Hockey Research at the 2016 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 Tampa, FL. 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 2016, including from Hockey in Society Assistant Editor Courtney Szto (I and contributors Matt Ventresca and Simon Darnell are also presenting research, but not on hockey). Topics include:

  • The manufacturing of hockey equipment;
  • Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi (something Courtney Szto has also written about on this blog);
  • The Edmonton Oilers’ new arena, Rogers Place, and its relationship to the colonization of Aboriginal peoples;
  • A drop-in floor hockey program for homeless men in inner city Edmonton;
  • And three different papers about national identity, race, and the South Korean men’s ice hockey team, which has brought in non-Korean born players to bolster its team ahead of hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

This is a very interesting and diverse collection of research on hockey, which should help shed new light on the changing meanings attached to the sport in the 21st Century. I am very excited to view many of these presentations this week.

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.

(Un)Masked Lives: An Inquiry into the Manufacture of an Ice Hockey Artifact

Guilherme Nothen (University of Toronto)

This paper documents the changing landscapes of the manufacture of ice hockey equipment in Canada. This was once a burgeoning branch of industrial activity, but has more recently been heavily impacted by outsourcing and offshoring tendencies (especially from the early 1990s onwards). In little less than two decades, imposing manufacturing plants – in which thousands of workers were employed – have been systematically shut down by a handful of multinational corporations, thoroughly reducing Canada´s share in the production of the equipment needed for the practice of what is often deemed its national game. Today, roughly ninety percent of the hockey gear consumed in Canada is manufactured in the global south, most notably in Asia. The research presented here unfolds in the aftermath of these transformations, paying particular attention to the perspective of the small manufacturers of ice hockey equipment that are still based on Canadian soil. For six months, I have carried out participant observations in a factory where goalie masks are produced. Drawing upon the findings that derive from my experience in this setting, I try to shed some light on everyday life on the assembly line; the relationships that the workers have with hockey; and, most fundamentally, the difficulties encountered by small companies attempting to survive at the margins of a market dominated by major corporations. To conclude, I discuss the specificities of goalie masks as sporting commodities/artifacts, seeking to illustrate the residues of artisanship that, in some special cases, pervade the manufacture of these objects to this day – thus resisting the general drive towards standardization that characterizes the sports equipment industry more broadly.

‘Mahriaa Shot, Keeta Goal’: Hockey Night Punjabi and the Significance of Ethnic Sports Media

Courtney Szto (Simon Fraser University)

During the 2008 National Hockey League Stanley Cup Finals between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation tried a pilot project offering hockey commentary in a variety of minority languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, and Punjabi. The assumption was that it would be a one-off venture into multiculturalism, and for most of the languages, it was. However, nine seasons later, the Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi broadcast has become a powerful symbol of Canadian multiculturalism, and a perfect example of how cookie-cutter models of sports broadcasting, and other communications strategies, are not necessarily transferable. This presentation will provide a broad introduction to the growth of ethnic sports media in hockey and highlight three main themes that emerged from semi-structured interviews conducted with the Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi broadcast team: (1) What makes the Punjabi broadcast successful, (2) the linguistic contributions of the broadcast, and (3) the legacy that the broadcast may leave as a contributor to the game’s culture and history.

Prairie Settlement, Hockey, and Recuperative Indigeneity: The case of Edmonton

Judy Davidson & Jay Scherer (both University of Alberta)

This paper will consider how the development and building of settler colonial sporting venues has contributed to the settlement of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The occasion for this dialogue is the building of a new arena and entertainment district in the downtown core of this mid-sized prairie city that yet again displaces and removes Indigenous peoples. The (attempted) historical and ongoing elimination and removal of the indigenous peoples of this place (primarily the Nehiyawak Plains Cree, the Stoney Nakota Sioux, and the Metis), mean that the pre-contact history of Amiskwacis, or Beaver Hills, arbitrarily named Edmonton by British fur traders, is yet again disregarded by celebratory stories of settler civilization and often those triumphant tales are centered around sport. The paper ends with an analysis of three particular events in post-Truth and Reconciliation Commission Canada that are complex imbrications of professional men’s hockey, fetishized aboriginality, and recuperative indigeneity.

Structural Inequality, Homelessness and Neoliberal Economies of Moral Worth: Salvaging the Self Through Sport?

