Just over 10 years ago, I had a wild idea to start a hockey blog that cast a critical eye on the sport and its culture. And so, in late-2011, I bought a Word Press domain and launched Hockey in Society. Little did I know what the blog would become 10 years down the line.
2011 was a different time in hockey media. Traditional media, such as newspapers and TV, still held sway as the predominant sources of hockey information and influence – although that influence was beginning to wane as digital media elbowed their way on to the sport media scene. In 2011, Don Cherry was still on the air and considered one of the most influential voices in the sport. The CBC and TSN still held NHL broadcasting rights in Canada, with Rogers’ seismic monopolization a year away. Emerging digital media were beginning to take hold in hockey, but were very much in the minority in terms of influence. Twitter was 5 years old. Instagram would appear a year later and the creation of TikTok was still five years away. I had never heard of reddit or GIFs.
That said, by 2011, hockey blogs had become well-established spaces for alternative coverage of hockey. Inspired by early popular blogs such as Puck Daddy and Backhand Shelf (which, it should be noted, were part of powerful media companies Yahoo! and The Score, respectively), I began my own, short-lived Vancouver Canucks fan blog (RIP, ‘Nucks and Pucks) before moving over to a much more established Canucks-focused blog on SB Nation. As I immersed myself in fan-driven digital media production, I became increasingly interested in how blogs afforded a space for alternative ways of talking about and covering hockey, particularly where they could challenge the dominant focus and narratives of the mainstream hockey media and foster social connections—perhaps even community?—amongst likeminded hockey enthusiasts.
At the same time, I was in the second year of my PhD studies at University of Toronto and gaining an eye-opening critical education on how sport is intimately connected to social injustices and inequalities. In a very short period of time, I was forced to reflect critically on how the sport I loved was tied to problematic intersecting social structures and behaviours, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, violence, and nationalism—and my own position within these structures. I wanted to create and contribute to a space where these issues could be tackled in a critical and accessible way that could engage hockey fans and writers.
It was from these origins that Hockey in Society was born. Our original writing crew consisted of Courtney Szto (now the site’s Managing Editor), Simon Darnell and myself. We were joined shortly thereafter by Matt Venstresca and E. Martin Nolan. As the months and years passed, many more fantastic people wrote for the blog, some just a few times in a short period of time and others over many years. The full list of additional contributors, in alphabetical order by surname, is: Sunil Agnihotri, Zuzana Botikova, Madison Danford, Martine Dennie, Vicky Grygar, Dan Hanoomansingh, Shona Hickmore, Alvin Ma, Cheryl MacDonald, Brett Pardy (now Senior Editor), Doo Jae Park, Barbara Ravel (translator), Jamie Ryan, and Victoria Silverwood. Each of these contributors brought an extremely intelligent and passionate eye to critical issues in hockey and all have made fantastic contributions to the goals of Hockey in Society and helped to push it in directions I never imagined when I began the blog.
This blog would not be what it is without these amazing contributors, as well as the numerous guest posters or co-authors we have hosted over the years. Hockey in Society has never generated revenue (any ads are placed by Word Press, and all advertising requests were rebuffed) and thus has not paid contributors. Contributors devoted their time and shared their expertise in order to provide insight into and make a difference in hockey culture. I cannot thank them enough for making the site what it has become.
As the years progressed, I was extremely pleased to see Hockey in Society gain increased traction in hockey and academic circles. Major hockey blogs began to link to our posts, driving new readers to the site. Our writers received numerous media requests, and contributed insight to outlets such as CBC, The Canadian Press, and Radio Slovakia International. Our social media engagement and following has grown at a slow-but-steady pace. Furthermore, Hockey in Society posts began to appear on university syllabi (and not just my own!)—a particularly gratifying and unexpected development.
Since Hockey in Society launched, I have also noted with pleasure the rise in critical hockey websites. Today, fans who want to think about the sport’s connection to social and injustice or the need for more diverse representation in hockey can find many quality online outlets, including (but certainly not limited to) Black Girl Hockey Club, The Victory Press and The Ice Garden or podcasts like Changing on the Fly (which was reviewed on this blog) or Founding 4. Further, more broadly-focused sport podcasts, such as Burn It All Down and The End of Sport, have offered excellent critical engagements with hockey.
Without question, such media have helped advance critical discussions about hockey and its culture in important and impactful ways. I strongly believe that these voices have helped normalize socially- and politically-engaged discussions of hockey and, in turn, pushed mainstream media outlets to engage with these discussions. As a result, it is not unusual, today, to see corporate media such as Sportsnet, TSN, or The Athletic produce quality content that critiques various issues in hockey. I like to think that Hockey in Society played some small part in helping advance a critical popular discussion about hockey.
Sadly, as my academic career shifted away from studying hockey, and my family responsibilities grew, I found myself with less-and-less time to devote to Hockey in Society. Thankfully, before I formally handed over the editorial reins, Courtney, Brett, and other contributors had increasingly taken charge of the blog and steered it in amazing and novel directions. Courtney officially assumed the editorial duties in early 2020, and I moved to the position of “Past Editor” – which basically means I will continue to post occasionally, when time permits me, and provide any feedback if Courtney and Brett request it. I am also more than happy to continue to pay the hosting fees to keep the site and its URL active.
Even though professional and life circumstances have shifted me away from Hockey in Society, it remains near and dear to my heart. I truly believe that the blog has had an incredible first 10 years, and I am excited to see how it continues to develop and transform in the coming years.
Finally, thank you to all of you who supported and read the blog over the last decade. We have received several heartfelt messages or comments from individuals who found the blog meaningful or helpful, and these make the work worthwhile. Thank you, thank you, thank you!