Hockey Is Destroying Western Civilization

Laura Robinson’s article on the Vancouver riots and the violence-worshipping nature of hockey doesn’t quite go as far as the title above, but she comes close.

Robinson argues that hockey – she cites the Vancouver Olympics and the Canucks’ playoff run – leads to violence against women, because of the culture of violence in hockey.

I came across this particular article thanks to Tyler Dellow, who goes into some detail explaining why that statistics that Robinson uses are, at best, deeply flawed.

I’m in total agreement with Dellow here; Robinson’s carefully dancing around numbers that don’t support her case and carefully representing the ones that do support her case in the most damning light possible. But, since Dellow’s already tackled the statistics, I thought I’d look at the other logical premises of Robinson’s argument.

[W]riting about the connection between the public performance of violence — and how young males learn how to "act out" masculinity through that performance — is verboten in a country that worships what has become a violent game.

One of the things that Robinson doesn’t touch on in her article – maybe she has at some point over her decade-long crusade against hockey (she’d never allow any male she cared for to be involved in the sport) but she doesn’t here – is why sexual violence, and only sexual violence, deserves consideration.

What happens if we look at overall violent crime? We can only look at things since 2009 (the way statistics were recorded changed that year, making previous comparison very difficult) but the overall rate doesn’t move the same way that the sexual assault rate did. Why hockey only impacts sexual crime and not overall violent crime is a mystery to me.

Then, of course, there’s the ‘has become’ part of that sentence, which shows an appalling ignorance of history. In 1905, Alcide Laurin was beaten to death on the ice. In 1907, Owen McCourt was also killed on the ice – Charles Masson, the player charged in his death, was ultimately acquitted in large part because it wasn’t clear which of the players beating McCourt had actually killed him. Those are two incidents, but there are plenty of others – hockey’s been a violent game since very early on.

There’s other stuff along the way – like the unsupported statement that few hockey players like what the game has become – but then Robinson sites Dr. Graham Pollett’s 2007 paper Violence in amateur Hockey and suggests reading it. She didn’t link to it, but I will – it’s here – and include some of the actual content from the paper. Let me quote one paragraph: 

Yet Hockey Canada appears reticent to [take action to minimize violence]. This despite the evidence that amateur contests in which violence is not tolerated such as the World Juniors are highly successful…

The World Juniors are, of course, played under international rules. Just like the Olympics, which Robinson cites as a major factor in violence against women. I’m unsure if she’s ignorant of the difference in rules or if she’s choosing to ignore it; either way, the reference to Pollett’s paper seems ill-placed.

The startling coincidence of the report being released the same day we learned Wade Belak, a recently retired NHL enforcer, had hanged himself drives home an even more tragic lesson on hockey violence. This was the third death of a young man who was also an NHL enforcer in the past few months — fourth when Bob Probert’s death in July is included.

The deaths of NHL tough guys this summer has been deeply disturbing. I’m not familiar enough with the lives of the players involved to be in a position to explain exactly what happened and what the answer is – though like many, I don’t think the role of ‘NHL enforcer’ is conducive to good mental health. At the same time, though, Robinson doesn’t explain why Probert’s death – caused by a heart attack (which, given the fact that Probert’s father died of a heart attack at the age of 41, might be related to family history)– should be included in this list.

The problem though, is that without a certain level of ignorance towards history and a willingness to fudge numbers, Robinson would be unable to hammer away at her theories with the same level of moral indignation.

For further discussion of sexual assault statistics and how they relate to hockey, Colby Cosh’s "Hockey: the cure for rape?" deserves consideration.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Great article Jon, my only question is why this piece is only on the canucks site?

    Looks to me like a great piece to share with all the nations eh.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    It’s disgraceful to use events like this to support a totally unrelated agenda. I die a little inside every time people use events like the tragedy at Columbine to condemn video games and movies, or in this case the Vancouver riots to condemn a great sport like hockey.

    The (lack of) causality borders on absurd, and it’s a blemish on legit publications that condemn violence against women.

    In a word, embarassing.

  • JonW

    The flaws which are great in the argument tends to ignore the fact that one of the most violent sports in the world is Soccer. It is not the violence in the field but in the stands, outside the stadium or in the pubs and bars where much of the thuggery and violence has taken turn for the ugly.

    The riots at the olympics were simply related to the anti G20 anarchists rather than a particular sport.

    I am not sure why this season there has been so much tragedy this summer. The reality is it is not specific to hockey. NBA, MLB and NFL players have issues with drugs, guns, depression and a laundry list of injuries which has led to early deaths and mental problems.

