Poetics on Hockey

Hockey won’t hold still for a portrait. To gain a glimpse inside, you join it in progress…just as players do. Jumping onto the ice for their shifts as the game swirls around them.

On that ice the action moves at high speeds. The punishment doled out can be staggering. And the very best in the world form bands of brothers, as authentic as any in sports.

Virtuoso talents alongside distinctive leaders. Fearless combatants and relentless competitors. They play with an intensity from another age. A passion invulnerable to cynicism and an energy that embraces whatever the ice offers next. Through heights and depths, lengthy streaks, and sudden turnarounds. A spirited collision in a national spotlight, they have revealed a portrait of a season in progress.

Hockey won’t hold still to give you a better look. You wouldn’t want it to anyway. It’s the action that makes the possibilities endless. The next practice, the next city, and the next game await….”

Christmas Thank You’s

It’s Christmas Eve in Australia as I write this and I’m sitting in the air-conditioned bubble that is my parent’s house sipping champagne in front of the Christmas tree. There’s no snow blanketing the ground outside, in fact the La Nina has left us with over a month of near constant rain and turned many drought stricken communities into flood ravaged towns. There’ll be no pond hockey late at night, no snowmen or fireplaces. Instead we’ll eat seafood, drink champagne and go for a swim. Many of my countrymen will spend the day at the beach (Bondi in Sydney is expecting upwards of 100,000 beachgoers on Christmas day alone) and instead of the Boxing Day WJC opening tilt we’ll settle down with leftover ham and prawns to take in the Boxing Day test.

I wouldn’t swap spending the day with my family for just about anything, but after the white Christmas I enjoyed in Ottawa in 2008 you realize how slightly more forced a warm one can feel when it comes to the “traditional” mood many of us dream of after watching Christmas shows and movies.

The point of Christmas though is to give thanks. It’s to thank the world for those around us, thank those around us for the world they help us live in, the joy they bring to our lives and to that of others. So here I say my thanks both serious and silly.

To my family (Mum, Dad and Sam) – Thank you for being there to pick me up and brush me off, to believe in me when I don’t, to call me out when I’m being a cow or a drama queen (it happens). Thanks for always having my back, my front and everything in between. Thank you for teaching me the lessons you have taught me, for raising me to become the women I’ve become and giving me the courage to follow my heart in what I want to do with my life. I can dream big because I know that there will always be someone who will believe in me and those dreams in you guys.

To my friends – Thank you for the laughs, the drinks, the parties and the dancing. Thank you for the lecture notes, the coffee dates and coming to my dinner parties. Thank you for dressing up, rocking out and making my life so much richer for your being in it.

To Brynna (or @rihani or @shoot4the5hole depends which capacity you know her in) – Thank you for letting me sleep on your floor for months on end. For taking me to work and picking me up every day. For being the best friend even when we had fights and were driving each other crazy to the point of near murder. Thank you for always picking me up when I had a break down, for always bringing a smile to me with our combined insanity. Thank you for believing in every crazy dream or idea I’ve ever had and having such absolute faith in everything I do. It means the world to me.

To Isaac (@isaacmorrison17) – Thanks for talking hockey so much with me, having my back at the rink and being such a great help at the Finals and around the rink. I hope you know how much faith I have in you and how much you can do in hockey here.

To Bhavna (@stajans_girl) – Thank you for driving all the way to Buffalo and back to pick me up, for letting me crash at yours, for taking me to Marlies games and feeding me candy and the world’s greatest Indian. Thank you for helping me find the world’s smallest Luke Schenn t-shirt, for ransacking H & M repeatedly with me and being such a great friend even on the opposite side of the room.

To Theresa (@thofacre) and Kristen – Thank you for putting up with my silly and random emails at ridiculous hours often in all caps. Thank you for responding to them without judging me, for being sweet and kind and two people I wish I saw so much more of.

To Jeff (@jeffmarek) – Thank you for letting me tag along to HNIC, introducing me to some great people, and treating me like someone who know something about hockey! That and making me laugh so often on twitter.

To Joe (@hockeyjoepht) – Thank you for never wants seeming to have an issue with the insane rambling I do to you at the weirdest of times. Thank you for treating me like a person who knows something about the game, boosting my self esteem with your belief in my “awesomeness” and what I do. It means an awful lot to me.

To Dee Karl (@7thWomen), Su Ring (@Motley_Su) and all the other wonderful hockey women – I thank you for the coverage, support, help and faith you have shown me this past year. To have such incredibly women, such talented writers, proponents and supporters of the game and all it can do show such faith and belief in me as a person, and in my work whether with Everett, the AIHL, the AWIHL, Heartbreak Hockey or any of my other crazy plans or ideas has made me truly believe I can make a substantial and positive impact on this game.

