Friday, July 27, 2007

Blood and ice

I'm not a serious hockey fan, but I've always found it interesting the way fighting is often portrayed as an essential part of the sport. It seems like a dominant story; this article about a camp to teach kids how to fight in hockey games actually surprised me with the information that fighting is in fact outlawed in the amateur ranks, Olympics, and most leagues outside of the NHL. The way that famous Canadian commentator Don Cherry and others talk about it, you would think it ranked just below goal-scoring in importance.

Yet, when I was at the Hockey Hall of Fame earlier this month on a visit to Toronto, there wasn't anything even remotely related to fighting. No photos of players throwing down their gloves, no bloody grimaces--the only indications were some pictures of players with missing teeth (which probably was the result of an errant puck), and one old jersey with some suspicious looking stains on it.

In our "From Theory to Practice" training this past weekend, we talked about how dominant stories--those narratives that shape our perceptions but all too often don't reflect our lived experience--are often presented as immutable, eternal truths, but in fact are constantly changing. Fighting in hockey seems like a great example of this. Is hockey in college or the Olympics not "real" hockey because there's no fighting? I doubt you'd find many people who would make that case. Many of the arguments presented in the article for fighting seem disingenuous as well; football is hardly a less violent, physical sport, and fighting rarely breaks out, and when it does players are immediately disciplined. There are such sublime moments of skill in hockey, it's a shame that the picture many people have of it is a sport of goons and penalty boxes. Share

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