ice hockey

A person wearing blue jeans hits a hockey puck with a hockey stick while skating on a backyard ice rink.
Backyard ice rinks have been celebrated as a “Canadian way” to enjoy winter while many community rinks were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic (photo by Pete Thompson licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

“What do you do in the middle of a pandemic, when winter weather has arrived and almost every form of recreation is banned? Build an outdoor ice rink.” This was the question CBC Manitoba asked its readers—and answered for them—in December 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s second wave. A month later, firefighters in rural Ontario were filling backyard rinks for residents, and CTV highlighted pandemic induced backyard rinks from Ottawa to the Maritime provinces.

Outdoor ice rinks play a significant social and cultural role in the construction of a collective Canadian identity; from the romantic images of children scrimmaging on frozen ponds in commercials for Tim Hortons coffee shops, to the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic games, outdoor hockey is painted with nostalgia and innocence, as the game in its purest form. So, when backyard rinks had a renaissance during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not surprising the Canadian media viewed such a development as worthy of celebration. Yet, as we face another winter marked by the pandemic, it is important to consider that, despite these media images, many Canadians have not been able to stick-handle “around the pandemic on [their] backyard rink.”

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Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand either kissed or licked opposing players on multiple occasions during the 2017-18 NHL season. (Photo via Slidingsideways)

Some may have chuckled the first time Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand kissed an opponent on the cheek. This was during the 2017-18 National Hockey League (NHL) regular season, and the “recipient” was Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov.

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On October 5, The New York Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League (NHL) announced a partnership. While the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has made several of these cross-league partnerships with the NHL in the last few years (Montreal Canadiennes – Montreal Canadians, Toronto Furies – Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Inferno –  Calgary Flames), this is the first such partnership for a team in the NWHL. In recent years, there have been suggestions that the two women’s leagues need to build partnerships with the NHL and its affiliated teams in order to gain legitimacy and maintain a stable league. From that perspective, this partnership is a step in the right direction and, at face value, is a huge asset to the Riveters, because it provides them with increased marketing and promotional resources and reach, a state of the art facility, and support for local grassroots programming for girls and women’s hockey. Despite these benefits, there are also reasons to be concerned about the NHL being associated with and having a say in the development of professional women’s hockey.

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In December 2016, a league-appointed spotter had Connor McDavid controversially removed from a game to be assessed for concussion symptoms. Photo from Yahoo Sports!

*Cross posted on Hockey in Society*

The media conversation surrounding sport’s ongoing “concussion crisis” took an interesting turn in early December 2016. In spite of the wide assortment of sophisticated technologies heralded as providing the next big breakthrough in protecting athletes from the effects of brain trauma, the debates around how to best diagnose a concussion revolved around a pair of human eyeballs.

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