    If one looks at the sport of Hockey now and compares it to the 1970s where thuggery was idolized (Big Bad Bruins and the Broadstreet Bullies) it is hard to say for sure that their is any correlation between violence in hockey and issues today.

    Only thing we can say is that concussions and head injuries are considerably more serious than we understood and we have made considerable progress in understanding the long term affects.

  • Chris.

    I HATE violence against women. We should ban hockey! Wait. That doesn’t make any sense…

    We should ban alcohol! No. Nevermind. They tried that once already.

    Guess we should ban women… Let’s start with Laura Robinson!

  • Wow. Sounds to me like someone took her easy credit Women’s Studies and 100 level Sociology classes a little too seriously.

    That garbage doesnt stand up to the tiniest bit of scrutiny. Poor Form, Laura Robinson, poor form.

    • book¡e

      Exactly, and it is unfortunate because it discredits academia and it also takes away credibility from a very important discussion about some of the cultural issues around the game of hockey. There are issues of violence, alcohol abuse, etc. that relate to hockey. There are some issues of hooliganism amongst fans as well. These are important discussions. People like this make them very difficult to have because they make the topic less credible.

      Unfortunately the presence of ‘critical’ approaches in the social sciences has allowed this type of crap to dominate many sociology departments across Canada. It’s unfortunate because a discipline that could have been key to addressing a lot of problems in society (culture and social relationships are very important to understand if we want to see improvements in society) has largely been written off as useless by policy makers. ‘New’ disciplines have had to emerge (environmental studies, recreation studies, etc.) to ‘reboot’ the discussion. Meanwhile Sociology departments continue to decline and do little more than bemoan the fact that nobody will give them funding.

      • I spent 8 years in the social sciences (Anthropology, Classics, Archaeology) at the U of A, and I can say without a doubt that if I had submitted a paper with logic like the one quoted here then I would be ripped to shreds.

        If this meets acceptable standards in Sociology then they deserve to fall by the wayside. I argued the same in Classics about why they were being left behind in so many debates about the ancient world. You have to be relevant, but you also have to have standards. The Robinson piece is highly relevant but lacking in standards.

        You’re bang on, if there was a discussion to be had about this, it wont be taken seriously now.

  • John Chambers

    Sadly, many undereducated, less critical thinkers will take this article as it was presented. Authoritative, researched, and logically sound. Too few people really question what is presented in mass media.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    What a bunch of garbage. Let’s start blaming hockey for everything. There are lots of television shows that have a far greater of impact on real world violence.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    The selective use of very pliable statistics to promote an agenda immediately invalidates any argument. This is, of course, a cheap way of getting some attention. Nothing more. She’ll be on all of the Canadian talking head programs, the oh-so-tired Michael Landsberg will very cleverly invite her on OTR to “debate” some knuckle-dragging neanderthal from the 1970s, and Don Cherry will probably be quoted about her “not having to look at hockey if she stays in the kitchen”.

    I dunno… amongst the Maoris in New Zealand, the horrific incidents of violence against women are blamed on the “Warrior” archetype, and the LACK of a traditional outlet for their aggression. Here, we have a sort of collective, cultural outlet of aggression that most of us only experience vicariously, and THIS is bad, too? So, suppressing violent tendencies is bad, and celebrating them is bad. What DOESN’T promote violence, then?

  • O.C.

    I guess that explains why she works in Winnipeg, for the Free Press. And articles like that will be why I will never read the Free Press

    Research… Learn how to…

    • justDOit

      It’s illogical to assume that all of the articles in the Free Press are as bad as this one – much like it is perversely illogical to assume that hockey promotes sexual violence.

      I’m not defending the Free Press, because I don’t read it. Then again, I don’t read any of the papers or watch TV news because it’s so obviously biased, one way or the other.

  • Wax Man Riley

    An excerpt from the article:

    According to the police, District 1 saw an increase of 233.3 per cent in reported sexual offences during the Olympics

    I blame the figure skating. Absolutely. The women in their little outfits and the men with their hands all over them give the message that it okay for men to touch women in this way.

  • Wax Man Riley

    My comment above is about as coherent as the article is. This woman can be painted with the same brush as Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly. They take a “moral stand” and will distort facts and stats to fit their opinions. I am sure if asked, Laura Robinson would tell you other gatherings of thousands of people in other parts of the world have never resulted in violence of any kind. It is only hockey.

    Instead of attacking a GAME, lets look at our education system, our parenting, as well as the effect the media has in violence against humans.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Just read Tyler Dellow’s response to the article.


    Sorry to say this, but I have to agree with some of the comments in Robinson’s article. She must have a deep-seated hatred for men in this game of hockey. Maybe a father, Husband, boyfriend or authority figure was involved with the game and mistreated her.

