Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


Case Study: Racial Stacking and the Role of Enforcer in the NHL

Racial stacking is a phenomenon in sports in which athletes of a certain race are either over- or under-represented in a given position. North Americans are likely most familiar with seeing this in the NFL, where, traditionally, it has been “widely believed that blacks excelled in sports and team positions that demanded power and speed at the same time that inferior intellectual abilities prevented them from assuming leadership positions on the field and in coaching and management positions off the field” (Coakley, 2010).

While rational thought should immediately call this thought process into question, the problem of racial stacking persists and can be observed across various sports and races.

One notable example within Canada is the stacking of Aboriginal hockey players into the role of “enforcer”. While this represents more of an unwritten role within the team rather than a traditional position, it is still very much so an observable phenomenon. John Valentine explores this in a chapter entitled: New Racism and Old Stereotypes in the National Hockey League: The “Stacking” of Aboriginal Players into the Role of Enforcer

In this chapter, Valentine takes into account the number of Aboriginal players in the NHL since 1974, then compares their penalty minutes per game, major penalties per game, and fights per game to the rest of the NHL players during each playing season. What he found is that, during a period of from 1986 to 2004, a period where the role of enforcer was most common in the NHL, Aboriginal players were: penalized almost three and a half times more than non-Aboriginals, assessed major penalties five times more than non-Aboriginals in 1997, and fought between four and seven times more than non Aboriginals during this time period (Valentine, 2012).

Clearly, these numbers indicate that Aboriginal players were expected to fill a certain role within the team, one that was based in aggression and intimidation.

Well-loved former Canucks player Gino Odjick is an example of an Aboriginal player in the role of enforcer.

Since 2004, these numbers have declined rapidly. However, this does not necessarily mean that the NHL is moving in a more positive direction with regards to how Aboriginal players are represented. In fact, there has been a steady decline of Aboriginal players in the NHL at all since 2000 (Valentine, 2012). In conjunction with this is the fact that the role of the pure enforcer is no longer common. There is little room on a roster for a skater whose primary job is to protect the star player and, as such, we see almost no enforcers in the NHL today. Valentine suggests that “the reduction in enforcers [has] reduced the opportunities for Aboriginal players in the NHL overall”.

So, why is racial stacking important for us to consider? First, limiting a player of a certain race to any role or position is extremely limiting of their potential as a whole. Assuming that black football players are less capable in leadership roles gives them a glass ceiling of potential, and in fact last year’s NFL MVP Cam Newton is a perfect example of why we should never send this message (his team’s play this year notwithstanding). Similarly, sending the message to Aboriginal players that their biggest opportunity within a team is to be an enforcer, goon, or fighter limits their potential to become a sniper on the wing.

Furthermore, as we have seen since the decline of the “enforcer era” there is now a significantly lower number of Aboriginal players in the NHL altogether. Stereotyping them into this role meant that, when the role was no longer there for them to fill, they were given less opportunity for a career in the NHL. In a time where we are trying to move away from racial inequalities, it is alarming to know that these kind of issues still persist.

Recently, another league MVP, NHLer Carey Price, gave his acceptance speech and recognized the importance of acknowledging the uphill battle that Aboriginal youth face. I leave you with the video of his words below.


Valentine, J. (2012). New Racism and Old Stereotypes in the National Hockey League: The “Stacking” of Aboriginal Players into the Role of Enforcer.In J. Joseph, S. Darnell, & Y. Nakamura (Eds.) Race and Sport in Canada: Intersecting Inequalities, pp. ?? Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Coakley, J. (2010). Race and Ethnicity in the Sociology of Sport in the United States. Colorado Springs, CO: University of Colorado.





Canada’s Cold War Identity…on Ice

With the conclusion of the World Cup of Hockey Canadian identity is as strong as ever, with team Canada taking a dominating 2 game series win over Team Europe. Team Europe might be a new opponent for Team Canada but they did not stop them from taking the title of World Cup Champions. Team Canada went through some older and familiar teams where the rivalry today is distinctly different than it was during the famous 8 game Summit Series with the former USSR.


Canada is still known across the world and especially within Canada’s diverse population as a hockey nation with dominating performances in the past several international events and tournaments. The chapter by Scherer, Duquette, and Mason (2007) in the book East plays West, Sport and the Cold War provides us with the “(re)articulation of the Canadian National Identity” through the 1972 Summit Series.[1] The chapter provides us with a unique perspective of the Summit Series by setting the stage. Most documentaries begin with game 1 of the series and conclude with the iconic Henderson goal. By providing the unique circumstances that established this event we can obtain a new perspective and appreciation for the significance of the series to the Canadian identity.