To the ES Staff & Boys – Thank you for making my laugh, for teaching me horrible slang terms I never wanted to know, for staying in touch, geeking out hockey with me and all the fun we had.

There’s hundreds of others I could thank on twitter and online, all the girls who’ve bought @heartbreakhcky gear and everyone else I’ve met along the way.

I love you all.

May your day be merry and bright, and may your Christmas be just right.

How to Ruin the Game 101

“To play hockey you shouldn’t have to go through what I went through. I was just looking to have friendship and play the game I love.”

Yesterday the story of Kayla Watkins was brought to my attention via both Puck Daddy, Buzzing the Net and the much adored Sarah Spain.

Originally covered in the Toronto Star (the article can be found here), Kayla is a 12 year old who has had to deal with the reality of what kind of assholes adults can sometimes be.

As Kayla pointed out, George Atis was not a member of the coaching staff but decided that he had the right, out of his “concern” for the boys on the team, to make a judgement call on the playing time and abilities of a member of the team and their worthiness to participate in the game. Atis decided, once again let me remind you not as a member of the coaching staff, that her play had not improved and that the boys “didn’t” want to play with her if it wasn’t addressed. Without any coaches input, clearly without ANY regard for the actual role of youth participation in sport Atis attempted to legally restrict Kayla, to deny her the equal chance to play as her teammates without coaches input.

Now I’m not pretending that every player on every team gets equal playing time because we know that’s not how it goes. However for an outside force to attempt to legally restrict a players playing time, to essentially attempt to have her removed from the team goes far beyond that.

There’s so many things that could be broken down in this, read into this scenario as serious lessons society needs to learn. Don’t undermine the coach and his ability and experience in doing his job. Don’t interfer with kids and their desire and right to play the game.

But the point that really gets me, especially since its something I have first hand experience in dealing with is the “concern” for the boys at the near miss incidents where they’ve been exposed to Kayla in the locker room.

Being a girl on a guys team can be the best and worst thing. I know what it’s like to be the only girl in a locker room. You can make great friends, learn to get along and deal with the opposite sex in a much healthier and more socially beneficial way particularly when you hit the teenage years.

For many years I was the only girl on my local representative inline team and at times the only girl in the club. When I was 16 I made the State Under 16 team as one of the first girl’s to do so. I suffered the mortification of several gaping teammates when I stripped down a sports bra and briefs to put on “skins” and suit up for the game. Despite the fact that I saw far more of them than they ever saw of me, most of them had never had a female teammate and didn’t know how to react and how they did react was less than exemplary. My teammates who had also been my teammates at home didn’t bat an eyelid and treated me with respect and dignity as the teammate I was.

I’ve suffered the anguish when I arrived at a state titles to find there was no home and away change rooms but boys and girls change rooms. Instead of re-branding, two teams were forced to share a room whilst I, as the sole girl competing, was sent to change and prepare on my own (albeit with mum for company) away from my team. Halfway through the tournament I decided I had enough of being an outcast and marched into the boys room to prepare with my teammates. The organisers were less than impressed.

Kayla is 12. Her teammates are 12. If now is not the time to teach them how to behave towards others, to set out ground rules that are not only respectful but accommodating to all members who have earned their place on a team regardless of gender (as well as all the other sadly still discriminatory areas society still struggles with) then when is an appropriate time.

In comments on Buzzing the Net, someone suggested that whilst Atis is clearly a moron, a sentiment shared by most it appears, that the solution is that girls shouldn’t be on boys hockey teams and instead should remain in girl’s competitive leagues.

On this I call bullshit.

For every girl who struggles, there’s one who settles in the middle and there’s one who excel.

Jocelyne and Monique Lamourex, now stars of the USA Women’s Olympic Ice Hockey team, age 12 lead their team to the North Dakota state championship. In the championship game alone, Monique scored twice and Jocelyne after blanking the opposition in the first two periods of the game in goal, switched to forward and scored on her second shift.

They shifted to girls hockey (at Shattuck St Mary’s nonetheless) age 13 only after the “punctured adolescent male pride” they left in their wake became to much and the targets on their back and the behind the play sucker punches became to much for any 13 year old who just wanted to play the game.

That’s just one story. There’s thousands more like that where female players have pushed themselves, grown as players and people by playing competition equal to their own. It is never the girls with the problem

So what happens in Kayla’s story? Humiliated and heartbroken Kayla walked away from her team. She quit under the embarrassment of a parents actions and joined a local women’s team.

