“Hockey Is for Everyone”: Racism, Homophobia, and Inequality in Canada’s Game

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Bridgette DESJARDINS, Carleton University, Canada
Hockey is undergoing a public relations face-lift. The National Hockey League’s (NHL) “Hockey is for everyone” initiative and brand new ‘Declaration of Principles’ affirm the league’s commitment to equality regardless of race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. The NHL is also partnered with external organizations focused on improving race relations and LGBTQ inclusion. Additionally, Hockey Canada’s Ontario branch introduced mandatory transgender education for coaches and trainers. Yet recent events show this commitment to equality is little more than lip service. The reigning championship team committed to visiting the White House on the same day football players (inspired by President Trump’s incendiary comments) protested anti-black police brutality. When team captain Ryan Getzlaf uttered a homophobic slur during the 2017 playoffs, the NHL leveled a pitiful reprimand, and Getzlaf offered an equally pitiful apology. When black player Joel Ward scored a game winning goal in the 2012 playoffs, fans unleased a twitter storm of racist hate, showing the bigoted underbelly of ‘hockey culture’. These events are the tip of a racist and homophobic iceberg. Using discourse analysis and queer theory I address the following questions: How does a sport predominantly played by white athletes perpetuate white privilege? How does homophobia manifest in the only professional sports league without an ‘out’ athlete? What structures exist within hockey organizations that nurture a racist and homophobic status quo? What sites of resistance exist within hockey institutions and/or culture? I analyze documents published by Hockey Canada (such as the limited trans inclusive dressing room policy created after a human rights complaint) and the NHL (primarily the Declaration of Principles), and compare the rhetoric espoused in these policies with the on-the-ice/ground action of both groups. Additionally, I look at player and fan social media commentary to connect the dark side of hockey culture with institutional practices.