Hockey Players

Growing up in Toronto, Canada I have been around the hockey culture since I was just a baby. I was two years old when I was put on the ice for the first time and ended up playing hockey for twelve years at a high level. Even though I do not play organized hockey anymore it is still something I am very passionate about and always will be. Being something I am passionate about and having played it for more than half my life I decided to look deeper into just how the game of hockey and specifically the players are portrayed in the media. Living in Toronto does not really give me a good representation because hockey is life there and people can only say good things about hockey players. So how are hockey players and the game portrayed in the media outside of the hockey centre of the world? Hockey players are often portrayed in the media in a way that does not truly represent them as individuals. I focused on how hockey players are depicted in films and in shows about hockey. What I found is that hockey players are shown as not the smartest people, fighters, and very masculine.

Poster-of-Goon-2012The first artifact I looked at was the movie Goon which was directed by Michael Dowse and written by Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg. Goon is a comedy movie that focuses on a guy who has never played hockey before and how he gets signed to a hockey team just to be a fighter. There were many instances in this movie that I found to be interesting. Two are the main character cannot skate to begin with and the amount of hockey fights there are. I find the fact that the main character cannot skate to start interesting because he gets signed to a hockey team after the general manager sees him fight on a video and then he moves up the ranks of hockey. This would never happen in real life. No hockey team would ever sign a guy just because he is a good fighter. All the fighters who play high level of hockey are also good players. They may not be the most skilled but they can contribute to the game outside of being a fighter. I found the amount of fights they show to be interesting because it is such an unrealistic amount it is comical, which I’m sure they were going for. In real hockey there is probably on average one fight every other game for a team but in this movie there is a fight almost every shift it seems like. Hockey players are not fighters which is what this movie seems to be portraying. Hockey players are hockey players and yes some also fight but they are hockey players first. Fighting is being phased out of hockey as the game changes so the amount of players that a actually fight is slim.

The second artifact I used was the movie Slap Shot that was directed by George Roy Hill k9X8h7mMgSSnVTGFJNxH5irvzEAand written by Nancy Dowd. It is about a hockey team that resorts to violent play to get more popularity and one of the ways they do that is by signing three brothers that are considered goons. The two details I found most interesting in this movie are the hockey players are all portrayed to be very masculine and the fact that the owner is focused more on selling hockey to the fans than creating a winning team. Seeing the hockey players being portrayed as very masculine is revealing that hockey is seen as a very masculine sport in popular culture and therefore the players are also very masculine. I found the fact that the owner is more worried about getting fans than creating a good team to be strange because even thought hey ended up becoming a good team, no owner would ever do anything that puts the success of the team at risk which is exactly what happened in the movie.

The third artifact I used was clips from Coaches Corner which is a segment featured between periods on Hockey Night in Canada. Broadcasted by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). It discusses what has happened the last week in the hockey world and is lead by Don Cherry, a former player and coach in the NHL. One thing I found interesting from the Coaches Corner clips was just how much Don Cherry praises the tough players and the players who fight. If someone who does not really watch or follow hockey was stop just watch Coaches Corner than they may think more hockey players fight than do. He praises the tough players over and over again throughout the clip and from what I can remember while watching him every Saturday night growing up. To him they are the most valuable players in the NHL and a perfect example of what a hockey player should be. This is unfortunate because people who watch his program will just agree with him if they do not watch much hockey and that is a very single minded viewpoint. Tough players and players who fight are definitely important in the NHL but to say they are what all players should be or are, is just simply wrong. More players than not are more skill oriented and it is too bad they do not get the air time or discussion on Coaches Corner as they should.

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I think that there is a lot of fighting shown and many movies are based on that aspect of the game because that is what will sell the best and bring in the most viewers. I think this is why it is focused on so much even though it is a very small part of the game. In today’s society we are all about making money and that is a great way to do it. After viewing the two movies it was pretty evident that the notion that hockey players are dumb comes from popular culture because of films and other media over the years that have portrayed hockey players in that light. It is especially too bad for the tough players and the “fighters” because they are the ones who get portrayed as the dumbest. In reality, hockey players are very intelligent and hockey is a sport that in itself you have to be a bright person to play it at a high level and the “fighters” are in many cases one of the smartest players on every team. Just because that is their role on the team and they want to do all they can to help their team win does not mean they a dumb.

SidneyCrosby2012The first secondary source I found is a scholarly journal that was written by Kristi A Allain who was a student at Trent University in Canada at the time. The journal focuses on Sidney Crosby, who is wildly regarded the best player in the world right now. Sydney Crosby is considered the model of Canadian masculinity and a national identity. However his image is mostly shaped by the media. “What is particularly interesting about Crosby, is the way his identity has been constructed by the public, and by the various media that report on him in contradictory ways” (Allain 5). The media has portrayed Crosby as a rough and tough Canadian superstar that is here to save hockey but also a whiney prima donna. This just goes to show how the media can shed a different light on someone than may be true. The media tries so hard to label people, in this case Crosby, as something that will sell. It does not matter if it necessarily true as long as it makes money. None of those journalists who have called Crosby those things know him personally so they really should not be saying what and who he is.

The second secondary source I found is an article from the Los Angeles Times that was written by Karen Kaplan in 2013. The article discusses a study that researchers from the Injury Prevention Research Office and the Division of Neurosurgery at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto constructed to see if the media is partly to blame for an increase in brain injuries. They studied many different newspapers and noticed that the media is almost encouraging the aggressive play that often leads to head injuries. I was not surprised to learn that these newspapers are encouraging this type of play because of the three primary artifacts I reviewed and how violent concentrated they were. People read this news and see that this aggressive style of play is being praised and talked about all the time so they want to go play the game of hockey like that because they think it is the right way. A lot of head injuries for younger kids in hockey is caused by someone just not knowing how to properly play the game or what is right and what is wrong. It seems obvious that the way the media portrays the game of hockey and its players is now getting to the point where it is actually dangerous to the players.