It is lucky that, unlike many others would have, Kayla did not quit the game all together. In a society where kids are overweight, under athletic and so many other things, we should be doing everything we can to make sure kids not excel in, but participate and involve themselves in sport. The point of childhood sport is not to win (though it sure is fun) but to learn the lessons that can be so well taught by sport.

So to Kayla Watkins and any other girl who still ‘dares’ to play on a boys team in what is still so much a boys game I say this: Play with pride, play with heart. Sometimes it sucks what they will do to you how they will treat you and sometimes it will hurt what they say and you’ll need a thick skin but if you love this game, love to play don’t ever dare let someone tell you that you can’t and that you shouldn’t. Don’t let anyone suggest you are less equal than your male counterparts because that is a lie.

Stay strong my sisters on skates.

On Red Ice : A Reflection on a Semester of Sport Sociology

“I’d rather see a guy fight and lose than turn his cheek and not fight of all and I think a lot of the players are like that. You pretty well realise that you have to fight, otherwise the guys look down at you.”
Tie Domi

“. . . violence in a hockey game . . . is not acceptable in our society . . . [for it] spills over from the arena into the streets.”
Judge Harris in Regina v. Ciccarelli

I know 6 different ways to repair a cut from a fist to the face dependent on both the cut’s location and how heavy the person is bleeding. I know the best way to treat a broken nose so a player can get back into a game and how to get blood from a jersey without having to take it off. I even know the best way to deal with someone who has been concussed by an opposition fist and can barely tell me his own name let alone how to get to the locker room. All these dubious skills I have learnt from ice hockey.

For the last decade hockey has ruled my life and I imagine it will do so for many decades to come. I have lived and breathed this game as one of its most committed and passionate proponents on this continent and have played, coached and administrated the game at the countries highest levels. Currently, I volunteer my time as a Director of the Australian Ice Hockey League and a large portion of my time is spent determining and dealing with penalties and suspensions the aftermath of the more physical aspects of this game.

Personally, I have always perceived hockey (and in deed most sport) to be of immense social benefit, arguing that it developed character and instilled skills in all children that would greatly enhance their lives away from the game. Before SOCY2280 I never once had stopped to question whether all these benefits I ascribed to sporting participation were being counteracted by one of the most significant aspects of the sport I loved most dearly, the dominance of physical and violent actions.

In 2008, I managed to walk away with only a black eye as evidence of the bench clearing brawl that erupted in the penalty box I had been managing for the AIHL. A year later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I saw a player barely months older than me take 3 swift shots to the near temple and collapse to the ice, his body racked with convulsions as he had a seizure in front of 10 thousand horrified fans. Later that night I saw a highlight reel of the fight and its aftermath and found myself staring at myself, a close up of my horrified expression and hand covered mouth as I watched the scene unfold.

Beyond this I have witnessed countless hits which have left players with broken bones and concussions so devastating that the ability to return to normal life has been questioned, let alone the possibility of continuing on with their hockey careers. Having born witness to this carnage (for there is no other word for it), I still had never questioned the role and purpose of such behaviour in this game, instead going so as far to implicitly approve this conduct through my teachings of the game.

Hockey has typically had a unique position in sport by sanctioning intense physicality and actually violent engagement that is both disapproved of in the majority of sports and criminal in every day life. Since the games inception and in more dramatic ways in recent times, the hockey community has used both fighting and intense physicality as ways of claiming and establishing a players identity through their perceived displays of toughness and courage evidenced by a willingness to defend their teammates.

It is evident to me that I have never questioned this assertion of importance but I admit I am honestly not sure why I have failed to do so in light of my general attitudes towards violence.

That fighting is part of hockey and that it always will be has long been the dogma of the game, a form of totemic expression that fans, players and commentators alike cling to. To question the role of such behaviour can often get you labelled a pussy or a pansy, or confronted with the accusation that you’re trying to “feminize the game”.

It is suggested that our moral decision making processes emerge from our social interactions within the relevant sport or ‘game’. It could be contended then that my support for the violent actions within hockey arises from my interaction with other, predominately male athletes and personalities who have presented the behaviour as both correct but desirable in succeeding within the sport. Perhaps, it is a side effect of my desire to fit in and maybe also from the fear of being viewed as something apart from the macho world I so wish to be accepted into as one of the ‘boys’ that I have so unquestioningly adopted this view point and subsequently failed to second guess the role of the “act” of fighting.

