Wonder if they know, I know they don’t go where we kick it at
I haven’t written as much as I have in previous years. I’m incredibly busy, trying to propel myself in my chosen profession. Without giving too much away, I’m working in education. I find it incredibly fulfilling and worth every minute. Hockey is a nice distraction, but I can’t find myself caring about it. The results of the election shouldn’t play into the sport, but they do. A growing portion of the game’s younger players are now Americans, and of course Canadians have opinions about their neighbors to the South.
I am distraught and ultimately unsurprised by the opinions of some hockey players. A Twitter user by the handle @lenofi made a list of hockey players who supported Donald Trump unequivocally. The reasoning for this is “players who chose someone to support based on hatred,” and she’s right. I, unfortunately, am unsurprised by any hockey player who appears on this list, American or Canadian. Let’s break this the fuck down.
Hockey is an expensive sport, and therefore mostly available to financially secure families in the States (and Canada, in many cases). The exclusivity angle no doubt works its way into the brains of these players. Second, the sport is primarily white. More minority players are coming into the league, in several different creeds. While this is good for the sport, it is still lacking in its diversity. When there’s less minority visibility, it may be more difficult to create empathy. Racism, by the way, is still in the NHL
We must also consider the education piece. Many Canadian and American hockey players start playing junior at 16, which is when they give up their education. I am not saying they do not attend school. What I am saying is that their focus is now on being employees who are paid a substandard wage in pursuit of a dream only a select few will achieve. For those players who decide to join the NCAA, it’s the same dream, only in a different context.
Pursuit of hockey over education (as opposed to with) leads to a bubble wherein these players know nothing beyond the hockey lifestyle. They’re insular, except hold on, here’s a community outreach initiative (which is kinda to sell tickets, too, shhh), except hold on. When you’re not challenged to think about what it’s like in someone else’s experience, what do you do?
All of this leads to the support of Trump. Canadians who play in the States and American players were no doubt paying attention to what was going on in the election. Beat reporters probably wouldn’t have asked players about the election. Twitter, though, is a place for free speech. In response, players let everyone know how they felt about people they don’t appear to know exist. It’s real disheartening, and want to know why?
The Internet Hockey Community is full of bright, smart people of different genders, races, and sexualities. As much as I must admit is still overwhelmingly white and male (including myself), there appears to be a significant amount of signal-boosting women and minority contributors within the community. People are recognized for their contributions and their humanity. Everyone is joined together by the love of hockey, the least popular of the major sports in North America. The Internet Hockey Community is a place wherein we can be real weirdos and humans with the passion for an incredible game. On the one hand, there’s Brian Burke’s very human response to his son’s passing and belief in You Can Play. Burke might be into some ass-backwards regressive hockey, but at least he believes anyone should play. Outside of a few, this game does not love a lot of people back.
On election day, Predators reporter Kevin Martel noted that Nashville center Mike Ribeiro was shouting for Trump outside the locker room. One might dismiss this as a Canadian espousing some political action, until you realize that Ribeiro should probably not be playing hockey. I am going to point you in the direction of this article here, and the follow up. You may not have seen this because a certain NHL MVP was getting time in the spotlight for very similar allegations. The NHL sort of didn’t care about any of this.
When these players do anything on the ice, I’m disappointed. Now the scope is beyond three or four or five players. When I watch a game, I now have to wonder if these people are complete jackasses. I know these guys are giving it their all, but are some of them incredibly horrible people off the ice? Talent is not an excuse for being a terrible person. We have to stop acting like it.
I’d love to see a response from an NHL coach like the one Stan Van Gundy gave. Keep in mind the NBA is probably the best-run league out of the traditional “Big 4” right now–thought it is not without its problems. The NHL is behind the times in many aspects, and it needs to catch up, and fast. There’s no better time than during its centennial season.
I want to write about hockey stuff. I don’t want to worry about the actual character of the guys on the team. It’s one thing to show up to the rink for three or four hours and practice. It’s another to go out in the world and be a decent human being. I tend to think that’s more important than the game.