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]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Reaction to Shawn Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik; Big news in Canadian women’s hockey; Academic conferences on hockey research; 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!

  • The attack by the Boston Bruins’ Shawn Thornton on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Brooks Orpik, which Courtney Szto discussed on this blog last weekend, has dominated the hockey headlines this week. Nicholas Cotsonika weighed in harshly against the act and the culture of violence in which it occurred. [Yahoo! Sports]
  • Jonathan Willis discussed the incident and argued that the “grey area” around self-policing in hockey places players in untenable situations: “As long as the NHL persists in its tight-rope walk between policing the game and allowing the players to dispense . . . “frontier justice” it’s only going to be a matter of time until something like this happens again.” [Cult of Hockey]
  • Jay Rosehill of the Philadelphia Flyers came to Thornton’s defense in this lengthy interview. If you want an insight into the culture of hockey fighting and the “Code” then give this a listed. [Sportsnet]

Read more of this post

Letting boys be boys is what sent Orpik to the hospital

Screen Shot 2013-12-07 at 8.54.59 PM

Photo from The National Post.

Another cheap shot. Another player leaving the ice on a stretcher. Another apology.  Boys will be boys, I guess. So when will we hold boys and men to a higher standard of masculinity (or at least a different one)?  Or are we really okay with the status quo?

Tonight, Shawn Thornton threw an unwitting Brooks Orpik to the ice and then punched him in the face a few times before Orpik had to be stretchered off the ice.  Thornton received a match penalty and luckily Orpik will  be travelling back to Pittsburgh with the team. To read the NHL.com report of the incident is like reading the summary of a pre-season game.

Thornton and Orpik became involved after Bruins forward Brad Marchand, while on the ice, took a knee to the head from the Penguins forward James Neal.

Thornton was assessed a match penalty; he appeared to pull Orpik down and punch him while he was on the ice.

Orpik was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was alert and conscious, the Penguins announced.  Orpik returned from the hospital and will travel with the team back to Pittsburgh, coach Dan Bylsma said after the game.

It is so matter of fact; it reads as if this is an every game occurrence. I mean, I get it, it’s supposed to be an informative article but there is not one ounce of rage, concern, or fear in this article from the league. In my opinion, every time incidents like this happen the NHL should be very afraid.  Even CBS Sports writer, Chris Peters, writes “This infraction will definitely draw the attention of the league and could lead to a lengthy suspension for Thornton.  This is an outright attack on Orpik that had seemingly disastrous results.  There’s no place for this in the game or anywhere for that matter.”  At a minimum the NHL could have at least thrown in a token statement like “this incident will be taken very seriously by the Department of Player Safety”.  For a professional league that is under huge scrutiny with regards to player safety a little emotion would be welcome, even if fake.

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Fallout from the Orr-Parros Fight; Introduction of hybrid icing; Hockey Canada enrolment; and more

Source: Fighting for Stanley

Source: Fighting for Stanley

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!

  • Fighting and violence continues to be the hot topic after Habs forward George Parros was seriously injured in a fight on opening night. James Mirtle questions the role of designated fighters and the purpose of staged fights. [Globe and Mail]
  • Regardless of how many injuries are caused by useless fights, there are still those that feel it has a place in the game. Canucks Army provides counter-arguments to question why the league continues to support fighting.  [Canucks Army]
  • Tampa Bay Lightning GM, and all-round hockey legend, Steve Yzerman took a strong stance against fighting, arguing for a game misconduct for players who fight. Yzerman questions how the league is trying to reduce hits to the head, but still allows fighting. [Globe and Mail]

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: David Dziurzynski, the “Code,” and making it in the NHL; Islanders and Red Wings arena issues; Hockey participation rising in California, Iowa; 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 great in-depth read about David Dziurzynski, the Ottawa Senators rookie who was knocked out last season in a fight with Frazer McLaren of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Amongst other issues, the article discusses the “Code” in hockey and the challenges faced by young hockey players looking to prove themselves and stick on a roster at the NHL level. [The Globe and Mail]
  • After the drawn out political saga of the New York Islanders’ attempts to redevelop their arena and remain located on Long Island, which ultimately ended last October with the team agreeing to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, Nassau County politicians are now calling for the Islanders to remain in a redeveloped Nassau Coliseum. This is just the latest twist in an extremely drawn-out political battle, and Kevin Schultz is not impressed. [Islanders Point Blank]

Read more of this post

‘The Code': A powerful mechanism of control or just plain laziness?