The media portrays the game of hockey and its players in a way that will benefit them the most so they focus on the violent aspects of the game and praise the tough players more than anyone else. For myself this was magnified when I came to the USA for school and when I would tell people that I had played hockey for twelve years they would tell me of how tough of a sport they hear hockey is and they would ask me about hockey fights. Those were the first things most people went to which just goes to show how much the media has an affect on people. The truth is I’m no more tough than the next guy. Sure hockey is tough sport to play but that does not make all the players tough people. Just because someone looks tough on the ice in the middle of a game does not mean they are tough outside of the game. Hockey players are just regular people like everybody else.

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Works Cited
Kid Crosby or Golden Boy: Sidney Crosby, Canadian national identity, and the policing of hockey masculinity
International Review for the Sociology of Sport March 2011 46: 3-22, first published on August 9, 2010

Goon. Alliance Films, 2011. Film.

Slap Shot. Universal, 1977. Film.

Kaplan, Karen. “Is the Media to Blame for the Brain Injuries of Hockey Players?” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 May 2015.

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7 thoughts on “Hockey Players

  1. Ben

    As a kid growing up I watched a couple of hockey movies and I remember them being aggressive and often started fights. I didn’t pay much attention to how else they are portrayed but I found your paper informing and rally interesting. I never would have thought that media portrays hockey players as being images to promote hockey but not actually play hockey. I can see how this may be misleading because real hockey games are more about winning and playing than the image. As I watched hockey fights in hockey games I found that people pay more attention to that than the actual game and I was always curious why that happens. I think you did a great job on the structure of the essay and showing how media portrays hockey players. Also the images made the paper much more interesting. Great job!

    Aleksey

  2. Hi Ben,
    I have had a few friends who were also hockey players, and they are pretty smart. I have found it really interesting how they would make hockey players act/be dumb, and how ridiculous they make this assumption for the whole team. One thing I have noticed that most movies fail to do is that they fail to make all the characters as an individual person and prevent one stereotype from homogenizing the whole team of players. I agree with you how using fights and violence as a selling point to both viewers and fans help generate profit, but it doesn’t represent the whole aspect and goal in hockey. I liked how you pointed out that hockey players are just like regular people and how players are smart and intelligent (and not dumb). Thanks for sharing, and I enjoyed reading your post!

  3. Hey Ben,

    I enjoyed your paper. I played youth hockey for a couple years when I was growing up (I was not very good unfortunately) and always loved watching it. Further, a lot of my friends from back home are or were hockey players and I can say that people who play hockey are some of the nicest people. Certainly it is an inherently tough sport, but I would definitely agree with your idea about hockey players being portrayed as kind of dumb is mostly wrong. The movies you picked do a good job of illustrating your point about the portrayal of hockey players, though I personally love Slapshot, it is a very funny movie. Anyway, good job.

    -James

  4. Hey Ben!

    I really enjoyed reading this, mainly because I know nothing about hockey so I’m one of the people that only see the side that is of the stereotypes you speak of. I think its so interesting that people judge it like this as if the sport makes the person versus it just being something a person enjoys doing. One of the most advertised parts of hockey is the fighting in my opinion, so we are just shown images of hockey players being aggressive dimwits who nothing other than hockey itself. I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read this because it really opened my eyes. Thank you!

  5. Hello Ben,

    Hockey has always been my favorite guy sport to watch. I have only been to a few hockey games, yet what attracts me to the sport is the masculinity. I think that was astonishing to read about the general manager signing the main character to the hockey team because he discovered that he could fight. Thank you for stating that hockey is not fighting intensive, although there are fights, the media has exaggerated on the amount. Thank you also for stating that hockey players are not fighters or tough guys, because my friend is the perfect example. He has been playing hockey from a young age but he is not masculine, for one, he is tall, skinny, and not masculine at all, and secondly, he has gotten into 2 two fights in the past 20 years of playing hockey.For many years I have stereotyped hockey players as the tough fighters, the menly men, but after reading your post, I happily stand corrected. It is crazy how much of an influence the media can have in your life. All in all, I really enjoyed reading your post!

  6. Hi Ben,

    Good job on the paper. You had many good examples of the way media portrays hockey players. I have seen Goon and found it to be an amusing movie. With Goon and your other examples you provide a good argument for the portrayal of hockey players as violent and aggressive athletes. Did you ever find any examples that showed otherwise? I cant remember the name of the movie, but my parents liked this one movie where a hockey player makes a transition form hockey to ice skating. I remember it being a positive movie with some required drama but don’t remember any portrayal of brutishness or violence. As far as structure of the paper there where a few spots that were confusing to read, wrong word order, drawn out sentences, but for the most part a good blog, I enjoyed it.

  7. Hey Ben,
    I was drawn to your essay because I love watching hockey above all sports. You brought up a few good points about how media uses violence to pull in viewers, but hadn’t thought about how hockey players are underrepresented as individuals because of this. It also made me think that sports might be defined in some way by their viewers (especially by those who haven’t played before). If the viewer is expecting to see fights in the game, they aren’t going to want to consider the more internal aspects that player is going through, like their passion for the sport.

    Thanks for the post!

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