The 1960’s and 1970’s was a time that the USSR national team was dominating the international stage. Canada was unable to send professional athletes to international competitions and with the rise of other hockey programs in the world Canada lagged behind. Canada withdrew from international events previous to the 1972 series with the USSR. The series was established with the ability for Canada to send NHL professionals to represent the country. Canada’s identity would form through two different and distinct avenues. The first being Canada’s identity to the world as Canada was forming diplomatic ties with the USSR without major western allies. Canada would open up to the USSR forming a diplomatic tie that would share aspects of the two countries, which included hockey. The second would be through the fractured Canadian self identity with the debate of Anglophone vs. Francophone taking place in the country at this time. Through these two avenues Canada would (re)articulate its identity to the world but also to itself.

Today Canada is a unique Country with a wide range of demographics through the increased numbers of immigrants in many Canadian cities. With this shift in Canadian demographics the popularity of hockey has been threatened. Not many immigrants participate in hockey but instead play basketball and soccer. The participation rates of hockey are declining in many major metropolitan areas. What does this do to the Canadian identity, especially during international hockey events? It is interesting to know that many immigrants give hockey a try either through actually playing or watching with other Canadians. Immigrants see this as an essential way of entering into Canadian society and being a part of the Canadian identity.[2] The relevance of this was shown in the gold medal game of men’s hockey during the 2010 Vancouver winter games where nearly 80 percent of Canadians tuned in for some portion of the game, which comes out to nearly 26.5 million people.[3] Hockey in Canada is still seen as an essential part of its identity. Even with the changing demographics of Canada individuals new to the country still make an effort to enter into the Canadian hockey world to experience part of our identity as a nation. The social component of hockey among new immigrants to Canada is essential to a portion of their integration and inclusion.

The image of Canada to the world has shifted since the 1970’s but what has stayed constant is the identity Canada has through its hockey. Canada is once again on top of the world as 2016 World Cup Champions.

[1] Scherer, J., Duquette, G.H., & Mason, D. S. (2007). The Cold War and the (re)articulation of Canadian national identity, The 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. In S. Wagg & D.L. Andrews (Eds.), East plays West, Sport and the Cold War (pp. 163-186). London: Routledge.

[2] The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (2014). Playing together – new citizens, sports, and belonging.

[3] Dan O’Neill –

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Thumbs down, Grapes.

Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang.

Another take on the Hero-Villain binary exhibited by the notorious Don Cherry.

Over the past 35 years, Don Cherry has spent every Saturday night over the course of a National Hockey League (NHL) season on Coach’s Corner, co-hosting the 1st intermission segment of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). At the end of segments, Don routinely gives a big thumbs up to the audience. However, after reading this article, I have to give Cherry a big thumbs down.


When the horn blows to signal the end of the 1st, the unmistakable trumpeted theme song of Coach’s Corner comes on.  If you’re like me, you stay seated on the couch, not eagerly awaiting to hear the outlandish comments Don will undoubtedly provide, but to simply get a laugh at his flamboyant fashion choices.  Aside from his attire, Cherry is also well-known for his rants, often offering his opinions on a range of sociopolitical issues that stray far from the on-ice content he is paid (handsomely) to comment on.  If we ignore the velvet blazers and fuchsia ties, and truly listen to his message, these boisterous critiques include targeting Europeans and French Canadians (focused on in this article particularly) and constructing a controversial version of Canadian national identity.

Don’s version of ‘Canadianism’ leaves millions of Canadians out of the picture.  It is the ‘good ol Saskatoon boys’ that grew up on the farm, rather than Francophones, who encompass his view of toughness and patriotism, he feels a ‘true’ Canadian should have. His exclusion of certain groups does not reflect the cultural diversity which is what SHOULD be one of the pillars of Canadian identity. This interpretation is interesting considering the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s (CBC) Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition, is hosted by individuals who would not fit Don’s image. Don’s version of nationalism contradicts the multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on in a global context.

To piggyback on Don’s controversial interpretation of Canadian identity, is his interpretation of masculinity. This concept is not explored in the article, however, I find it interesting to contrast Don’s own portrayal of masculinity (his outfit choices ) with his conservative notions of toughness and aggression when commenting on players; often referring to French Canadians, and Russians as “cowards” for wearing a visor, or shying away from a fight.