Photo from MileHighHockey.com

I just finished playing an extremely dirty recreational playoff game.  It was the kind of game that makes me dislike hockey.  The hockey I play is as recreational as recreational gets. No one is going to get a college scholarship. No one will play for the Olympics. No one is even going to make a provincial team.   Now, I get it.  Teams who don’t have speed have to hack and slash to survive.  My team on the other hand is built upon a ‘first to the puck’ mentality.  We have no one on our roster good enough to dominate a game; therefore, as it should be, we win and lose as a team.  This particular team we played tonight we also played a week ago in the final game of the regular season; we won 8-2.  We just so happened to draw them for the first two games of the playoffs.  Our team expected a hacky game but what we ended up participating in was absolute lawlessness and a perfect example of why The Code doesn’t work.

Read more of this post

Weekly Links: Shea Weber signing indicates financial disparities between NHL teams; Homophobic hockey reporter gets criticized; Updates on the Jacob Trouba saga

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

  • Shea Weber signed a massive offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. Adam Proteau examines the disparity between large market teams such as the Flyers and small market teams such as the Nashville Predators. [The Hockey News]
  • Meanwhile, James Mirtle answers the question: “Why [do] NHL teams cry poor despite the league’s record growth?” A very interesting read about the distribution of revenue between teams. [Globe and Mail]
  • Good post comparing Gary Bettman’s rhetorical two-stepping about concussions in hockey with the tobacco industry’s tactics to defend itself against criticism. [The Hockey Writers]
  • A journalist for the Niagara Falls Reporter published a homophobic defense of fighting in hockey: “The NHL’s abominable, “You Can Play” promotion, which all but endorses homosexuality in hockey, is among its top priorities. Thanks to Gary Bettman and his ilk, enforcers are out, but gays are in. . . . Fortunately for Sabres fans, the team has not come out of the closet and the signing of tough guy, John Scott is an indication there might be some shred of manliness left in an otherwise emasculated organization.” Brutal. [Niagara Falls Reporter]
  • Reaction in the hockey blogosphere was swift, with many jumping to condemn the reporter and the newspaper. Pensions Plan Puppets was among the first to respond. [Pension Plan Puppets]
  • Chris Peters is doing a great job covering the recruiting scandal involving the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL and Jacob Trouba, who has committed to play at Michigan University next year. First up, some info about the Rangers suing the student newspaper that broke this story. [United States of Hockey]
  • Next up, Peters provides a helpful overview of the competition between NCAA and CHL teams to recruit talented players to their respective leagues. A very good read to understand the complexity of the recruitment process. [United States of Hockey]
  • Former Colorado Avalanche enforcer Scott Parker gave a lengthy two-part interview to Mile High Hockey that, amongst many other issues, provides some fascinating insights into “the Code” in hockey when Parker discusses Todd Bertuzzi’s infamous attack on Steve Moore. [Mile High Hockey: Part I and Part II]
  • The interview drew a number of responses from the hockey blogosphere. Jake Goldsbie had a good post about the culture of violence in hockey, including Parker’s assessment of Moore. [Backhand Shelf]
  • Will the New York Islanders move to Brooklyn? John Imossi gives five reasons why it could happen. [The Hockey Writers]
  • Greg Wyshynski explains how the NHL’s TV various deals may help reduce the possibility of a lockout. [Puck Daddy]
  • Brandon Worley has a review of Goon. If you missed it in March, I also recommend checking out Matt and Marty’s review of the film on this blog. [Defending Big D]
  • Finally, some very sad news: Jessica Ghawi (AKA Jessica Redfield), a hockey blogger and aspiring sport journalist, was among those killed at the recent shooting at a Colorado movie theatre. She was known by many hockey bloggers and her passing inspired many moving tributes. RIP Jessica. [Puck Daddy; United States of Hockey]

