September 06 2011 09:22PM
Laura Robinson’s article on the Vancouver riots and the violence-worshipping nature of hockey doesn’t quite go as far as the title above, but she comes close.
Robinson argues that hockey – she cites the Vancouver Olympics and the Canucks’ playoff run – leads to violence against women, because of the culture of violence in hockey.
I came across this particular article thanks to Tyler Dellow, who goes into some detail explaining why that statistics that Robinson uses are, at best, deeply flawed.
I’m in total agreement with Dellow here; Robinson’s carefully dancing around numbers that don’t support her case and carefully representing the ones that do support her case in the most damning light possible. But, since Dellow’s already tackled the statistics, I thought I’d look at the other logical premises of Robinson’s argument.
[W]riting about the connection between the public performance of violence -- and how young males learn how to "act out" masculinity through that performance -- is verboten in a country that worships what has become a violent game.
One of the things that Robinson doesn’t touch on in her article – maybe she has at some point over her decade-long crusade against hockey (she’d never allow any male she cared for to be involved in the sport) but she doesn’t here – is why sexual violence, and only sexual violence, deserves consideration.
What happens if we look at overall violent crime? We can only look at things since 2009 (the way statistics were recorded changed that year, making previous comparison very difficult) but the overall rate doesn’t move the same way that the sexual assault rate did. Why hockey only impacts sexual crime and not overall violent crime is a mystery to me.
Then, of course, there’s the ‘has become’ part of that sentence, which shows an appalling ignorance of history. In 1905, Alcide Laurin was beaten to death on the ice. In 1907, Owen McCourt was also killed on the ice – Charles Masson, the player charged in his death, was ultimately acquitted in large part because it wasn’t clear which of the players beating McCourt had actually killed him. Those are two incidents, but there are plenty of others – hockey’s been a violent game since very early on.
There’s other stuff along the way – like the unsupported statement that few hockey players like what the game has become – but then Robinson sites Dr. Graham Pollett’s 2007 paper Violence in amateur Hockey and suggests reading it. She didn’t link to it, but I will – it’s here - and include some of the actual content from the paper. Let me quote one paragraph:
Yet Hockey Canada appears reticent to [take action to minimize violence]. This despite the evidence that amateur contests in which violence is not tolerated such as the World Juniors are highly successful…
The World Juniors are, of course, played under international rules. Just like the Olympics, which Robinson cites as a major factor in violence against women. I’m unsure if she’s ignorant of the difference in rules or if she’s choosing to ignore it; either way, the reference to Pollett’s paper seems ill-placed.
The startling coincidence of the report being released the same day we learned Wade Belak, a recently retired NHL enforcer, had hanged himself drives home an even more tragic lesson on hockey violence. This was the third death of a young man who was also an NHL enforcer in the past few months -- fourth when Bob Probert's death in July is included.
The deaths of NHL tough guys this summer has been deeply disturbing. I’m not familiar enough with the lives of the players involved to be in a position to explain exactly what happened and what the answer is – though like many, I don’t think the role of ‘NHL enforcer’ is conducive to good mental health. At the same time, though, Robinson doesn’t explain why Probert’s death – caused by a heart attack (which, given the fact that Probert’s father died of a heart attack at the age of 41, might be related to family history)– should be included in this list.
The problem though, is that without a certain level of ignorance towards history and a willingness to fudge numbers, Robinson would be unable to hammer away at her theories with the same level of moral indignation.
For further discussion of sexual assault statistics and how they relate to hockey, Colby Cosh's "Hockey: the cure for rape?" deserves consideration.