star Brian Leetch and former Philadelphia Flyers scout and You Can Play founder Patrick Burke. [Puck Daddy]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Boycotting the Sochi Games?; Ratner to redevelop Islanders’ arena; Devils get new ownership; Rick Rypien’s legacy

After a one year hiatus, Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post returns! 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!

  • Given the dangerous homophobic climate in Russia and the anti-gay legislation passed by Russian lawmakers, should hockey players and other athletes boycott the Sochi Games in 2014? Pierre Martin says that male hockey players should boycott the tournament while other athletes should attend. [Toronto Star]

Read more of this post

Promoting Grassroots Participation while Building the Brand: To What Extent are NHL Teams Community Institutions?

Yesterday’s Globe and Mail ran an interesting article by James Mirtle about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ contributions to grassroots hockey in Western Pennsylvania. For the past four years, the Penguins, and in particular captain Sidney Crosby, have been extremely active in promoting hockey amongst Pittsburgh youth by providing free equipment and on-ice instruction. The initiative, while obviously having a major commercial motivation in terms of growing the Penguins’ business in the long-term, is an interesting example of how professional sport franchises can be more than simply entertainment spectacles and commercial enterprises, and actually invest socially in their local communities.

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Brian Burke criticized for marching in Pride Parade; Who was hockey’s first goon?

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

  • Interesting historical piece by Iain Fyffe looking at the emergence of the “goon” or “thug” in hockey, in which he argues that it was the Broad Street Bullies who first brought the role of pure goon into the sport. [Hockey Historisis]
  • Brian Burke’s decision to march in Toronto’s Pride Parade, instead of man the phones on the first day of Free Agency, has drawn criticism. [Globe and Mail]
  • Meanwhile, Burke spoke in support of the You Can Play Project about the prospects of a gay hockey player playing in the NHL. [TVO]
  • Ken Campbell reports that NHL players will be much more engaged in this summer’s CBA negotiations than they were in the 2004-05 labour process, and the NHLPA will be “more active [and] organized.” [The Hockey News]
  • Edmonton Oilers prospect Nail Yakupov has been criticized by the Edmonton media for excessive celebrations in a rookie camp. Justin Bourne urges media and fans not to crush the fun out of creative and exuberant players. [Backhand Shelf]
  • A controversy may be brewing, as blue-chip prospect Jacob Trouba was reportedly offered $200,000 to forgo his commitment to Michigan University in order to play for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. [United States of Hockey]
  • His family has released a statement denying the allegations. This may be the end of this issue, but the topic of illegitimate payments (or offers) by CHL teams to junior players should certainly be an important topic to keep an eye on in the future. [United States of Hockey]
  • Alex Radulov has left the Nashville Predators and returned to the KHL. Dmitry Chesnekov wonders: is this the end of his NHL career? [Puck Daddy]
  • This post is from March, so apologies for not posting it until now. But Nathan Kalman-Lamb’s post about Sidney Crosby and injury is definitely worth a read. [Nathan Kalman-Lamb]
  • Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes has had his precedent-setting 25-game suspension, which was given during the playoffs for a headshot to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa, reduced to 21 games by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. [Puck Daddy]

General Sport Links

  • Elena Chou has a strong piece about racism at the recent Euro 2012 tournament and in soccer more generally. [Left Hook]
  • Interesting post about militarism in Major League Baseball. [Runs Batted Out]
  • South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has qualified for the London Olympics, and will be the first amputee to ever compete in the Games. [CTV]

Some thoughts on today’s “Free Agent Frenzy”

At noon EST today, the NHL’s free agency period opens. At a basic level, this means that players whose contracts have expired or been bought out, and who are eligible for unrestricted free agency (UFA), can begin fielding offers from NHL teams and are free to sign contracts as of 12:00 PM. But over the past number of years, this deadline has taken on increasing significance to teams, fans, players and media. TSN labels July 1 the “Free Agent Frenzy” and has a full studio panel of its hockey “insiders” breaking the news as signings go down. Sportsnet will offer a similarly hyped TV spectacle.

