Hockey Research at the 2015 North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) Conference

In keeping with our effort to highlight academic research on hockey, we are pleased to post details about presentations occurring at the the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport (NASSS) annual conference, taking place this week in Santa Fe, NM. The full 2015 book of abstracts can be viewed here, and you can see various Hockey in Society posts related to hockey research at academic conferences here.

Below are the abstracts from relevant hockey-focused presentations at NASSS 2015, including from Hockey in Society contributors Courtney Szto and Cheryl MacDonald (contributors Matt Ventresca and Simon Darnell are also presenting research, but not on hockey). Topics include: climate change and access to Canadian outdoor hockey rinks; homophobia in competitive boy’s hockey culture; the experiences of adult women learning to play hockey; the CWHL’s use of social and new media; Punjabi Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts; and the engagement of the Montreal Canadiens Alumni. This is a fascinating and diverse collection of presentations that should shed important light on under-explored topics.

Please note that I am reproducing abstracts that are written by the author. I claim no ownership of this writing and fully acknowledge it to be the authors’ intellectual property.

Skating on Thin Ice? A critical interrogation of Canada’s melting pastime

jay johnson (University of Manitoba) & Adam Ali (Queen’s University)

When we look at the specific impact that climate change and global warming trends have had on access to sport, leisure, and physical activity, one need not strain very hard to identify several examples. In recent memory, for example, community members across Canada and the Northern United States, could access outdoor ice rinks in local parks, but here too; the ice is melting. In Toronto, Canada, summer days are increasingly (and in record numbers) coupled with health warnings encouraging citizens to stay indoors and refrain from exercise due to smog and particulate air contamination. These “external” environmental realities have altered many of our out-of-doors physical activity experiences and have created a greater dependency on climatically and environmentally controlled “internal” physical experiences. This presents an opportunity to unearth both the past meanings as well as the current value of outdoor hockey within a contemporary Canada through an intersectional analysis of environment, class, and race. Through a critical discussion that begins by first unsettling the pervading symbolism of the outdoor rink as a romanticized Canadian pastime and second problematizing the valuation of the outdoor rink in diverse urban centres such as Toronto, we reveal the outdoor rink as an insidious method to expand upper-class whiteness under the guise of a “multicultural” nationalist project within the Canadian imaginary.

Homophobia and Male Midget AAA Ice Hockey in Canada

Cheryl MacDonald (Concordia University)

The presentation will outline the results of a three-year study of gender and sexuality with emphasis on homophobia among male Major Midget AAA ice hockey players in Canada. Using surveys, interviews, informative workshops, and a content analysis of social media profiles, the study examined the ways in which the athletes, aged fourteen to eighteen, make sense of homophobia in an ice hockey context as well as in their relationships with friends and family. Scholars characterize ice hockey as a sport that socializes boys and men to be hypermasculine and homophobic–a claim that is complicated by Midget-level ice hockey as the players are members of a generation that is understood to be accepting of the LGBTQ community, yet they participate in a sport that traditionally renounces such individuals. This study is the first of its kind and size in Canada. It contributes methodologically and pedagogically to empirical research on gender, sexuality, and youth participation in sport.

Adult Women Learn-to-Play Hockey Experiences: A Case Study

Daina Pidwerbeski (York University)

This research project examined the experiences of women enrolled in the Adult Learn-to-Play Hockey (ALTPH) program in Toronto, Ontario. This case study identified the facilitators and the barriers to participation in hockey and the ALTPH program. Using qualitative research methods, this research project gained in-depth insight into the lived experiences of women in the ALTPH program. Participants consisted of 13 adult women enrolled in the ALTPH program in the fall, 2014, nine were interviewed. In addition the researcher was a participant in the program, therefore this project includes an autoethnographic component. Findings indicate that barriers for participation in hockey were, lack of opportunities, familial obligations and influences, inconvenient time and location logistics as well as access to equipment. Facilitators identified are, family that plays, comfortable/friendly environment, prior skating experience, social class and individual desire. This project contributes to the gap in knowledge on older adult women and novice hockey participation.

The CWHL and digital media: Challenging or reinforcing gender borders?

Barbara Ravel (Laurentian University)

The Canadian Women’s Hockey League is arguably the best ice hockey league in the world with players mostly coming from Canada and the USA, including many Olympians. While mainstream media rarely talk about women’s hockey in Canada, with the exception of the Olympic Games, the league heavily relies on Twitter, Facebook and its own website to promote the league and connect with hockey fans. These digital platforms provide information about regular season games, the All Star Game, the Clarkson Cup, and more generally the league’s players and teams. Adopting a feminist poststructuralist approach, we examined how the CWHL used digital media with its own website in particular over the course of the 2014-2015 season. Results will highlight the discourses pertaining to women’s hockey and female athletes that are circulated on the website. The paper will discuss if and how these discourses challenge or reinforce gender borders in hockey.

Writing the National Narrative: Sport as cultural citizenship and co-authorship

Courtney Szto (Simon Fraser University)

Citizenship is usually conceived of as the “right to have rights,” but Indigenous scholar, Renya Ramirez (2007) points out that citizenship is as much about feeling like a citizen, as it is about legislated identity. I contend that culture has been able to create a space for social struggle that was never valued in any of the classical Western approaches to citizenship. The few sport scholars that have evaluated sport with respect to cultural citizenship have approached sport as a conduit for inclusion, a way to be incorporated into the mainstream while remaining unique; however, there is a paucity of literature that examines how “minoritized” groups can contribute to the co-authorship of the national narrative. This presentation will look at the Punjabi broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada as a possible site for fostering cultural citizenship for Punjabi Canadians.

The mediatization of the Montreal Canadiens Alumni engagement

Fannie Valois-Nadeau (Concordia University and Queen’s University)

This paper interrogates the mediatization (Hepp, 2012) of the Montreal Canadien Alumni engagement and the mediations (through traditional and digital platforms) by which the public presence of the former players is rendered possible. By the exploration of two distinct formats, such as the spectacle of Alumni hockey games organized to raise funds and the former players’ interventions on the web (especially used to promote their activities), this paper addresses the coexistence and intersections but also the silences between these different mediated venues. Considering the conservative aspect of the hockey culture and the generational gap felt by senior with new technologies (Sawchuk & Crow 2012), this paper seeks how the former players navigate through these mediated formats. It also raises the question of how the cultures of mediatization frame the way to age as a hockey celebrity and to ensure visibility within a media landscape mostly centred on youth (Blaikie, 1999).


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