However, whilst both of these factors have, I believe in some way contributed to my support (or lack of thoughtful criticism) of such violence behaviour, I believe the biggest culprit in this behaviour (other than myself) is game reasoning.

Game reasoning is the moral reasoning process that occurs during participation in competitive sports and how the process of sporting participation influences the moral development and reasoning of its participants. This mental process sets sport apart and outside the conception of real life with sporting participants justifying their moral and ethical decisions in a sphere that is fundamentally different and separate to their every day life morals. Perhaps this is the impact act of the achievement motivation on our society, that our moral and ethical values are influenced and essentially flexible in accordance with the values we play on the obtainment of a specific end goal. When we see something as contributing towards the ultimate goal of success, the moral implications of the behaviour are clearly perceived as less dramatic or “wrong” as they contribute to the obtainment of an invariably positive outcome in “success”. In hockey, a players reasoning for engaging in a fight often can fall on the lines of “to inspire the team” or “to get the crowd back in it” both objectives focused around actions which lead to a greater chance of wining the game itself.

I think the most glaring example of game reasoning theory and the achievement motivation is my endorsement of fighting on a tactical basis. I have routinely expressed disapproval for fighting in Australian hockey not the basis that I disapproved of the action of fighting itself but that due to the sanctioning of the occurrence under Australian and International rules the tactical and emotional benefits that can be provided by a correctly timed fight are generally outweighed by the disadvantage of having a player tossed from the game.

It appears clear to me that I have previously weighed the moral implications of the behaviour in reflection of the perceived benefits the action provides in obtaining the personal or team goal of winning the game. I have never second guessed the decision of a player to fight, to destroy an opponent (within the bounds of the games rules and unwritten honour codes) when it has lead to the desired outcome in winning the game.

By not speaking out against the violent impacts of both fighting and hockey’s intense physicality and further by allowing others to continue to implicitly promote such behaviour as the means to achievement, we have a follow on effect of such negative impacts through out our game.

It has been shown that children learn new behaviours through observational learning of the social factors in their environment. If they perceive, that the behaviour they observe leads to a desired outcome whether success, adulation or approval, they are more likely to model, imitate and adopt these behaviours themselves. It would seem obvious then that participation in sports that teach or reinforce violent behaviour patterns such as fighting and intense physical contact as we see in hockey can only further perpetuate the learning and continuation of such behaviours.

It has long been a popular belief amongst those, myself included, who eulogize sport that sport itself builds moral character amongst its participants especially children. For many years, I have argued the benefit of youth participation in sports including hockey, spouting the familiar idioms regarding character development. As someone who has a direct impact on children and their development as a coach and administrator of youth programs, the social benefits of hockey was something I could about a lot.

Now after considering social learning theory I am caused to wonder whether these children have been better off finding another sport than the one I loved so deeply? At the commencement of a child’s participation in hockey, violence is strongly regulated and generally absent from the game. However, once one hits their teenage years, a dramatic transition occurs where ones willingness and aptitude for engaging in intensely physical conduct suddenly become one of the main indicators of ability and prowess in the game. More than 1 player has made a name and a career for themselves based on nothing more than their prowess at the pugilistic arts and a willingness to engage in such combat.

Further, this social learning is not just limited to those who learn in order to play. It has been shown that violence in hockey spills over into violence in other social settings not only by those who participate in the game but by those who watch. The prevalence of violent behaviour in those who represented the pinnacle of the sport can hardly be ignored. Whilst we may not explicitly teach this behaviour, seeing those who have excelled in the sport engage in such activities invariably teaches the viewer this aggressive behaviour and additionally reinforces its acceptability.

2 weeks ago I watched a player who I had seen walk through my rink in Seattle thrown from behind into the boards at an incredible speed. He was ever so lucky to walk away from the incident and his aggressor was handed a 12 game suspension. Watching the hit over and over it hit close to home as I realized it could very well have been one of my players or friends who played in that very same league on the receiving end and maybe that time they wouldn’t be so lucky. Further, it could very well have been my friends, my brother, indeed any hockey player in any league in the world who now fails to differentiate the unacceptable nature of this violent and devastating behaviour.

I sit here now at the end of my course in a state of what can only be described as cognitive dissonance, suddenly at odds with staunchly held beliefs I had never questioned before I stepped foot in SOCY2280.

My struggling point is such that despite all the information and logic before me, despite knowing the numbers and theories that go against the role of such behaviour in my game, part of me still desires a heavily physical game of hockey. Part of me will always love a good fight and a hard hit and I think that is and always will be part of the attraction of the game for many, myself included.