General Sport Links

  • Penn State finally removed the statue of Joe Paterno from its campus. [TSN]
  • Dave Zirin has an interesting and persuasive argument against abolishing the Penn State football program. [Edge of Sports]
  • The NBA votes to place adverts on jerseys. Yikes. How long until the NHL follows suit? [Globe and Mail]

Talking Hockey and Don Cherry at the “Bodies of Knowledge” Conference at the University of Toronto

Bodies of Knowledge (BOK) is an annual graduate student conference held at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at University of Toronto. The conference is entirely organized and run by graduate students (full disclosure: I am on the organizing committee and am presenting, so this post is somewhat self-promotional) and all presentations are by graduate students from Ontario and abroad.

The conference aims to bring a multidisciplinary approach to exploring sport, physical activity, exercise, and the human body. Disciplinary perspectives include sociology, cultural studies, physiology, kinesiology, motor control, psychology, and education.

This year’s conference takes place on May 3-4. If you are interested in attending, please visit the conference website for more details.

Unfortunately the hockey content is quite light this year in comparison to past years, with only one presentation – a paper by Hockey in Society contributor and UBC graduate student Courtney Szto and I. Courtney and I will be presenting on some research we have done on Don Cherry and his Coach’s Corner program.

Read more of this post

The Dept. of Player Safety: Further proof that the ‘Code’ no longer exists?

There is no shortage of critiques of Brendan Shanahan and his oxymoronic Department of Player Safety.  Speaking in his suit from his CNN like ‘war room’, Shanahan offers a very inhuman and sterilized account of some of the most atrocious hits in hockey. He stands, sans emotion, and delivers a verdict as a judge would to a convicted criminal.  The only difference is that unlike Law & Order, we neither hear the uproar of the crowd when they are unhappy with the ruling, nor the reaction of the offender to his sentencing (or lack thereof).

The Department of Player Safety is supposed to act like a prison watchtower, keeping order without having to actually impose its will.  It is what social theorist Michel Foucault would call a panopticon.  It surveils without being seen.  It governs from a distance.  The only problem with Shanahan’s panopticon is that there is no fear attached to being surveilled.  Players almost laugh in the face of his youtube videos.  As articulated in this article, The NHL is a Joke! Player safety the biggest oxymoron:

In many ways, Shanahan continues to condone the worst that hockey offers by merely shuffling players about with regular season suspensions and fails miserably by not removing the most reprehensible behaviours and attitudes from players that are more than willing to damage another player’s brain. His suspensions, while more lengthy than his incompetent predecessor’s, and his video explanations, while more clear in their reasonings, do not, and will not, stop the impunity that many NHL players have towards one another.

In other words, what is the incentive for any player to think twice? For anyone who has read Freakonomics or Superfreakonomics, you will remember that the authors rely heavily on personal incentive as indicators for rational behaviour.  As an example, if the punishment for drunk driving were random road-blocks that would result in execution on the spot, surely more people would think twice before getting behind the wheel.  The Department of Player Safety neither strikes fear in the minds of those who have multiple offenses to their names nor does it make any other player feel like their safety is well protected from the NHL executive offices. Read more of this post

Brian Burke’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

When Kanye West dropped a bomb on the musical world in 2010 with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, music critics lost their collective shit trying to process, internalize and communicate what they had just absorbed. So sprawling and epic, so contradictory, so unabashed in its assessments was the album that it could really only be accepted as an actual Dark Fantasy. And Kanye could only be lauded for having the guts, the audacity, the talent and, dare I say it, the truculence to put it all out there.

All of which means that Brian Burke is now the Kanye West of hockey. There, I said it.

