Hockey is commonly considered as Canada’s game, yet our game seems to favour wealthy, white men and boys. Canadians who are of a different class, race or gender seem to be at a major disadvantage, this page looks to explain why.
Hockey in Canada increasingly favors wealthy families due to major increases in the cost to play. Hockey has become drastically more expensive over the past 10-15 years, for many different reasons. Two large factors for these rising costs are registration fees and the cost of ice time. Ice time has increased in many parts of the country due to municipal arenas being overburdened and more and more ice time being offered by private arenas at a much higher price. What used to cost $50 now costs upwards of 7 times that. In the 2011-12 season, Canadian hockey parents spent on average just under $3000 per child.(1)
For elite players, it is even more expensive to keep up with their counterparts. with the emergence of hockey academies which charge $40,000 a year.(1) These expenses are turning a lot of youth athletes away from hockey and towards cheaper sports, especially youth from one income families. “The one income family kid is not playing hockey. They can’t afford it, that’s the bottom line.” Says, St. John’s Minor Hockey Association’s President, Jack Casey.(3)
Race has been an issue in hockey for a very long time. In the late 30’s Conn Smythe, the owner of the Toronto Maples Leafs, watched Herb Carnegie, the first great black hockey player, play hockey. Afterwards, Smythe said he “would take Carnegie on his team tomorrow if someone could turn him white.”(4)(5) Although players of other races are now accepted in the NHL, we continue to see many acts of racism in the league. For instance, George Laraque accused Sean Avery of uttering racist slurs during a game, which Avery denied. As well as Craig Berube was suspended by the NHL in 1997 for racist comments directed towards Peter Worrell.(6) While both Kevin Weekes and Wayne Simmonds have had bananas thrown at them during NHL games.(6) Racism in the NHL is not solely an issue of a couple players or a handful of fans either. In 2005-06 the NHL imposed a dress code. This dress code was viewed by many as racist because the league banned a style commonly known as hip-hop. Many believe this to have been a deliberate targeting of a black goaltender, Ray Emery.(7)
Hockey has a major gender problem. In 2013 there were 1,136,000 men over 15 playing hockey in Canada as opposed to a mere 102,000 women.(8) This imbalance stems from the way women’s hockey and women’s sport are treated in comparison to men’s. For starters Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) teams have a habit of promoting men’s teams over women’s teams. In 2009-10 out of $10,604,619 of funding for athletes 58% went to men, although women were 58% of undergraduate students in Canada.(9)
Another fact that has built the idea that sports are a man’s game is the number of male coaches compared to female coaches. There are 586 male coaches compared to 134 female coaches at the university level. On top of this the numbers of coaches coaching the opposite sex in interuniversity sport, is staggering. There are 166 male coaches who are coaching female teams, yet there are only 2 female coaches, in the whole country, coaching male teams.(9) These numbers are promoting sports as something for men. Everything from funding, to roster spots, to even the sex of the coaches, reveals that there is a major inequality.
So the next time you see this video of federal tax breaks for hockey parents, you will know it is not for the vast majority of Canadians.
(1)The Globe and Mail. “The great offside: How Canadian hockey is becoming a game strictly for the rich.” Nov. 8, 2013 Link.
(2)The Globe and Mail. “How income inequality hurts every Canadians chance of building a better life” Recreation. Nov, 8, 2013. Link.
(3)Kristina Rutherford, CBC Sports. “Is the cost keeping kids out of minor hockey? Absolutely, players and parents say.” Jan. 16, 2009. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/is-the-cost-keeping-kids-out-of-minor-hockey-absolutely-players-and-parents-say-1.788142
(4) Rachel Décoste, The Huffington Post. ” ‘A N*gger in net’: racism at the world juniors” Dec. 31, 2012. Link.
(5) This statement was made in a time when black athletes were systematically discriminated against in all major pro sports, and represents the views of the time, and not just of Conn Smythe.
(6) Edmonton Journal. “Racism in hockey happens too often.” Sept. 24, 2011. Link.
(7) Lorenz, Stacey L. and Murray, Rod. “‘Goodbye to the gangsta’s’: The NBA Dress Code, Ray Emery, and the policing of blackness in Basketball and Hockey.” Journal of Sport and Social Issues. February 2014 vol. 38 no. 1 23-50.
(8) CBC News. “Hockey, Canada’s game, not its most popular” Sept. 30, 2013. Link. http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/sports-junior/
(9) University of Toronto, Faculty of physical education & health. “Gender equity in Canadian Inter-university sport: A Biennal Report” Oct 2011.