Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hockey Fever, Hatred, and Violence

Perhaps because my favourite hockey team has not been in the NHL Stanley Cup final since 1994, I was not paying attention to the level of illogical hatred that passes for sports rivalry, especially at this the very top level.

I have been surprised and chagrined by the vitriol in the press from sports writers, commenters, and even the NHL players themselves. One of my family members, opinionated but usually not so extreme, has fallen into a kind of bitter hatred for the Vancouver Canucks that doesn't make any sense.

There have been violent incidents; the Boston Swat team was out for last night's game; some Boston restaurants wouldn't serve the Canucks. Fans, generally, of professional sports have been beaten and "befouled," and worse by other teams' fans over many years. The list in Wikipedia of incidents shows an enormous increase in violent events in the last ten years (although this could be a matter of reporting, definition, or both and not an actual increase).

The crazier arguments I have heard are that 1) British Columbia isn't really part of Canada - this generally from writers and commenters east of Winnipeg. I was truly surprised to hear this, as my passport clearly is a Canadian one, issued by the Canadian government. Maybe British Columbians don't "do" Canadian in a way acceptable to eastern sports writers and their fans, but that hardly makes the argument true. I suspect this comes largely from long held disappointment about the dismal record of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

2) The "not Canadian" argument often is accompanied by the claim that the Boston Bruins are more Canadian than the Canucks because of the high percentage of Canadians on the team. Without knowing the facts, I suspect this is true for many NHL teams. The Vancouver Canucks are, of course, a Canadian franchise based in Canada. The Boston Bruins are an American franchise based in the United States - that this needs stating defies logic!

NHL players are professional; they play for the glory of the team they work for, not for the glory of the country of their citizenship. People who find this disturbing should confine themselves to watching Olympic hockey, where players play only for their own nation.

3) Another argument I have heard is about the terrible violence perpetrated by the Canuck players. There are incidents in any professional hockey game of what can be called "violence." Canucks included. But isolated incidents do not a history make. The Canucks have one of the cleanest records in the league, preferring to score goals against the other team after the opponent's goons make a questionable hit, rather than retaliate in kind.

4) Some claim that the Canucks are simply not such a good team, yet they won the 2011 President's Cup!

I have not really paid much attention to the physical or verbal violence in sports surrounding the various finals and series for title of the best in the game. Now that it is close to home, I am appalled by the hatred and the kinds of comments that people are actually willing to make in public.

I'll be glad when the Stanley Cup final is over, regardless who wins it. Boston is a good team. I just happen to be a Canucks' fan.

Go Canucks!


Green Thumb Gardening said...

Hockey is fun to see live in the regular season, and unbelievably fun in the playoffs. I can’t imagine how intense it would be in a game 7 type atmosphere, knowing that the stanley cup is waiting backstage.

Ciss B said...

I'll be glad when the season is over too because of the craziness that happens then, some of it extreme.

I have sons who are excited about hockey, and are Red Wing fans, but luckily not fanatics. My oldest is involved in Pond Hockey here in the States and that has become a really great extension of the sport which brings people together and creates a fun way for enjoying hockey. His team actually won one year and did it to honor a buddy serving in Iraq! They did it for someone else and the NHL honored them for it. That's what the sport is suppose to be about - camaraderie.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Neither one of us is very knowledgeable about sport, perhaps becuse we have not played any since we were at school when, it has to be said, we were fairly useless.

One hears so much today about violence and abuse connected with sporting events but, we are sure, that in reality these are very isolated when one looks at the total picture which, world wide, is vast.

Judie said...

I think there is just so much anger and rage in the world today, and most of it stems from ignorance. Those awful fights seem to just be part of the game of hockey. Someone asked Rod a couple of years ago about the hockey game he went to with Richard and our granddaughter, Gracie. The most pressing question was, "any good fights?"

I was standing in line at the DMV several years ago renew my driver's license. The young man in front of me had just moved from Alaska. I was stunned when I heard the clerk tell him that they didn't handle licenses from foreign countries.

I have traveled from one side of Canada to the other. It is a beautiful and friendly country.

ChrisJ said...

Green Thumb,

Yes, very intense. Sad, though, when that translates into some of the things people do to relieve that intensity.

ChrisJ said...


The Pond Hockey sounds wonderful; what a great idea to play to honour someone else.

ChrisJ said...

Jane and Lance,

I hope you are correct, but fear that you are not. When doing some background research for the post, I was quite surprised at the amount hatred and number of disturbing events worldwide.

ChrisJ said...


I think you are right - ignorance, ego as well. The two together are pretty scary.

Owen Gray said...

I can't explain the Canuck hatred, Chris. The Toronto Star is on the warpath. So are lots old other folks.

When I was growing up in Montreal, we'd make disparaging remarks about Toronto -- but we loved to see the Leafs play.

ChrisJ said...


Judie's comment is close to something. The whole world seems more hate filled. Or maybe we are just more connected to what was already there.

Growing up, with the CBC the only tv channel, my dad and I used to watch hockey together. He was a Leafs fan, so I adopted the Canadiens as my team. We had a great friendly rivalry.

P. M. Doolan said...

Sounds a bit like European football (soccer). I happened to disembark from a train in a small city (Worthing) in the south of England last September. Dozens of police outside the station, some taking photos and shooting film, police cars and armored vans galore, helicopters hovering overhead. I thought that perhaps the local Nazi party were having a convention. No, it was just a score or so of soccer supporters from an away team receiving the usual police escort back to the station in order to ensure that they didn't tear up the town or its inhabitants.

ChrisJ said...


In light of what's happened in Vancouver, the hatred in the press, especially, seems prophetic.

I was thinking about soccer, too.