Back in February, Matt Ventresca wrote a great post that labelled the trade deadline “The Great Canadian Pseudo-Event.” Matt described the importance of media, in particular TSN, in making the trade deadline and other events into spectacles:

The trade deadline is a logistical technicality that passes virtually unnoticed in other sports, yet TSN (here is the marketing genius part) has transformed this non-event into one of the most anticipated days on the NHL calendar and has forced its competitors (most noticeably, Rogers Sportsnet) to follow their model of relentless, wall-to-wall coverage. In many ways, the trade deadline has eclipsed other hockey media spectacles like the NHL Draft and the All-Star Game (although TSN is also trying to change that with their “All-Star Fantasy Draft” gimmick) as must-see TV – or at least as a reason to spend 9 hours continually refreshing tsn.ca.

Free Agent Frenzy similarly smacks of a corporate-produced, over-hyped, pseudo-event. It feels as though TSN executives thought “Hey, let’s take a routine part of the NHL’s labour process and turn it into a massive TV spectacle. People will totally eat it up!” While I certainly feel that Canadian media networks like TSN, along with Sportsnet and the Score, were driving forces in the creation of the Frenzy, there are a variety of factors that have contributed to its massive surge in popularity. It is thus a bit of a “chicken and egg” scenario when attempting to determine the influence of the media and the mass spectacle of a psuedo-event. Read more of this post

Weekly Links: NHLPA and owners begin CBA negotiations; Social media and hockey analytics; Plans for new arena in Markham

Proposed Markham arena (Image from: http://www.cbc.ca/)

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

  • Lots of chatter about the discussion between NHL owners the NHL Players’ Association as they begin to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. David Shoalts has a good overview of the key issues in this negotiation. [Globe and Mail]
  • Meanwhile, Kukla’s Corner has the details of the NHLPA’s 31-man negotiating committee. Lots of prominent players are involved on the committee, including Henrik Zetterberg (Red Wings), Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators, and John Tavares (New York Islanders). [Kukla's Corner]
  • Hockey in Society contributor Sunil Agnihotri discusses information overload in the digital age, with specific discussion of the various ways in which hockey fans can consume the sport through (new) media. [Super Fan. 2.0]
  • More social media news: the Detroit Red Wings are hosting a social media meet-up at the Social Media Day Detroit conference. [Kukla's Corner]
  • Daniel Wagner reports on “the next stage in hockey analytics,” discussing an advanced stats tracking system that is becoming popular in the NBA. [Backhand Shelf]
  • The plans for the new hockey arena in Markham, ON have been released. The 20,000+ seat arena is aiming to open 2014 and hoping to host the 2015 World Junior Championships. [TSN]
  • Bruce Dowbiggen reports that the NHL is considering adding a Sunday night Canadian broadcast in addition to the traditional Saturday Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. This may mean that the CBC maintains the HNIC rights while TSN and Sportsnet have the opportunity to broadcast more games featuring Canadian teams. [Globe and Mail]
  • An interesting post by Greg Wyshinki about Sidney Crosby’s new 12-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and how the team is unable to insure it because of Crosby’s concussion history. [Puck Daddy]
  • Pete Cunningham writes about the anticipated economic impact of the 2013 Winter Classic for Ann Arbor businesses. The game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will take place on January 1, 2013. [AnnArbor.com]
  • Patrick Hoffman with an interesting look at hockey participation and popularity in sunbelt states, including some interesting tidbits about the support NHL hockey teams have given to local hockey teams. The Nashville Predators, for example, were active in the movement to save the University of Alabama-Hunstsville Division 1 NCAA hockey program. [Kukla's Corner]
  • The KHL confirms that it will play two regular season games in 2013 in Brooklyn, New York. SKA St. Petersburg and Dynamo Moscow will face off at the new Barclays Arena. [Puck Daddy]
  • The Phoenix Coyotes sale looks set to move ahead, as a court overturns the lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute to stymie Glendale’s subsidization of the Coyotes’ arena. Lots of politics in this arena situation. [Puck Daddy]
  • I hope to write more about this on this blog, but I wrote a post at Nucks Misconduct about Pavel Bure and his legacy with the Vancouver Canucks. The post is not particularly critical, but more of a fan’s look at the player. However, there are some interesting aspects to the story. Bure, who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame this week, had a turbulent departure from Vancouver that involved some character assassination in the media. An interesting example of the power of the media to shape popular understandings of a player and his/her legacy. [Nucks Misconduct]

