Comment Of The Day: “DeSantis, The NHL, And The Duty To Confront”

We don’t get much hockey ethics on Ethics Alarms, and it is one of the sports i don’t pay much attention tp despite going to a high school that was considered a hockey power in the ice-crazy Boston area. Arthur in Maine, another, more typical New Englander, does know the sport, and in this Comment of the Day on the post, “DeSantis, The NHL, And The Duty To Confront,” he gives us valuable perspective on why hockey, perhaps more than most sports, has a legitimate need to seek more “diversity.”

Incidentally, I couldn’t name the teams affiliated with more than half those logos. I bet Arthur could identify them all.

***

I have rather mixed feelings on this one… because as baseball and the Red Sox are to you, Jack, hockey and the Bruins are to me.

Hockey was the only team sport I played growing up (and I was terrible at it). But I did love it. At the time, you basically stood no chance of advancing in the game if you weren’t Canadian, preferably Quebecois. That’s largely because only Canada had made the investment into developing young players, starting around age four and moving up with organized league play from there. (Apropos of nothing, the first black player to reach the NHL was Canadian Willie O’Ree, who played for the Bruins in 1958 and again in 1961, though most of his long career was spent in the minors).

Let me stipulate that as a matter of both law and ethics, I consider DeSantis to be on very firm ground here. But it’s also worth noting that hockey has made a long and concerted effort to bring more people into the fold. It arguably started when Europeans and Russians were recognized as terrific players (those nations had development programs) and started receiving NHL contracts. Although the players are still mostly white, black players are no longer a curiosity and have proven some of the best players in the past decade (most of them are Canadian by birth). Today, there are practicing Muslims and players of Asian heritage in the league. Any player who has the skills and the heart to play at the NHL level has a shot at a contract (side note: some European players have a little trouble adjusting to the NHL game, because although North American rinks are roughly the same length as European ones, they’re considerably narrower).

It goes beyond that. In addition to active youth hockey programs all over the northern hemisphere, there’s remarkable development of girls’ and womens’ hockey as well, with serious collegiate programs, world championships and Olympic competition. There are programs for paraplegics and amputees. All in all, hockey as a sport – and it’s been an international effort – has become far more diverse and inclusive, and that process started long before any of the current wokeness. One could argue that it’s merely because this is good for business. I have a friend with two girls in middle school, both of whom are extremely active (and reasonably talented) players. Both know there’s no chance they’ll ever play in the NHL, but that doesn’t stop them from playing their hearts out now (and screaming their heads off when Dad takes them up to see the Bruins, where he lays out big $$ for tickets, refreshments and fooferaw – and that doesn’t touch what he pays each year for equipment and ice time for his girls).

Professional level hockey, both at the NHL and the minor league levels, has grown remarkably; in my lifetime it has gone from six NHL teams (Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York, Chicago and Detroit) to 32 (7 in Canada and 25 in the US), all of whom have minor-league affiliates. There’s discussion of adding two more in the next few years.

So while I agree with DeSantis as noted above, I also have to note that I believe 1) he’s largely doing this for political positioning (savvy move) and 2) the NHL has been doing pretty well for itself up until now. In many regards, I consider this to be a rather dumb move on the part of the NHL when it comes to not understanding the optics. Then again, that shouldn’t be surprising; the NHL is essentially run by retired hockey players, and hockey players tend to be somewhat numb anyway.

4 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “DeSantis, The NHL, And The Duty To Confront”

  1. The Phoenix Coyotes, formerly the Winnepeg Jets, have been shaking down various local governments for a place to play ever since they moved to Arizona and began declaring bankruptcy on a regular basis. They kind of screwed the pooch, however, and are currently playing games in a 2,500 person capacity ice rink/”arena” on the ASU campus named after the family that paid for it. The family and arena name (and I am not making this up): The Mullett Arena.

    • All true. The ‘yotes have the second-worst record in their division this year, the 4th-worst record in the league (currently playing at .360 – by comparison, the Bruins’ are playing at .833). They’re not devoid of talent; defenseman Jakob Chychrun wants out and he’s one of the NFL’s best Ds (though he appears to be somewhat fragile). He’ll be snapped up by someone.

      I should have mentioned something in the post that I neglected. Florida is home to TWO NHL teams: the Tampa Bay Lightning (a/k/a “The Bolts”) and the Florida Panthers. The Panthers have always been rather undistinguished, but The Bolts are a real-deal team and not to be underestimated. They’re currently 3d place in division (behind Boston and Toronto) and have reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the past three seasons – winning it in ’20 and ’21. Not bad for a hockey team in a tropical climate, eh?

      • Lots of Canucks in Florida, and lots of Québecois. North Miami Beach’s flag might as well be the Canadian or Montreal flag. There are a fair number of western Canada Canucks in the Phoenix area. The Coyotes have always drawn capacity crowds, they’ve just never had adequately capitalized ownership would be my guess.

        Hockey has always been too fast and too random for me. The skating skill is incomprehensible. I could watch games on TV when they lit up the puck electronically, but the purists didn’t like that, so they stopped doing it. My son tells me you need to be in the arena to appreciate a game. I’m not so sure, having been to a game or two while in college.

        And speaking of which, my upstate New York (a hockey hotbed: see, e.g., the Clinton Comets) college always brought two Canadian junior hockey players into each freshman class. This was back in the ‘sixties. They were, of course, men among boys. They’d room together, drink beer and fuck everything that wasn’t bolted down when they weren’t on the ice, and be gone by the end of hockey season. They might have even been on salary.

        Mrs. OB went to high school with Harry Sinden’s daughter.

        • Lots of Canucks in Florida, and lots of Québecois. North Miami Beach’s flag might as well be the Canadian or Montreal flag. There are a fair number of western Canada Canucks in the Phoenix area.

          I didn’t know this, but it makes sense.

          Hockey has always been too fast and too random for me. The skating skill is incomprehensible. I could watch games on TV when they lit up the puck electronically, but the purists didn’t like that, so they stopped doing it. My son tells me you need to be in the arena to appreciate a game. I’m not so sure, having been to a game or two while in college.

          We used to watch the Bruins in dorm rooms on a 12″ black-and-white TV that collected a UHF signal through rabbit ears festooned with foil. Suffice to say, you followed the action by following the players. The puck was largely invisible. But the good news is that big shiny hi-def TVs make watching the puck pretty easy, nowadays.

          I used to go to a LOT of games when I was at BU. They’ve always had good hockey teams – four of the players I watched several times a week went on to play on the “Miracle on Ice” team and the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.

          It’s not just the skating skill that dazzles. It’s the speed – and the rapid-fire decision making. There’ve been some rules changes since I was a kid that have made the game so much better… not least of which is that the only players who can freeze the puck are goalies. Players used to jam the puck against the dasher board until the whistle sounded, whereupon they’d change out. Now, they change out on the fly; it’s not unusual for there to stretches of five and even ten minutes of uninterrupted play. The action doesn’t stop. A line of forwards is rarely on the ice for more than 60 seconds per shift – :45 is more common – and defense pairs rarely go more than 90 seconds. That’s why watching in an arena gives you a better sense – the camera follows the puck, and that means the ballet that comes with shift changes often gets missed.

          And speaking of which, my upstate New York (a hockey hotbed: see, e.g., the Clinton Comets) college always brought two Canadian junior hockey players into each freshman class. This was back in the ‘sixties. They were, of course, men among boys. They’d room together, drink beer and fuck everything that wasn’t bolted down when they weren’t on the ice, and be gone by the end of hockey season.

          Ha! I can see that happening back then…

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