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Hockey isn’t homophobic because it’s a “white” game

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I don’t know how many African-American players there are in the National Hockey League.

But I do know there are no openly gay players.

I don’t know how many white players there are in the National Basketball Association.

But I do know there are no openly gay players.

I don’t know how many Native American players there are in the National Football League.

But I do know there are no openly gay players.

I don’t know how many Asian players there are in Major League Baseball.

But I do know there are no openly gay players.

So, you tell me, if players of all skin hues perform in these organizations yet there are no openly gay players, is professional team sports racist or is it homophobic?

I mean, let’s say you’re an African-American kid. You aspire to one day play defence for the Montreal Canadiens and win the Norris Trophy as the elite of the NHL’s elite rearguards. You know it’s possible because P.K. Subban is living, breathing proof that it has happened. But if you’re an Afro-American, openly gay kid, forget it, son. An Afro-American gay kid must remain in the closet if he wishes to one day play defence for Les Glorieux.

Is that racist or homophobic?

To provide another example, the head coach of the Buffalo Sabes is a First Nations man, Ted Nolan. Thus, a First Nations kid can aspire to one day becoming a bench boss in the NHL. But a gay First Nations kid? Do not even think about it, son, unless you remain closeted.

Is that racist or homophobic?

The NHL, you see, preaches all-inclusiveness and, more to the point, practises it in terms of skin hue at the playing level, yet for an openly gay man hockey is like the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem—no room at the inn.

Is this because hockey is a “white” game and does white = racist = homophobe?

The NHL has had the “racist” label stitched to its brand in part because hockey is as white as a saint’s soul. To hear some folks, you’d swear that the NHL is the Ku Klux Klan on ice. And there’s no escaping the reality that the ice is white, the boards are white, the ivory towers are white, the large majority of players are white, the talking heads on TV panels are 99.9 per cent white and most of the faces you see in the pews are white. Only the puck and a minority of players are black.

Yet the NHL is no whiter on the ice than the NBA is black on the hardwood. And it is white for the most basic of reasons: It is played, in the main, in northern countries where snow lays on the ground six months of the year and where the citizenry is mostly white.

Ask yourself this, though: Who in hockey’s “white” establishment is practising racism? White owners hire white general managers who hire white coaches (Ted Nolan being the exception) and white, African-American, First Nations, Asian, European, Nordic, Scandinavian players are signed to multi-million-dollar contracts that should establish financial security for a lifetime.

The top-salaried performer with the NHL outfit I follow most closely, the Winnipeg Jets, is Evander Kane, a black man, at $6 million. Dustin Byfuglien, another black man, is third in line at the pay window, drawing a stipend of $5.75M this season. If both remain with the Jets in 2015-16, each will have $6M tucked into his pay envelop, meaning two Afroletes are the club’s top wage-earners.

If that’s racism, bring it on!

Certainly there is racism in hockey. To suggest otherwise would be folly, also naive. But it’s subtle and we are well distanced from the days when Conn Smythe informed Herb Carnegie he would never play a game in the NHL unless he could devise a method of morphing into a white man.

I’m sorry, but if it’s unveiled racism you’re looking for in hockey, I’ll have to direct your attention away from front offices/ice level and toward the stands. Nobody in hockey’s establishment takes to Twitter to drop N-bombs on Joel Ward or P.K. Subban when they score goals to beat the Boston Bruins. Fans do it. Fans fling bananas at black players (see: Simmonds, Wayne; Weekes, Kevin). Fans do this because they are people. People are flawed. People are racist and bigoted and homophobic. As I have often said, the human race would be a wonderful concept if not for the people.

Hockey is no more racist than most other segments of society, nor other team sports. In hockey, skin hue does not equal weak or inferior. Sexual orientation, however, does.

Hockey isn’t homophobic because it is white. It is homophobic because it is an enterprise comprised of 100 per cent heterosexual males who have carefully cultivated a culture of homophobia by brainwashing players into believing gay = weak = inferior.

That’s why there are zero role models in the NHL for our gay youth.

Patti Dawn Swansson

Patti Dawn Swansson

Patti Dawn Swansson has been writing about Winnipeg sports for more than 40 years, longer than any living being.

Do not, however, assume that to mean she harbors a wealth of knowledge or that she’s a jock journalist of award-winning loft. It simply means she is old, comfortable at a keyboard (although arthritic fingers sometimes make typing a bit of a chore) and doesn’t know when to quit.

She is most proud of her Q Award, presented to her in 2012 for literary contributions to the LGBT community in Victoria, B.C., and becoming the first person from the LGBT community to be inducted into the Manitoba Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Media Roll of Honour.

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