I have come to the realization now however that in teaching the game to the young, in administrating and developing the game itself I simply cannot blindly support the “how hockey should be” dogma of years and generations past. To do so would not only fail to rectify the dangers and issues we now face but make me complicit in the perpetuation of these problems themselves.

And that is something I will not do. Not to the game I love.

Sasky Stewart

Hockey: My High School Musical

This post is brought to you by a high school assignment (i was 14/15 at the time) for musical class that required me to write a musical. So here is what I wrote! A Hockey High School Musical!

Detroit, USA. Allie, a street-wise hockey player who grew up in Toronto moves back to Detroit and to a new school. She starts her first day there amongst the hustle and bustle of a school returning from a long and lazy summer holiday (School’s Back). Suddenly the bell rings, indicating the start of an eventful year for Allie and she is left alone in the middle of the school, lost, as students head to their classes. After her staring at her map, she spots a boy (Mikey) trudging to class late and asks him for help (New).

The pair become fast friends finding they have many similarities including a love for hockey and the Maple Leafs (To Be a Maple Leaf). Allie hears about the guy’s team and asks Mikey when the tryouts for the girls are only to find the school doesn’t have a team. Mikey’s seen her play and urges her to tryout for the boys and she takes his advice as it’s the only way she’s going to get to play (You Can’t Stop Me).

Still embarrassed from mistake Allie’s name for Allan, Sebastian, the teams coach is faced with a difficult decision after watching Allie play. She is certainly good enough for the team but should he pick her considering the commotion it is bound to cause (What’ll I do?).

Allie turns up to the first training session and marches into the dressing room much to most of the team’s amusement. Mikey introduces her to the team (Team Tango). Andy, the team’s star player who’s been drafted into the OHL, has a problem with a girl being allowed on the team (Her).

Being the last to leave the dressing room, Allie over hears Andy and Phillip talking about her and becomes angry vowing to show them what she can do (I’ll Show Them/Dreams).

Matt, the team’s young star goalie is failing English and according to team policy is removed from the team until his grades start to pick up. After leaving the rink, he wanders through the rain, not getting far before running into a gang of boys who start to beat him up. Glad that she had followed him, Allie intervenes and the gang leave unwilling to hit a girl. The pair sit in the rain as Matt explains to Allie what’s happened (Can’t Win).

Vowing to help her younger friend, Allie spends time in the library tutoring Matt and soon Vaclav and Marc join them. Marc, the teams very smart winger, takes over Allie’s job and Allie’s takes time to watch the boys, musing that everyone has something to hide (Hidden Secrets).

After getting a B on his next assignment, Matt rejoins the team and they continue their winning ways despite bitter arguments. After winning the district title the team are invited to a State wide tournament but Sebastian says unless they sort out there problems they can’t go (Listen to the Coach).

After Sebastian leaves Andy starts pointing fingers, blaming Allie for the team’s bickering (Her Reprise). Unable to bite her tongue anymore Allie lets loose at Andy before storming out of the room (Your Life).

The boys follow Allie out of the rink to find her standing in the middle of the street crying (Bring on the Rain). They remind her what she’s done, how far she’s come and what she’s doing by giving up now. Determined to convince her to stay the boys tell remind her of everything she’s done for them (Don’t Leave Us Now). Andy realizes his mistakes and thinks about how he could ever fix what he’s caused (Fool).

The school decides that having Allie play at the tournament is too much of a risk and forbid her from playing until Andy, attempting to make up for his attitude, says unless she plays he won’t. The team are shocked at Andy’s threat and the boards agreement to let her play. Andy and Allie talk as he attempts to make up for his mistakes (Why I Play?).

After making it all the way to the finals and face the most fearsome opponents to date (Come On). In the dying minutes of first overtime Allie dives on the puck and slides past the goalie winning the game and the tournament. Racing off the bench, Andy is the first to make it to her, kissing her in the middle of the ice.

Breaking the kiss, Allie slaps him before taking up where they left off as the team stare dumb founded. The team celebrate their win and the end of a triumphant season that taught many of them lessons they’ll remember for the rest of their life (Dying Days).

Sport has no benefit : Sociology of Sport

This semester, I have the pleasure of having one subject selection where I can take essentially any subject I want in the entirety of the university, to fulfill my non-law elective requirements. Now requiring students to take 2 non-law subjects (out of the total 32 required for a straight law program) seems rather ridiculous if you’re aiming for diversity and well roundedness but that’s not the point of this.

