Think of hockey as figure skating for dudes with an excess supply of testosterone. Like figure skaters, hockey players prance around on thin blades across an ice rink. But instead of wearing sequined outfits, they wear something a little less shiny and a little blander.
Ice hockey uniforms look more or less the same. Picture a less interesting version of an Arcteryx ski jacket men’s apparel, and that’s the hockey fashion you get on the field. Sure, they do not shimmer, unlike figure skaters, or they do not look extra cool like skiers while doing their thing, but at least hockey players have sufficient protection from the cold whilst trying to score a goal. No, hockey players are not ice queens. They do keep warm.
Sometimes, their bodies go beyond warm. The players get too hot, and tempers tend to flare on the hockey field. Yes, hockey is one of the most violence-prone sports there is. In fact, it’s safe to say that some hockey players have a career in MMA should they decide to ditch the hockey stick for a pair of gloves.
If you want to witness some of the best brawls from NHL, Google names such as Brendan Lemieux, David Buckes, Auston Watson, and Alexander Ovechkin, to name a few. Think of them as hockey versions of Tonya Harding. They have no qualms about throwing a punch or a blow on the knee.
However, as of late, fights on the hockey field are not the most newsworthy bits from the world of hockey. Some other kind of controversy has emerged. It has something to do with politically incorrect team logos. Sure, some might argue that political correctness and hockey don’t mix well. But should hockey be really exempted from talks of decency just because the sport is played like a bar brawl?
The Canucks Conundrum
The Vancouver Canucks logo was created in 1997. Its main feature is a determined-looking orca in Haida-style. The determined orca gets to emerge from a block of ice, ready to win.
The logo’s inspiring and positive and all that, but, unfortunately, it’s a practice in cultural appropriation. The Vancouver Canucks has been called out about its logo by indigenous peoples, specifically the Haida Gwaii tribe. This tribe hails from British Columbia’s north coast.
The design, now 23 years old, was not made by a Native American. That is where the bulk of the criticism is coming from. If the team at least commissioned an indigenous person to create the logo, there would be no fuss about it now.
The controversy got even more complicated when the Vancouver Canucks claimed they were in talks with the Squamish Nation. The latter denied the team’s claim. Canucks goalie Braden Holtby added fuel to the fire when he wore a goalie mask with the First Nationals Orca symbol. Since the incident, he replaced the image with one from an actual indigenous person.
The Blackhawks Burden
The Chicago Blackhawks is another NHL team under fire. While other sports teams have bent to public pressure, changing their culturally-appropriated names to politically correct ones, the Chicago Blackhawks have chosen to stand their ground. They decided to keep their 94-year-old name and logo.
The team claims that their name and logo are celebratory. They foreground the legacy of a historical person from Illinois’s Sac and Fox Nation — Black Hawk. They are in no way used to undermine indigenous culture or history.
Still, critics call out the team and NHL itself for refusing to weigh in on the issue. The main point of contention is how wrong it is to use Native American imagery for the sake of profit, most especially if the said profit does not benefit Native American tribes.
Not everyone will understand how hockey works. If you don’t live in a place with eight months of winter, you’re probably better off stanning basketball or lawn tennis. Stick with your Curry and Nadal. Still, just because hockey’s beyond your grasp does not mean you can’t offer your two cents about the controversy regarding hockey team names and logos. Decency is, after all, universal. More importantly, cultural appropriation should never be tolerated. History has done enough damage to the marginalized. The least we can do now is fix the consequences of those acts of usurpation.
Alternatively, why not give hockey a chance? You might like it for all the wrong reasons, but at least you’ll have something new to obsess about. The latest NHL season started on January 13. You can still play catch up.