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.

Our presentation is entitled Still the “Prime Minister of Saturday Night”? Don Cherry, Canadian Nationalism, and the Construction of Hockey Masculinity. Courtney and I watched and analyzed the entire 2011-12 season of Coach’s Corner and use this data to explore the ways in which Cherry constructs and idealized vision of what a hockey player should be – namely, “a good Canadian boy” who fights, hits, blocks shots, and plays with “honour.” This leads into a discussion of “The Code” and hockey violence, and how they tie in with the social construction of hockey masculinity and honour. The paper is still a work in progress, but we are using this presentation to pull together our analysis of Cherry and his influence on hockey culture.

For those interested, here is the abstract:

16 years ago, Gillet, White and Young (1996) labeled hockey commentator Don Cherry the “Prime Minister of Saturday Night” in recognition of his widespread popularity on the CBC’s iconic Hockey Night in Canada program. The authors critiqued Cherry in a variety of areas, including his promotion of an aggressive masculinity and his xenophobic verbal attacks on European players, and concluded that his conservative on-air persona was a symbolic bulwark against the rapid changes taking place in Canadian society. 16 years later, Cherry remains ensconced on Hockey Night in Canada and his Coach’s Corner segment remains popular. Surprisingly, while some scholars have discussed Cherry in their research, there have been few focused studies on the commentator since that by Gillet et al. (1996). This paper thus explores the composition of Cherry’s contemporary on-air persona through an analysis of data collected from every Coach’s Corner segment during the 2010-11 NHL season. This research highlights the ways in which Cherry continues to construct an idealized hockey masculinity based on aggressive play, ethnic heritage, and an idealized concept of honour. It explores how this ideal is used by Cherry to marginalize non-conforming players and to justify vigilante justice as an appropriate way to police on-ice behaviour.

End shameless plug. But if you are in the Greater Toronto Area and want to attend BOK, I hope to see you there!

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

  1. Pingback: The Russians “Brought Some Imagination to the Game of Hockey”: Excerpts from a Conversation with Lawrence Martin | Hockey in Society

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