This week Burke unleashed a press conference on the hockey world that was so spectacularly abrasive that it cut right to the heart of the issue. Watching it was not unlike watching Louis CK’s sitcom (just named by TIME as the best tv show of 2011); we recognize the form but not the content in that form. Nor the aesthetic. And as a result, it penetrates to a degree that we’re unprepared for. I finished watching Burke’s presser with that same degree of unsettled admiration – and slightly drooling tongue – that I get from watching Louis.

If you haven’t seen Burke’s performance, go watch it. Then read Mark Norman’s post on this site for an incisive analysis. If you’re still interested after all that, here is what it said to me:

Fundamentally, Burke reminded us in no uncertain terms that professional hockey is designed to be a fantasy world. A serious one at that. We are often led to believe that sports like hockey are some kind of microcosm of society, or a world in which life’s lessons are learned, or even a place where eternal themes are played out. Y’know, ‘sport is the best reality show’ and all that (crap). Burke ground those theories into a pulp by making an impassioned and eloquent plea to maintain the unapologetic exceptionalism of hockey culture. He told the rest of us that the world professional hockey has carved out – a spectacularly and uniformly gendered world of character, pride and honour – can no longer maintain the barriers and boundaries that it has painstakingly established.

(Hypothetical exchange)

Outraged citizen – ‘You can’t hit someone in a bar and not go to jail! So why can you hit someone in a hockey game and it’s fine?’  (BTW – I’ve said this to students in university classes on more than one occasion)

Brian Burkes of the world – ‘Because this is hockey. It’s a dark, fantasy world reserved for a few. You’re invited to watch, but don’t tell us what to do. We’ve made an alternative reality where we understand the rules. And you’ve loved the spectacle of it for decades.’

Yet, now the curtain is being drawn back (Why? Because of concussions? Derek Boogard? Crosby’s brain? I’m not sure we can pinpoint it) and Burke wants us to know that he’s not in a position to keep it pulled tight. His description and treatment of this yellow brick road that he now finds himself on was truly captivating. He openly explored and embraced the tension between the pressure to keep up with trends within the game versus the costs to the sanctity and romance of hockey logic. He nobly (and contradictorily) re-committed himself to player safety and protection by refusing to play off fighting against brain health in some kind of best-of-seven morality series. He acknowledged and openly cheered for the incredible excitement of NHL hockey in 2012, with so many young superstars whose skill sets are revolutionizing styles of play. He also called out the supposed moral superiority of the NHL’s current justice system in which the league polices players and tells players they are not able to do it for themselves. And he did it all with an eloquence and gravitas that can only mean that it is now officially impossible to watch Coach’s Corner ever again.

(It also must be noted that he pulled the whole thing off ‘wearing’ a perfectly placed un-tied tie that somehow signaled that this was a special occasion. As if it was some kind of  ‘last minute’ meeting in the biggest, most prestigious hockey market in the world to announce the demotion of a fourth liner to the minors. F’ing brilliant.)

And the last, but by no means least, accomplishment is that in 10 minutes Brian Burke forced the anti-fighting crowd – the ‘Greenpeacers’ in his parlance – to re-evaluate the stability of their collective soapbox. I know because I’m one of them. Case in point: I wanted so desperately for the Canucks to win the Cup last year not just because they’re my team but also because it became for me an ideological battle between the Big Bad Bruins and the sweet skating Swedes. Eventually, though, it also became a series in which true hatred rained down around the villainous archetypes of the hockey world that are Brad Marchand and Max Lapierre. And Burke is warning us that an unintended consequence of the new NHL could be the continued ascension of these characters. Can fighting actually prevent any of this, particularly given that the referees in the Bruins/Canucks series were so clearly ineffective when it came to doing so? I don’t know. Burke has made me think about it, though.

I am de-stabilized. I know that the code has always ostensibly been built on respect. Respect for violence, pain, sacrifice, and retribution. (Not exactly the top of the dominant moral hierarchy). So I dismissed the code, and still largely do.  It wasn’t until Brian Burke called my attention to this twisted fantasy world of hockey with such conviction that I was willing to think it over in any intellectual way.

Take that, Kanye.