This semester, I have the pleasure of taking the “Sociology of Sport”. It sounds a bit wanky to a lot of people, but then again they’re probably the people that think of sport as a trivial part of society, as a game, and fail to fully recognize the wider implications and affect of sport itself within our society on both personal and communal levels.

Currently, the rituals of sport engage more people in a shared experience than any other institution or cultural activity today. (Burstyn 1999). Roughly 70 % of the worlds population (4.7 billion views) took in part of the Beijing Olympics. In Australia, more sporting heroes have been Australian of the Year than scientists, and as a society, we find greater pride in sporting achievements than any other measure of pride.

Sport brings inclusion, identification and unification. They instill values we perceive to be important to society that of competition, participation and equality. Educationally, they teach us good sportsmanship, work ethic and how to set and achieve goals.
However, this is idealistic. Vince Lombardi encouraged hatred of the opposition, high schools have removed handshake lines because of fights post games and NBA coaches have fined their players for sportsmanlike behaviour with the opposition.
In this day and age the fact that sport helps build character is generally accepted without question. However, at the start of the 19th century, it was thought that sport had “no clear social value and no sense that it contributed to the improvement of the individuals character.”

Here’s the thing though. WE can’t prove that sport has any benefit what so ever. You can imagine how well that went over when the lecturer told me that. I had that sudden sickening feeling in my stomach that I wasn’t going to like what I was hearing.
Because of the nature of society and our inability to hold all factors but the participation in sport constant, we can’t for sure determine whether the experience of sport changes people, or are people with certain qualities subconsciously drawn to play sport or chosen by specific coaches.

What has been shown though, is that sport may be terrible for kids. Academics that have reviewed the research in this area generally agree that there is no evidence to support the claim that sport builds character. A study of teenage Canadian male hockey players show that the longer they’re involved in hockey the greater they accept the importance of cheating, the more they feel violent behaviour is not only legitimate but EXPECTED by the coach the more they are likely to use illegal tactics.

You can picture me by now in this class, shrinking down in my seat and kind of wanting to run off as the lecturer systematically breaks down everything I’ve ever believed in sport. Part of me wanted to jump up and down and say NO you can’t be right! You’re wrong! It’s hard to do that though when every argument’s backed up with scientific research.

Here’s the kicker though. Despite all the information I’ve cited, sport is in itself neither inherently good nor bad. What sport is however, is what we make it. The spectrum for positive change and influence through sport is less aligned with sport itself and more aligned with those who surround sport. It is the influence of coaches, of teachers and parents that make the sporting experience what it is to kids, the most impressionable of participants.

When our lecturer said this, when she impressed on us the serious position we held (I’m the only law student in the class, and one of only a handful who isn’t studying either human movement or education) as the future coaches, teachers and administrators of sport, I felt a little bit of relief. I wasn’t off base when it came to my opinion of sport and its power, but just needed to re-align the way I conceptualized it and its relationship with its participants.

So here it is, from my view point. Sport is one of the biggest things in my life. It has been one of the biggest influences in my life as I have grown up but when I look back, reflect on everything I’ve learnt from my participation with hockey I agree with my lecturer on her assessment.

What I have learnt from sport has not come from sport itself. The physical activity of playing goal has not taught me how to set goals, but the process of learning to play goal, the practice necessitated if I wanted to improve, the sacrifices I’ve had to make for the sport itself have. It was not blocking a shot which taught me the value of hard work and dedication, but a mother who expected nothing less from me, who impressed on me the values of giving everything I had in what I chose to take on, sport being no exception.

Sasky xoxo

Where I’ve been since May….

Yes. This is one of those blogs that has almost as many OMG I’ve vanished for __ this many months on ends posts as it has actual posts.

Why? Because I’m one of those people that seems to spend more time living life than writing about it. Not saying, if you write about it, that’s a bad thing, it’s just not how I roll.

So what have I been doing since I last wrote?

Well I didn’t get the Brendan Burke internship, but there’s no real surprise there. I know I’ll apply again next year. I kind of would have liked an email back that said no you didn’t get it but I know how these thing roll.

I did however get a sports management internship with International Quarterback. I’ve been emailing IQ every semester for about 3 years now, so when I finally heard back I was really excited. I’m told they average several emails and inquiries a day about jobs and internships, so to actually get one and be offered it practically on the spot like I was is great. I feel a little more validated and rewarded for all the hard work I’ve put in for the last 3 years to be finally heading towards where I think I maybe want to go.

At the end of last year, I was elected onto the Board of the Australian Hockey League as a Commissioner. Yes, I get a ridiculous kick out of saying I’m a Commissioner of a national hockey league. It’s a step closer to my goals than I was this time last year, so every step forward is a good one.

