Book Feature. Andrew Holman: A Hotly Contested Affair – Hockey in Canada
A Hotly Contested Affair: Hockey in Canada is a collection of documents that trace the history of Canada’s national winter game from its “founding” in Montreal in the mid-1870s into the early twenty-first century. Composed of 157 edited and annotated sources, the volume is organized into ten chapters based on the sport’s central themes. An Evolutionary Game explores hockey’s incremental changes in rules and rhythm over time. A National Banner demonstrates how English and French Canadians have used hockey to imagine themselves as national communities. An Arena for Commerce delineates hockey’s long relationship with moneymaking. An Essentially Violent Game highlights the sport’s reputation for roughness: how much was too much. A National Problem captures the long discussion about hockey as an “enemy” to education, a source of labour exploitation, and a vehicle for Americanization. A Question of Order, A Question of Character examines the belief that hockey could generate respectable civic behaviour and proper conduct among its players, coaches, and followers. Hockey Talk explores the technology and drama of hockey narration (via newspapers, telegraph, radio and television) and the concern in Quebec about hockey broadcasts as a threat to the French language and culture. Hockey’s “whiteness” is examined in Race and Social Order along with the challenges that Indigenous, Black, and Asian players and teams made to that dominance. A Gendered Endeavour pieces together the quest among women and girls to play on integrated and segregated teams, and to control their own sport. Finally, An International Calling Card illuminates the mercurial history of “Team Canada,” from its unmatched international power in the early twentieth century to its current state as one among many contenders for world titles in the twenty-first century. Ten short interpretive essays introduce each theme.
Paperback copies of A Hotly Contested Affair cane be purchased on The Champlain Society’s website at https://champlainsociety.utpjournals.press/hockey-in-canada-pb. 378 Pages. $34.95 CAD.
Excerpt from the Introduction to Chapter 5, “An Essentially Violent Game.”
“‘The old eastern trick, borrowed from lacrosse, of using the butt end of the stick in short, sharp jolts should have no place in O[ntario Hockey Association] hockey,’ the editor of the London Advertiser wrote toward the end of the hockey season in March 1906. ‘It is dangerous and cowardly. There is no room in the O.H.A. for crashing a man into the boards, for cross-checking, for slashing across the ankles and leg, and decidedly none for cracking a man across the head. There is no place for tripping and giving the hip, or for charging like a mad bull at a player.’ In 1896, in his account of ‘Hockey in Ontario’ for Toronto’s Massey’s Magazine, Fred. G. Anderson noted the overly vigorous play in the city’s bustling Bankers’ League: “Many battered ankles, tattered hands, and effective body blows are given during the progress of a match.” Rough play was a staple ingredient of hockey’s brand in Canada, as central to the game’s identity as its speed and capacity for pretty passing plays. Almost from its beginning, hockey’s essential violence was a subject of roiling discussion – at the rinks, in the associations’ boardrooms, and in the press. By the early 1900s, it was agreed among most of the game’s followers that the best sort of hockey must have physicality, but not in excessive measure. The meaning of “excessive” has been hockey’s puzzle ever since.
Hockey rulebooks have struggled to keep up with infractions, to parse adequately the acceptability of hockey’s physical play. In 1877, the first rules expressly forbade ‘[c]harging from behind, tripping, collaring, kicking or shinning.’ By 1900, the OHA had added ‘cross-checking’ and ‘pushing’ to the list and granted officials wide leeway to “rule off” offenders. The chase continues. In 2018, the Hockey Canada Rule Book’s Section 6, which lists and assesses ‘Physical Fouls,’ is 11 pages long; Section 8, ‘Stick Fouls,’ is four. However, rulebooks disguise as much as they reveal … [H]ockey violence waxed and waned, and waxed and waned again over the past century and a half. While routine physical play has been consistently present since the 1890s, hockey experienced two waves of extraordinary on-ice violence, the first in the 1900s, the second in the 1970s, both of them explainable by changing social and economic contexts.
Since then, public tolerance for hockey ‘donnybrooks’ has been limited to marginal factions of fans. Most have begun to recognize the real costs of on-ice episodes such as Boston Bruin Marty McSorley’s vicious February 2000 slash to Canuck Donald Brashear’s head, Todd Bertuzzi’s March 2004 mugging of Colorado forward Steve Moore from behind, and the case of Don Sanderson, a Whitby Dunlops player in Ontario’s senior league who, having lost his helmet in a December 12, 2008, fight with a Brantford Blast player, tripped, hit his head on the ice, and fell into a coma from which he never recovered. In the aftermath, a Maclean’s magazine article asked: ‘Can We Please Now Ban Fighting in Hockey?’ One of the legacies of Canada’s two waves of extreme violence is, in the twenty-first century, a new consciousness about player safety and concern about head trauma and its consequences.”
About the Author:
Andrew Holman teaches history at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. A native of St. Catharines, Ontario, he has taught and written about sports history for about 20 years. He is the author of four books on hockey, including Hockey: A Global History (coauthored with Stephen Hardy) which was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2018 and won the 2019 Paul Kitchen Award from the Society for International Hockey Research. His work on hockey has also appeared in the Journal of Sport History, Sport History Review, The Conversation, The Washington Post, Sports History Weekly, and Inside Hockey.
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