General Sport Links

  • AWESOME BLOG ALERT: Tyler Shipley has started a new blog called Left Hook, which takes a critical look at different aspects of sport. You can read Tyler’s excellent post about the politics between Canada and Honduras and the role of soccer in Honduran politics. [Left Hook]
  • Also on Left Hook: Marty Clark, who co-authored a review of Goon on this blog, examines and critiques assumed “truths” in sport and discusses way of deconstructing these “common sense” understandings. A great read. [Left Hook]
  • Hockey in Society contributor Courtney Szto discusses the gender implications of nude athlete calendars, as Canada’s National Senior Women’s Rugby team releases a fundraising calendar. Are these portrayals empowering or exploitative? Should national sport teams have to resort to nude calendars to raise funds? Lots of interesting questions explored in this post. [The Rabbit Hole]
  • Saudi Arabia will, for the first time, allow women to compete at the Olympic Games. [Globe and Mail]

Weekly Links: Derek Boogaard and prescription drug abuse; CBA and Phoenix Coyotes ownership updates

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

  • We all remember John Branch’s excellent reporting in The New York Times on the life and death of Derek Boogaard. Branch has written a follow-up story that provides shocking insight into Boogaard’s abuse of prescription drugs and the ease with which he secured prescriptions from multiple medical personnel. [New York Times]
  • Branch’s story drew lots of reaction from the hockey blogosphere. Justin Bourne had a solid response that called on the NHL to implement a system for the dispensation of prescription drugs. [Backhand Shelf]
  • And a couple other responses, from Harrison Mooney and Ellen Etchingham respectively. [Puck Daddy; Backhand Shelf]
  • RoseTintedVisor has a great interview with Adam Proteau of The Hockey News. Not only was it a great read, but also a reminder that I still need to review Proteau’s book Fighting the Good Fight on this blog. [Puck Buddys]
  • Courtney passed me this link, which is a little old but still a good read. The post begins by talking about the Women’s World Hockey Championship and the competitiveness of international women’s hockey, before exploring the gender politics behind different rules between the men’s and women’s version of the sport. [After Atalanta]
  • Bruce Dowbiggen weighs in on the CBC show While the Men Watch, a topic that Courtney has covered on this blog and which has drawn widespread reaction from bloggers and journalist. [Globe and Mail]
  • The Phoenix Coyotes’ ownership situation continues to drag out. The most recent news: the city council for Glendale, AZ voted to subsidize the team’s new owner $300 million over the next 20 years, paving the way for Greg Jamison to move ahead with the purchase of the franchise. [Puck Daddy]
  • Speaking of the business of hockey: with CBA negotiations on the horizon this summer, the NHL has temporarily set the salary cap at $70.3 million for 2012-13, way up from the $39 million cap in the first post-lockout season of 2005-06. The figure is based on revenues for the NHL of $3.3 billion in 2011-12. [SB Nation]
  • Sidney Crosby may soon sign a 10 year contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins, despite his concussion history. [Puck Daddy]
  • Mark Ascione reflects on the legacy of 1972 Summit Series star Paul Henderson, who is currently battling cancer, including whether Henderson merits induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame or the Order of Canada. [The Hockey Writers]
  • Finally, Vladimir Krutov – one of the first superstars to leave the Soviet Union to play in the NHL – passed away this week. Greg Wyshynski reflects on his legacy. [Puck Daddy]

General Sport Links