#35 – The Cult(ure) of Hockey, Part Four: What Injuries?

Fairly recently, the NFL had a bad moment of PR when it was revealed by Congressional report that the League had attempted to influence studies of concussions caused by playing major-league football. What really stuck with me about the whole disaster was an idle thought – what would Cakerstan think about an investigation into the injuries caused by major-league hockey? To answer that question, we need only turn to Don Cherry, a man who once called people critical of rampant fighting in the NHL “nerds“.

(S) The man on the left is taken seriously by English Canadians. I am not kidding.

With St. Cherry’s Divine and Final Word on the matter of fighting (which is completely tangential to the point of hockey, which appears to be scoring more goals than the other team), it seems that Canada has decided to not give a shit about brain trauma in hockey. This is a small problem because, well, Canada has this thing about drilling young children into the hockey (cult)ure. Said children are getting smoked on the ice and experiencing head injuries, which in classic Canadian fashion they are told to hide from others.

Hockey, it is important to repeat, is a fundamentally reactionary activity in English Canada. It hearkens back to (badly distorted) images of Canada’s past, when brown people could be actively sneered at, winters were “real” winters with literal mile-high snowbanks, cigarettes were practically mandatory, and seatbelts were a socialist plot. The reaction to Rogers adding MuchMusic host and obnoxious #engagedyouth George Stroumboulopoulos to the Hockey Night in Canada ecosystem was fucking nuclear. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that kind of conservative method of cultural preservation, I start taking issue with it when the call to preservation expressly masks known problems and cruelties. As was the case with the NFL, the NHL has a serious head injury problem. But unlike the American people, Canadians are happy to hide from that fact amongst the reactionary reeds.

Let’s be perfectly frank here – the NHL absolutely has a head injury problem. Its coaches and players won’t even use the right terminology when discussing the problem, but as we’ve learned here before pretending that problems don’t exist shockingly doesn’t magic them away. People have had their lives ruined because of their time in the NHL, and the teams as late as 2016 still try to withhold information about head trauma that relevant authorities might need to, oh, I don’t know, save that person from a life of disability and pain. The NHL has even eaten several lawsuits over the matter. The linkages, despite what commissioner Gary Bettman would have you believe, are perfectly clear – fixation on hockeymans means a greater chance of having little Timmy’s grey matter coming out of the game less intact than the average Canadian flag flying today.

(S) This is your brain on Canada, folks

The trauma and savagery of the major-league version of hockeymans is transmitted down to the minors, too. Almost half of the brain injuries experienced by young athletes in Canada are caused by hockey. And what has the response from Canada been? Well, caker parents and caker coaches, their heads addled with star-struck visions of vicariously living through their children and proteges, are still pressuring their children into ridiculous training regimens. In the process, a shit ton of caker businesses are taking huge sums from parents who can’t really afford them. Hockey parents are perhaps the worst subset of caker, to the point where even other cakers have agreed that the hockey moms of the world need mandatory training so as to be halfway decent people. The whole thing is a festering ball of Canadiana, a way to separate cakers from their money by using their own insecurities, sense of patriotism, and children against them.

Yes, hockey enrollment is down in Canada. But that’s likely because of cost, not because Canadians have somehow figured out that children and head trauma go together as well as Canada and civilization. Oh, and if the hockey squire does in fact make it, guess what? They’re treated like shit by Hockey Canada, which was actually created by the federal government in 1968. Say what you will about Americans and football – at least they had the good sense to use their federal governmental powers to demand better of major sporting leagues instead of creating yet another avenue of unfairness for those pressured into a dangerous sport whose physical harms are shouted down and ignored by reactionary cakers like Don Cherry.

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