Jay Scherer, Jordan Koch & Nicholas Holt (all University of Alberta)


Against the backdrop of the expansion of structural inequality in cities around the world, various public and private organizations continue to provide a range of sport-for-development programs for the ‘urban outcasts’ (Wacquant, 2008) of the global economy. This presentation explores the salience of weekly floor hockey matches in the inner-city of Edmonton, Alberta, for a group of men who are experiencing homelessness and who have themselves been publicly stigmatized within neoliberal economies of moral worth as social problems who lack personal responsibility (Farrugia, Smyth & Harrison, 2015). In so doing, we focus on how these sporting interludes served as convivial, safe, and consistent/ordered events that nurtured meaningful relationships (with other participants and social workers) and a genuine sense of community that helped to construct morally worthwhile subjectivities. The weekly floor hockey matches, thus, provided valuable resources in the broader struggle for what Snow and Anderson (1993) have called ‘salvaging the self’ for individuals who embody a repertoire of trauma associated with homelessness. Our analysis is drawn from over three-years of ethnographic field notes, as well as interviews with eight men aged 25-42 years who had attended the weekly floor hockey programs for at least four years.

Critical Media Discourse Analysis of the South Korean Men’s National Ice Hockey Team

Na Ri Shin (University of Illinois at Urbana­‐Champaign), Doo Jae Park (Eastern Illinois University) & Jon Welty Peachey (University of Illinois at Urbana-­Champaign)

The purpose of this study is to critically explore media discourses regarding a nation-building project around the South Korean men’s national ice hockey team. As South Korea is holding the Winter Olympics in 2018, the government and the Korean Ice Hockey Association have been working on a project of recruiting and naturalizing White athletes from Canada and the US in order for them to play on the team. White athletes’ naturalization has been processed with ‘Koreanness’ discourse constructed through the media. This study utilizes Anderson’s (1983) concept of ‘imagined community’ to understand the intersection of ethnicity and sporting nationalism built upon the discourses of the nation-building project within the sport of ice hockey. Since 2013, six White athletes have obtained dual nationalities of Korea and Canada/US. This study focuses on media reports on the Korean national team from 2013 to 2016. Preliminary findings show that Korean media has tried to link White athletes to the imagined ‘Koreanness’ through elucidating their ‘pro-Korean’ behaviors. This was done to produce discourse embracing White athletes as ‘Koreans.’ However, the media developed racialized discourse emphasizing the performance differences between White and Korean athletes, perpetuating White athletes’ superiority. Implications and future research directions will be discussed.

Exploring the Racialized Athletic Identity Perception of Korean Ice Hockey Players

Doo Jae Park & Kristin E. Brown (both Eastern Illinois University)

The purpose of this study is to understand the racialized athletic identity perception of Korean ice hockey players specifically members of the men’s national team. Their athletic identity has been re-constructed since six White players from Canada and the US obtained dual-nationality of Korea and Canada/US. This study also explores the negotiation process of racialized athletic identity that has occurred with players of Korean descent after the Korean Ice Hockey Association (KIHA) recruited and naturalized the White players. We utilized Bonilla-Silva’s (1997) structural theory of racism to undergird this study. The study involved interviewing six national team members of Korean descent on their racialized athletic identity perception, their perception of the ‘Whiteness’ of the sport of ice hockey in relation to the six naturalized White players, and changes of their identity perception after White players’ inclusion on the team. Preliminary findings revealed that their racial identities influenced their athletic identities, especially their self-perception of athletic performance in comparison to the White players. Moreover, the KIHA has systematically constructed racialized organizational culture, representing only the White players in the media. Implications and future research directions will be discussed.

Racially Integrated Korean Olympic Team? Does the Athlete of Color Still Matter?

Seongsik Cho, & Nami Kim (both Hanyang University)

This paper argues that there are some misguided beliefs and prejudice against black athletes’ naturalization process while no barrier to white athletes’ naturalization is found in Korea. The overt standards of foreign athletes’ naturalization into Korea are their performance competency, residency duration in Korea, Korean proficiency and personal records. In Korea, however, covert and racist standards have been at work in foreign athletes’ naturalization process. For 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, 9 all white athletes, 6 ice hockey players from Canada and USA, 2 Russian biathlon players and 1 German luge player, have been accepted as Korean Olympic Team members without any disputes. The Korean media has positively dealt with these athletes’ acquisition of Korean citizenship. But the application for naturalization into Korea from one Kenyan marathoner whose recent record was 2h 5m 13s was declined due to his doping history 4 years ago. One Brazilian soccer player and one American basketball player did not have the opportunity to play for the Korean national team because there was strong opposition to their naturalization into Korea. This paper suggests that the athletes of color’s naturalization into Korea and their representation of Korea will be important for Korean people to develop multi-cultural consciousness and practices.


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