The militarization of sport and hockey in particular, is not a recent phenomenon. For example, players have gone to ‘battle’ in the corners and ‘snipers’ have been scoring goals for years.  Don has long been known as one of the military’s greatest supporters, the sincerity and respect Don has for the Canadian Armed Forces is unquestioned. No one can critique the emotional memoirs he often gives to fallen soldiers and their families. However, at times his conservative views of the military begin to become political tirades. Foreign policy should not be up for discussion, as Don gives only a one-sided biased take on war and military engagements.

CBC has done relatively little to stop Don from vocalizing his brash and uncontested opinions (the seven second time delay is far from the game misconduct he deserves). Like him or not, Cherry’s notoriety has made him a staple in households across the country every Saturday night.

Is Coaches Corner the appropriate platform to be vocalizing such controversial ideology? Probably not. However, this rhetoric is what makes the man behind the fuchsia suit who he is, and viewers cannot wait to see what he wears and says next.


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Don Cherry’s Nationalism: The Loss of Rationale Thought?


In the book written by L.A. Wenner(2013), “Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture ” a chapter by Jay Scherer & Lisa McDermott delve into the cultural significance CBC’s Don Cherry holds in regards to Canadian Nationalism. The article begins by stating that through the television career of Don Cherry, he has demonstrated a unique binary that sets him up to be a polarizing figure. Specifically, the Hero-Villain phenomena, as you can see in this clip. The authors go on to note that through his persona and comments, he displays a form of cultural identity that a collective of the population state as being biased towards conservative views. The Authors highlight this stance through the lenses of: his relations to the French-Canadians, and his stance on the Canadian military. The Authors bring light to cherry’s views towards the Francophone community on many separate occasions including: his anti-Quebecois rhetoric in the belief that they are “whiners”, as well as his favors for English (both language and people). On the opposite end of the Cherry Spectra, his support for the troops counters his disdain for the francophone, as elaborated by the Authors. They go on to note the countless times Don has expressed in favor of pro -war mentality, including an infamous coach’s corner segment where he and Ron Maclean debated on the topic.

See here

The authors also highlight his express for supporting the efforts by the Unites States and how we as Canadians should be supporting them, as well as his interpretation of what being Canadian is; specifically, being a warrior nation. The Authors’ make a final note of significant importance on the complicity that the CBC is demonstrating by not taking appropriate action to Cherry’s remarks and displays and that they too are in deep fault for shaping ideals and an identity for Canada. Thus, the authors demonstrate that their is more to the color commentator then simply hockey, but a brand of nationalism that not everyone would identify with.

This Chapter does bring warranted concern to the table, in addressing topics that can have damaging effects within the sporting realm from Mr. Cherry: exclusion via race, conceptualization of what being a ‘Canadian’ is, and overt support of hegemonic masculinity. These views can have serious repercussions on the enrollment and retention of future hockey players, which is an even bigger concern now for the sport as noted in recent demographic data. Global News report

However, these viewpoints are essential for the betterment of the sport. Within the realms of Kinesiology, thought is structured to enhance inclusive aspects of sport and recreation, in a holistic perspective. This particular stream of thought by Don Cherry, often gets ignored from an educational perspective as it is essentially deemed outlandish given that it doesn’t fit our criteria.  So in engaging in a “cosmopolitanism” way of thinking (bringing contrasting ideas together and communicating them in a way to come to a consensus for the betterment of society), programs can define the structure on what their sport offers in an effort to adhere to what both sides mention or what identity they wish to bring forth. By engaging with various rationales and understanding stance, only then can sport and recreation develop for the better. In the sport of hockey a huge dilemma is the recruitment and retention of players (as noted from the global report above), some can argue that they may not enroll in the sport because it can be too aggressive and people like Don Cherry push forward a mentality of what hockey should be. On the other hand, some may argue that the culture of hockey has changed to much and has become a sport that has lost it’s significance (the game is too soft).So despite the flaws that the Authors make note of, we should be slow to dismiss the Don Cherry’s of the world as they create pivotal moments for opportunities to become better, especially in the context of developing and enhancing programs. For that is what the pursuit of education is all about.

Issue related to Sport & Recreation (& Kinesiology) is: Sport being used as a means to suffice needs beyond its intended purpose, specifically in terms of national Identity and Inclusivity. The Effect of contrasting perceptions and how Kinesiology must learn to adapt with these notions for the betterment of the sport.


Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em    Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang

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Hockey and Newcomers to Canada

As a graduating undergraduate in RSS, an article I would recommend reading is: 

Hockey is known as Canada’s sporting pastime, so for people moving to Canada, it is not a bad idea to learn about the game. In the article, newcomer to Canada, Gihad is willing to be learn the rules and how to coach hockey for his son. This is not only beneficial to Gihad, it is also beneficial to his son. For example, Gihad states “ I’m not here to close the door on myself and my kids and stay inside, I can do that in Egypt, I don’t have to come here to do that”. With the rising numbers of obese children, Gihad is moving in the right direction to keep his children active in a new country.