So that has me crazy busy juggling sponsors, venue bookings, run sheets, volunteers, after party plans and everything that comes with organizing a national event. Throw in to all of that work, Heartbreak Hockey and the final semester of Law school and life is something that seems to happen will I run after it.

It’s 4.30 on a Friday afternoon here, so I”m going to finish this nice glass of red I”m currently enjoying at my desk before I head home for the afternoon. I have an early morning flight to Melbourne tomorrow for hockey games and a clothing launch at my brother’s store to go to tonight, as well as an open house in my apartment to clean up for.

xoxo Sasky

Hockey Life (or something like it) – Essay for the Brendan Burke Internship

It seems strange, that I haven’t posted here in Months, caught up in the flurry of returning from the States, tumbling back into School and Hockey.  It seems in stark contrast that my last post was in memorial of the amazingness that was Brendan Burke and here is my application essay to the internship in his honour. I do not think I will get it, in large part due to the fact I am both outside the realm of what they’re looking for I’d imagine, and that I am still 6 months shy of graduation. Trying never hurt though,

Hockey Life (or something like it)..

Sasky Stewart

It’s an unusual thing, to find a girl so in love with hockey, so passionate and dedicated to the most untypical of her nation’s sport down here in the most unlikely of hockey countries. Or so I’m told. I’ve never really felt it was unusual because to me, hockey is an extension of my being, who I am and what I do.

Hockey is not a sport I fell in love with and have dedicated so much of my life so far too because it was what was expected of me or because it is what everyone else did. Hockey is a sport I fell in love with because from the moment I first saw it, first stepped foot in a rink and heard the noise of skates, I had no other choice. I do not come from a hockey family or a town that even had an ice rink. I did not spend nights watching the Redwings only to get up before dawn, dragged out of bed by parents for practice. This makes no difference as over the past years hockey has become so much a part of me that it has shaped the person I am today.

To the sport of hockey I owe a lot. It has made me strong and determined. It has taught me the value of hard work and that nothing is a bar to by success, not my size, my gender or my nationality, if I am willing to dedicate myself to the pursuit of my goals. It has taught me to find the strength needed to pull myself up every time I fall, how to be a team mate and at the same time how to lead those around me.

I could list my achievements in the hockey world, what I have done but a resume does not capture who I am as a person or how I got to where I am today. Since I first fell in love with the sport, I have dedicated myself to it, through play (as a member of the National Women’s League) and through work. When the opportunity arose I jumped at the chance to join the Board of the AIHL, not only to gain further experience in the management of the sport I love but as it presented a chance to walk the talk and make a meaningful contribution to the sport that means so much. I’ve worn many hats in the name of hockey from events co-ordinator to marketing and communications director, development leader to social media guru and even branching out to goalie coach, boards repair and first aid officer (my ability to repair facial wounds is actually getting quite good) and I have taken each of these on board with the same dedication and passion that I live my entire life with.

I’ve never been a small thinker, at 5 wanting to be prime minister and at 15 a judge. For the last while however, I’ve had my sights set on being the first female Commissioner of the NHL. These aren’t small goals and despite being small I’ve never aimed for anything less than the biggest dreams I could think of. That’s why when I wanted to learn more about developing and running hockey I set my sights on an NHL internship. After devising a promotional method and package and approached every single team until Ted Leonsis of the Capitals brought me on board. Less than a year later and with summer break once again approaching and faced with the not to appealing prospect of 3 months sitting around, I turned to the WHL this time for an internship which would help me learn and grow as a hockey professional.

I admit, I am unsure of my eligibility for this internship due to my location outside the USA. What I have learnt however, is that much akin to the Gretzky attitude on shot taking, 100% of the chances you don’t take you don’t get. This is a chance I will always take.

In Remembrance of What Was and What Will Continue

Stereotypically men deal with things by ignoring about it and women deal with things by talking about it. In this day and age, it seems like both genders deal by tweeting about it. That’s how I learnt today in a tweet by @JayOnrait that Brian Burke’s son Brendan had passed. It is always sad when anyone, let alone a child passes. However, when it is someone within the hockey community the pain extends through so many other people, belying the closeness that is so valued in hockey.

I grew up in a small country town who’s main interests were drinking, cows and football. My dad put in swimming pools for a living and my mother raised us and cut hair. I was lucky however, to have two of the most accepting parents you could imagine. My father once drove a bus for a drag tour and also (in his 20′s) routinely dressed up as a Japanese Geisha for reasons unknown. My mother was a hairdresser. They never judged, accepted everyone and taught me much the same.

