Northern ice: A shame on Canada

(December 27, updated December 29) – Canada routed Germany 16-2 in the “world” juniors hockey championship on December 26. The German team was missing six players including its top to goaltenders – one third of its roster – due to the covid pandemic. It had also played the night before, while Canada was playing its first game. Nevertheless, the game was not cancelled or postponed by the International Hockey Federation, being scheduled for the TSN Cable TV sports network [1] at primetime (6 p.m.) Saturday night.

Different analysts have also noted that Canada, the host country, has been placed in the most favourable pool as well as being given the most relaxed schedule.

The usual justification for running up the score on one’s opponent in such tournaments is that the rules for advancement are based on total goals. On this occasion, the justification changed. The Canadian team, echoed by the Toronto Star, openly celebrated the match as a “glorified practice”: “And they were not about to apologize. ‘It’s not about the score, it’s about how you play,’ said Canadian coach Andre Tourigny.” The Star even went to the extent of listing the goal scorers by province of their origin and itemizes the players according to which professional franchise in the National Hockey League owns their rights.

The performance of Hockey Canada and of the Toronto Star and other media is beneath contempt. The principle of friendship between peoples and their athletes is one that is cherished by humanity. Canadians are known for their spirit of hospitality. Different Canadians are speaking out to uphold the lofty principles governing international sports competitions, for human-centred sport, and against the “winning is everything, the only thing” ethos that drives commercialized and capital-centric sport.

Louis Lang, a veteran hockey player and coach in the Ottawa-Hull region, wrote to this blog:

“The interview with the Canadian coach after the game added to the shame. He said he didn’t care what the score was, it could have been 200 to 1 and he would have still wanted his team to go for the jugular. It is the best hockey we see all year but the ‘adults’ in charge have no concept of teaching the kids anything. They just look at it as a stepping stone to the big time. It is sickening!”

Ken Perkin of Scarborough replied to the Toronto Star on December 29:

““Whoever is in charge of running the world junior hockey championship seems to lack some understanding of the term sportsmanship. To schedule one of the weakest teams Germany (having played the day before), against one of the strongest, Canada (having played no games at all), is unfair.

“Also, why is there no mercy rule in your tournament? As a coach of many competitive teams over the years, there are many ways to keep the score down when it becomes obvious your teams is going to win.

“Where is the sportsmanship here?”

In the United States, the popular Atlanta Canadians Facebook group touched up the Simpsons cartoon posted above. Rick Lewchuk wrote: “I think it is a poor rule that should be changed. It is rarely needed to determine standings and is demoralizing for the teams on the wrong end of the score, especially the young goaltenders.” Deb Wallsmith said, “Sad. Apparently they haven’t even had ice time to practice together.” Brian Olson added, “Felt bad.”

As for the rule, it is a hollow justification, as Hockey Canada never calls for changing the rule. The lopsided scores are also used by publicists who demand that the “minnows” or smaller countries not even be included in international competitions. Globe and Mail columnist Cathal Kelly publicly ridiculed the young German goalie, whom he asserted was “unable to skate,” and smaller countries “who show up because it’s a free vacation.”And this is junior hockey. 

Another important concern is the pressure placed on sport and athletes by the powerful media monopolies to push ahead with games despite the pandemic, all the while assuring that measures for “health and safety” have been put in place. Nevertheless, even the NBA and NFL sports cartels have been forced to postpone games when franchises were unable to field a full complement of players due to the spread of the Covid virus amongst players and staff. In contrast to the NCAA college sports in the United States, which have extremely lucrative TV contracts, Canadian university sport, which has zero TV contracts, has suspended all competitions for the year.

What it shows is that even the domain of sports at all levels is being brought under the liquidationist pressure whereby the modern norms of a level playing field and sportsmanship in competition are being destroyed in order to achieve self-serving aims.

It reminds me of the “rules-based international order” that the Trudeau Liberals are always evoking, the missing element of which is equality between nations big or small and the principles of the UN Charter governing international relations.

– First published on Facebook and Amateursport.wordpress.com on December27, 2020. With thanks to the http://www.ATLCanadians.com Atlanta Canadians Facebook group for the cartoon.

Note

1. TSN is 70 per cent owned by the communications conglomerate BCE Inc. (presently through its broadcasting subsidiary Bell Media) and 30 per cent by ESPN Inc., a subsidiary of the ABC/Disney monopoly. Bell also owns one third of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment monopoly (Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, Marlies), and Rogers Communications another third.

Also on the Amateur Sport blog

Women’s hockey: Parity and ‘running up the score’ over the years

Sochi 2014: Respect for one’s opponent in sport (2)

Mike Babcock’s rant: “And the other thing that happens for the NHL player, and probably for you in the media, is the respect you have for the opposition.” Welcome to the G-20 Winter Games and the Harper agenda for a “new patriotism.”

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