Multiculturalism is something that most of us have been exposed to in the past; this article highlights a great case of multiculturism in sport. When he arrived in Canada, Gihad did not have any idea what the game of hockey was about or the rules of the game, but that did not stop him from wanting to learn and give his children the opportunity to take part in the Canadian culture. For the coaches to give Gihad a chance is really positive. Coming from a small town, I would not see insistences like this. I think this is also a great learning experience for the kids as well to see Gihad on the ice learning how to skate and the determination he has to learn the game is setting a good example of the kids.


Debating the role of fighting in the NHL

Before our presentation (and being hockey players ourselves), we were both pro-fighting. However, in doing research and seeing how many people lives fighting effects on and off the ice, we are starting to rethink our view on fighting in the NHL. Some of the NHL players that are literally fighting for jobs have been battling health issues and struggling through their lives. Every athlete is a person longer than they are a player. Views on fighting in the NHL included pros and cons; however, at this time we believe the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives.

Some reasons for why fighting should be left in hockey is because it keeps people discipline, builds team chemistry, can change the momentum of the game and brings excitement to the game. If fighting were to be taken out of the game it can open the possibility of introducing more stick work into the game, which can potentially be more dangerous. You may also have guys try to hit the better players knowing that they will not have to pay the price for it. There are many ways to build trust and team chemistry; the argument can be raised that when a teammate sticks up for you on the ice and is willing to drop the gloves to defend you, it will build trust between the players. A fight can often change the momentum of a hockey game; a good fight can get the crowd excited and loud which can change the momentum of the game. It can also get the players pumped up; all around it can wake everyone up. Nice goals and big hits can bring the crowd to there feet, when you look at the crowd when I fight breaks out there are not to many people sitting down.

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Examining Sport-Related Concussions

Discussion question:

Why do you feel that parents avoid enrolling their children in sport? Do you feel concussions play a role? Why?

Syd concussion




Concussions date back to 400 BC where there is evidence of the first documented head tramua. Concussions may be caused by direct blow to the head, indirect contact to else where to the body that causes the head to come into contact with another object. For example a body check that causes the head to come in contact with another object. For example the boards, glass, or another player. Concussions can also arise from contact that causes a “whiplash” effect where the brain rapidly moves and contacts various portions of the skull. Lastly the onset of a concussion can arise from no external contact but rather a “slip and fall” where the individuals cranium comes in contact with the ground. The following link will showcase how one can sustain a concussion.

A concussion is a brain injury and is defined as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces. A concussion typically results in the rapid onset of short-lived impairment of neurological functionthat resolves spontaneously. However, in some cases, symptoms and signs may evolve over a number of minutes to hours (Zurich, 2013)

Concussion results in a graded set of clinical symptoms that may or may not involve loss of consciousness, Headache, difficulty in making decisions, nausea, and fatigue.

Concussions may have an impact to RSS when looking at resistance to play, and delivery safe play. Concussions and their prevelance in sport may cause fear in parents in enrolling thier children in sport. It is important to educate Coaches and parents not only how to identify and treat concussions, but also to teach safe practices within the sport they play.

The best form of prevention is awareness and education. Through implementing safe play practices, learning fundamentals, promoting ethical play through following the rulesof the sport that the athlete or participant is enrolled within.


General knowledge about concussion:

Emergency department practitioners return to play

7% same day

31% One day later

27% In one week following no symptoms

12% Use the Return to Play Guidelines RTP

The return to play guidelines  include 6 stages in guiding the participant back to play

1. No activity

2. light aerobic exercise – walking, swimming, cycling

3. Sport-specific exercise – Running drills specific to sport or skating drills

4. Non-contact training drills – can start resistance training

5. Full-contact practice – medical clearance required practice with team in normal setting

6. Return to play – participate in full contact sport against an opponent

On average the majority of people (80-90%) recover within 7-10 using the RTP guideline. Children and adolescents take longer to recover.Children can take twice as long to recover. Children typically spend (10-14) days to recover from a concussion using the RTP guidelines. Of people that sustain a concussion 10-15% will have symptoms that return and persist after the typical recovery time.


Recreation life after a concussion ending career for minor recreational sports. The link below shows that the enjoyment of recreation and sport can still be enjoyed by those that may have suffred a career ending injury due to concussion(s).


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