Link between hockey and rape studied

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      Laura Robinson thinks that if you cherish the young boys in your life, you should keep them away from the game of hockey.

      “I would never let a boy I cared about be in hockey,” Robinson told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview from Ontario.

      Robinson, a freelance journalist and author of Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada’s National Sport (McLelland & Stewart, 1998), has spent the past 18 years looking at sexual-assault cases involving hockey players. She said she was horrified to discover a “subculture of rape and violence in hockey beginning at the junior level”, and she claims that nothing has changed from the time she started her research.

      “It’s because we live in a rape culture, and within the subculture of male professional sport, it’s about defining who a man is through his sexual scoring,” she said.

      According to Robinson, a former national-level cyclist and rower, hockey culture demands that players display aggressive behaviour in order to prove their masculinity. “There is a fine line between the masculinity performed on the ice and the masculinity performed in the hotel room,” she said.

      Robinson claimed that while covering the Olympics in Vancouver she received three e-mails concerning sexual assaults committed by male hockey players—and she wasn’t the only one who noticed a spike in reports of sexual violence.

      Sexual offences increased by 70 percent—from 16 to 27—during the Olympics compared with the same period the year before, according to Vancouver Police Department statistics. Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, executive director of Women Against Violence Against Women, told the Straight in a phone interview that centre workers accompanied five victims to the hospital the night of the gold medal men’s hockey game.

      Ontario physician and provincial politician Shafiq Qaadri told the Straight earlier this year that a “tsunami of testosterone” washed through streets across the country after Sidney Crosby scored his famous overtime goal for Canada. He said that young men have much higher levels of testosterone running through their systems than older men, and that when this is combined with the extra jolt they receive from a sporting event, their risk of violence is elevated.

      According to Dr. Graham Pollett, medical officer of health with Ontario’s Middlesex-London Health Unit, fighting should be banned from hockey at all levels if real change is to occur in players’ behaviour. But the call to ban fighting from Canada’s national pastime has long been met with resistance from both players and officials in the NHL.

      “Kids look up to the professionals, and they [professionals] need to step up,” he told the Straight in a phone interview. “For the life of me, I don’t understand why the players don’t get behind this.”

      Alexis Peters, a sociology professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, argues that the culture of hockey is set up to emulate and reinforce notions of extreme masculinity. In her PhD dissertation, Peters claimed that junior hockey players may be at a higher risk of perpetrating acts of sexual assault than their nonathlete counterparts.

      Her research focused on a group of 102 Junior A hockey players aged 18 to 22 who played in the Ontario Hockey Association, with 74 nonathletes in the control group. Seven questionnaires were used to measure the attitude of each group toward male-female relationships. The hockey players scored statistically higher on things like hypermasculinity, measured through a callous attitude toward sex and perception that danger was exciting and violence manly. More disturbing for Peters was the fact that the players scored lower on measures of emotional empathy for other people’s pain.

      “Less empathy for people’s pain? That’s a psychopath,” Peters told the Straight.

      Although she acknowledges that her findings are part of a preliminary study and that the subject requires further research, Peters insists that anyone involved in the sport should be troubled by the results.

      “There are some huge issues that need to be looked at,” Peters said. “It’s very disconcerting.”

      But Robinson isn’t as optimistic about the ability of Canadians to scrutinize their beloved game. “It won’t stop, because Canadians are blind to hockey,” she said, vowing to continue her fight. “I will never back off, because they [hockey players] rape girls and they rape women, and the culture tells them that they should.”




      May 13, 2010 at 6:38am

      hypermasculinity? I'm curious - what do we call it when female hockey players show aggressive and violent behaviour? Anyone growing up in the past 20 years has seen quite a bit of that.

      I'm starting to think that a study linking paranoid psychosis and radical misandric feminism is in order lol

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      May 13, 2010 at 7:14am

      Good work on this one. I think hockey is overblown and is responsible for a lot of other problems in this country as well. What is said here makes sence. I do not believe the perpetraters of this aggression realize what is happening and therefore authority will have to do it for them.

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      ursa minor

      May 13, 2010 at 8:56am

      Laura Robinson may want to compare and contrast Canada's single-minded obsession with hockey to the single minded obsession with futbol in many Latin American countries, and compare the rates of sexual assault to countries with a greater diversity of sporting interests.

      Does the machismo drive the obsession or does the obsession drive the machismo?


      May 13, 2010 at 10:25am

      Much of this article is rubbish. Ms Robinson is making inflammatory and unsubstantiated comments. I come from a family of hockey players, and I have a son in hockey. The game has taught them discipline, respect and patience for others, an incredible work ethic, as well as a love of athletics and a healthy lifestyle. It is too easy, and lacking any kind of intellectual rigour, to point the finger at hockey as the catalyst for crime in society.


      May 13, 2010 at 11:01am

      Has Laura Robinson studied the situation in women's hockey, and if so, what are her findings?
      Rod Smelser


      May 13, 2010 at 11:09am

      Less than 200 people is not a statistically significant sample especially since there were less non-hockey people interviewed and as usual we don't know the methodology or even the specific questions asked and how they were asked. Nevertheless, as a long-time hockey fan, I have always been troubled by gratuitous violence in hockey and sports in general and I agree that there is a great need to amend the way hockey is played but to tar everyone with the same black brush is irresponsible. The beauty of the play of Gretzky, Lemieux, Lafleur, Orr, Crosby and dozens and dozens of other greats far overshadows the exploits of the goons. Theo Fleury was a victim and attempted a comeback this past year - I'm sure he doesn't advocate blaming hockey - blame the perpetrator. Many, many controlling, overly macho and misogynist types exist in many walks of life from corporate offices to construction sites and that issue has to be addressed across the board - berating a whole sub-culture for the sins of the few is not helpful to the greater discussion of eliminating all forms of violence in general.

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      May 13, 2010 at 11:34am

      It's obvious you want attention, but this is going a little overboard.

      Am I OK to say that without wearing my armband, mein SchiesdreckFí¼hrer?


      May 13, 2010 at 12:23pm

      "Sexual offences increased by 70 percent—from 16 to 27—during the Olympics compared with the same period the year before, according to Vancouver Police Department statistics."

      Linking this to hockey is ridiculous. I think factors such as excessive alcohol use and a massive influx of young people to Vancouver during the Olympics are much better indicator. Its an inflammatory statement with no scientific basis.

      If "Hockey" was a person, I'd sue for libel.


      May 13, 2010 at 2:03pm

      There are sooooo many other variables not studied or not mentioned. She compares the control group to only 1 sport? In 1 province? Seriously? You can't make ANY conclusions on that. This is a tiny sample. Take this study across different provinces, different cultures/countries and different sports. THEN maybe her argument will hold some water. This just sounds like Laura Robinson has a personal grudge against hockey and hockey players and is out for revenge. Maybe not, but that's how it comes across.

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