Stars and Stripes on the Puck: Hockey's New Attention
A recent resident of Canada, I saw my first ever hockey game last February in the Thunderbird Stadium at UBC and though I haven’t since devoted a better part of my personal worth to the sport, I can see how one might want to. The roughness and immediate gore combined with the chilly stadium air are exhilarating, but more than anything, it’s the devotion hockey players have for the sport that I find most intriguing.
As an American, I have always seen hockey as a standard of Canadian culture and so when Sarah Palin, from further north than Canada, proudly calls herself a “hockey mom” I feel a bit confused.
In the past, the American politician has called upon the noble everyday ethics of American football and baseball maybe even basketball to flesh out their image, but never hockey. And in turn hockey as a sport doesn’t want to be aligned with politics. Notice the hilarious hockey mom parody of 2004’s Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, "Hockey Moms for Truth" and you will get a sense of this wanted detachment and then there’s Slate.com’s Bruce Reed’s writings to consider as well.
But after a few weeks under the media spotlight, the hockey world is starting to remember why we preferred our rinks dimly lit in the first place. Stu Hackel, a hockey blogger for the New York Times, wrote a long post recently on how much he resents the game being dragged into politics and used as a pawn. Several readers agreed -- and chided him for dragging politics into a hockey blog.
Over at OnFrozenBlog, pucksandbooks tried to look on the bright side: "If you love hockey, how can you not like how hockey is being celebrated (associated with perseverance and toughness) in the rhetoric of 2008's political debates?" For readers, however, pride was tempered by grave concern about what the association with politics might do to hockey's reputation.
In my experience, we hockey parents are already a little grumpy from ice times that are too late or too early. For many, the sudden attention just brings up the sore subject of how little respect the sport gets in the U.S. "You know hockey is never going to be better than the fourth major sport," one OnFrozenBlog reader lamented, recalling how ESPN's SportsCenter used to make fans suffer through golf highlights before getting around to the NHL.
One also has to take into account that all the attention hockey is getting is associated with Governor Sarah Palin. I’m scared to think that Palin’s political aims will eclipse the true chilly gore that is hockey.