Brendan Burke came out to his team mates, many of whom probably didn’t come from families like mine, but grew up in towns like the one I did, small, country and undeniably close minded. He had listened to years and years of chirping centered around insults to ones sexuality, the perceived ultimate in insults if  locker room trash talk was any indication. It had lead to him quitting playing in his final years of high school, unable to bear the talk, the degradation of his self. Still he came out, running the risk of loosing the trust and friendship of the hockey brotherhood he had found as a student manager at Miami-Ohio.

Not only did he come out to his hockey team, he came out to a father that is widely regarded as a prototype of masculinity in an already masculine sport. He takes a risk, at loosing a family that so many of us could never consider making. He takes a risk at rejection and shame that would send so many of us cowering and preferring to hide ourselves rather than run those risks. Instead, he finds acceptance grounded in the common sense belief that someones worth goes far beyond their sexual orientation, that persons value cannot be measured by who they love but by how they live.

The media jumps on this story, of the famous father’s acceptance of his son, the overwhelming acceptance of the hockey community to something still so taboo and suddenly Brendan Burke is everywhere, and everyone? Everyone is okay.

When Brendan Burke came out everyone heard about it. Thousands of hockey players across the country, across the world suddenly had a little bit of light they may not have had before. If Brian Burke can be okay with it, if a college hockey team can, maybe my coach, my team mates, friends and family can too.

Brendan Burke wanted to end the pattern of homophobia that was endemic to hockey and other sports. He wanted it to be okay for anyone to be who they were and to not feel shame for that, to be free to live how they wished without fear of loosing the sport and friends that meant so much. It is a goal, a dream many of us share, and in his memory, many of us will continue to carry on.

Your courage in stepping forward so publicly will serve as inspiration to many and the message you came forward with of acceptance will be remembered and carried forward. You were one of the firsts, but you will not be the last.

Rest in Peace, Brendan.

Quebec v. Cormier: The Law v. The League

I have watched the Cormier video multiple times, pausing and going back just before Tam starts to go into convulsions. I have already seen twice in my life a player go into seizures before me on the ice, one an epileptic team mate, the other the result of a fight gone wrong and both never things I wish to witness again, either on tv or otherwise.

Cormier’s hit is not in question here. It was dirty. He lead with his elbow at a high speed and Tam suffered the consequences.  Further, Cormier is not a first time offender, instead a young player with an already disgusting reputation for this kind of play.

So where do we go from here?

Cormier needs to be suspended. Plain and simple. If you’re suspending based on the outcome, like the OHL has been (see Lambias), suspend him for a season. If anything, Cormier is probably more deserving of such a suspension, with the likelihood of injury occurring every time a hit is delivered in that manner being substantially higher than that of Lambias, which in my opinion the resulting injury was more from freak circumstances (the loss of the helmet in the fall, so forth).

However, now, the Quebec Provincial Police are reporting that they are investigating Cormier and the incident in the light of possible laying of charges.

This is where the problem I have arises. I, like a lot of people, have a real issue with the involvement of the police when it comes to punishing unacceptable behaviour or violence in sport.

In the United States, there has been one criminal case against a professional hockey player (there has been four criminal indictments of hockey players, but only one involved an NHL player, David Forbes) and Canada has seen several. The more famous of these include Regina v Ciccarelli (Dino was found guilty of assault, fined $1000 and ordered to serve a day in jail) and Regina v McSorley (the trial mainly centered around whether an incident in a professional hockey game could constitute assault with a weapon).

Society’s criminal sentencing system is underpinned by the concepts of retribution and deterrence.  We wish to punish what was done, to restore society to a state prior to the act and in turn prevent its further behaviour. A court can endeavour to do this but when (in accordance with precedent and law) the sentence may be little more than a handful of hours community service, a fine or a suspended sentence, is it going to be as effective as a substantial suspension or even a season long ban to enforce the message to not only the concerned player but the hockey community as a whole? There seems to be no worse punishment for a hockey player than to take away his right to play the game he loves.

Sporting leagues strive to maintain control over the punishment and regulation of its athletes and their actions. They argue, and I agree, that there is no need for outside judicial or legislative involvement in the majority of incidents (if you decapitated someone I’d be inclined to hand someone over to the police however). However, if the League, any league, wishes to remove these incidents from the game of hockey on its own terms, it is swift and harsh punishment that must be dealt out or more and more incidents will end up before the courts.

If Cormier does find himself in a court room in the future, it will not be just him that is on trial, but the sport of hockey and its ability to handle its own problems that will be brought into question.