    Definitely skewing the stats to fit her agenda. My favorite part of the Dellow article:

    I assumed that she didn’t mention the June numbers – when the Canucks playoff run ended ignominiously because they were simply to horrible to mention. No Canucks playoff hockey in June 2010 and an awful ending to Canucks’ playoff hockey in June of 2011 must surely have unleashed the “…violent subculture of masculinity fed by hockey, UFC and other activities that define men through violence and (lead them to) start drinking hours before they commit public or private acts of violence.” I’m a brave man with a strong stomach so I looked. 13 reports of sexual offences in District 1 in June of 2010 and…11 this year.

    Huh. Guess she didn’t see that page. Oversight, I’m sure. She just went April, May, July. Whoops.

  • Guardian


    I am an Oilers fan, I think hockey is the greatest game on earth, and i’m an academic. I have had to hide my love of the game to avoid arguments like the one presented by Laura Robinson. Women and Gender studies programs are the ‘it’ thing right now in the Social Sciences and sports or any other male dominated realm are under their microscope/attack.

    The message I choose to take from it is: “Rape is deplorable and more needs to be done in our society to educate, and discourage young men from even considering any sort of sexual exploitation of men or women.” Hockey has unprecedented access to the male mind. in our country especially, and any effort put forth by such an influential organization to deter sex crimes and violence would undoubtedly make Canada a better place. That we can agree on.

    Speculating that she was abused, hypothetically dismissing an academic field, or “what about soccer, what about MMA?” or personally attacking her misses the point.

    I think sexual predators use drunken mayhem as an opportunity to offend regardless of the cause of the mayhem.

    On an unrelated note: give Smytty the ‘C’ for god’s sake!!

    Keep up the good work O.N.


    • I’m an Academic too. This article lacks any sort of Academic quality. It’s pseudo-academic at best, and tripe at worst.

      Women and Gender studies have been in vogue for a while, but it doesnt mean that anything done in the name of those topics is good. In fact, most of it is blatantly terrible.

      Too many crusaders and not enough thinkers.

  • Dr. Nick

    The main problem I have with Laura Robinson article is the timing of it. It screams that she is just another media hack trying get to herself a slice of the action. On top of that she mentions her own book in the article in a classic case of self-promotion. She uses the tragedies that have befallen on the NHL this summer and the concussion to Sidney Crosby as a platform to spout her message. And not only does she take advantage of what has happened recently, she shows no remorse for the players who have died or the friends and family that are still suffering from the loss. I mean the attack on Wade Belak shows no class whatsoever.

    The other problem I have is her use of statistics. She showed percentages and mentioned a spike, which can be very misleading rather than actual numbers. For example, an increase from 3 to 7 is a 133% increase, and an increase from 1 to 3 could be considered a spike if the average is 1. Also, how did she prove that the reason behind the sexual offenses was due to the influence of hockey on the perpetrator?

    In the end, Laura Robinson wrote this article to get a reaction. Violent acts happen everywhere and in every major sport, but she chose hockey because it is the hot topic in Canada right now and she just happened to write a book about the subject and wanted to give it a plug.

    By the way Laura, statistics can be used to prove anything… I mean 89% of people know that.

  • Drew - Team no more tanking

    I’ve watched alot of hockey and have never punched or hit anyone; male or female. Sounds like I’ve got some catching up to do. See you around….

    p.s. my paragraph above is sarcasm/humor/etc.

    I remember when I was young, probably about 12 or 13, in the dawn of the PC/sensitive nineties, Superbowl was coming up and the media put out something about how there is more child abuse on that day annually than any other day. I remember thinking that would be way too random/coincidental to be true and that if there are parents that would be pushed over the edge due to a foot ball game they would need to be removed from being parents.

    If there are people that would use contact sports such as hockey as a spark to ignite ridiculous acts they need to be removed from society, as they have in essence proved they are incapable of handling the expectations of separating reality from all other things; a basic and required regulation to co-exist among the rest of us. Like when children are removed from a social scene like the dinner table because they do not respect the parametres of that situation.

  • bandgeek

    Too many Crusaders is right. On one side women want to play the same sports as men, and on the other side some people are too sophisticated and cultured (nannyfied by political sensitivity) to embrace the high level of skill, competition and FOCUS-not to mention the fulfilling feeling of loyalty a fan experiences-that goes with great sports.
    If anything Figure skating would increase the cases of homo and trans-sexual assault. The demographic at a figure skating event would not be young adult, single males. If that actually is the case than these Vancouver males have weird sexual inspiration, because a figure skating event is not something turns my chivalry switch.