What are we to make of the growing Rainbow Resistance Movement in the National Hockey League?
Well, in the grand scheme of things, a hockey jersey seems like a piffling talking point when there are more than 60 countries on our planet where it’s a crime to be gay or transgender (punishable by death in 11 locales), and a mind-numbing 400-plus anti-LGBT(etc.) bills have been introduced in statehouses across the U.S.A. this year.
So, ya, petite pommes de terre.
Except Pride nights in the NHL have become a talking point because it shouldn’t be a talking point.
That is to say, I always hold out hope that those of us in the LGBT(etc.) community are past being told we don’t belong. We are, after all, 23 years into the 21st century and I wouldn’t expect a prominent business that trumpets ‘Hockey Is For Everyone’ to tell us we aren’t welcome.
Yet, when Ilya Samsonov refuses to put a Pride decal on the back of his goalie mask; when James Reimer, Eric and Marc Staal, Ivan Provorov, Ilya Lyubushkin, Andrei Kuzmenko and Denis Gurianov decline to don rainbow-themed apparel and/or stick tape for 15 minutes; when the New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild keep their Pride sweaters in storage—that’s what many in the LGBT(etc.) collective hear. We aren’t welcome.
Some naysayers suggest that’s selective hearing rooted in our own insecurities, but I suggest those people have never been required to justify their very existence while looking for lodgings, service, employment, a marriage licence, the opportunity to adopt children, etc. You know, basic human rights.
So I posit that it’s more accurate to say what some in the LGBT(etc.) collective are feeling is the fallout from many lifetimes of indignities.
A number of years ago, for example, I was shopping in a funky clothing boutique, searching for a gift. An employee approached and, in a harsh tone loud enough for others in the shop to hear, barked at me: “We don’t want your kind in here!”
Since that day, I’ve been harassed, maligned, ostracized, assaulted and bullied based strictly on sexuality and/or gender identity. It hurt like hell. And most, if not all, the people I know in the LGBT(etc.) community have experienced similar affronts meant to make them feel like lesser-thans or disenfranchised.
Thus, as much as a small group of hockey players/teams declining to support a marginalized community under increasing attack is a trivial matter to some, it serves as a haunting echo to myself and others. It saddens me and exposes the NHL’s broad-stroke claim of inclusiveness as bogus ballyhoo.
So let’s talk about “Hockey Is For Everyone.”
If it’s women’s shinny, yes, it appears to be for everyone.
Elite female hockey has featured Black players, Indigenous players, Asian players, gay players, bisexual players and transgender players, and we see it in the faces in the stands. If aliens were to touch down and inhabit our blue orb tomorrow—and some of them could skate and shoot a puck like Marie-Philip Poulin—I’m sure there would be room for the extraterrestrials in Ponytail Puck.
If, on the other hand, it’s the NHL we’re talking about…well, gays are the extraterrestrials.
The NHL trotted out its Trademark Big Lie about “Hockey Is For Everyone” in February 2017, at which time there had never been an openly gay player. Ever. That box still hasn’t been checked off. Not even by someone who’s come out in retirement. Which is astoundingly illogical, since that takes in approximately 8,000 men and 106 years. Nary a gay man? Right. And there are no Catholics in Rome.
It is, however, one thing for elite gay male hockey players to remain closeted, but it’s another matter to tell the LGBT(etc.) community that there’s no room at the inn.
Two reasons have been advanced for this: Russia and Bible scripture.
We’re told there’s a fear, real or imagined, among Russian players that wearing Pride gear is in conflict with Vlad Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law, and the wrath of the dictator’s henchmen shall descend upon them or their families back home should they play along with Pride initiatives.
Well, I can’t speak to that fear because, thankfully, I don’t live in Russia, nor have I ever visited. I just know it to be an untrustworthy nation, a feeling that took root for me in the late 1950s/early 1960s when it was the Soviet Union and Nikita Khruschev was threatening to lob his nuclear weapons at us and blow us all the hell up. The Cuban Missile Crisis and air raid drills, those were the fears I knew, and I can’t say anything’s different today. I still don’t trust the comrades.
Religion, meanwhile, is a different head of lettuce. I have an acquaintance with the church.
I was baptized and raised Roman Catholic.
I had confirmation and received my first Holy Communion at age 7.
I spent time in the confessional, often feeling obliged to ‘fess up to sins I actually hadn’t committed.
(True story: I’d whisper through the screen window between myself and the parish priest to inform him that there was a black blotch on my soul because I had stolen a candy bar from the corner store, which was a lie. So I’d then confess to lying, which was the truth. My penance was usually five Hail Marys, and I always walked out of the confessional feeling cleansed and not at all bummed out about lying.)
I attended mass every Sunday and on the first Friday of every month, which was mandatory for students at my Catholic schools.
I was taught by nuns through Grade 8, always wary of their 12-inch, wooden knuckle-rappers (you probably called it a “ruler”), and time was devoted each day to Catechism, which is when us sprigs learned of the miracle man Jesus and his 12 hangers-on.
And, my oh my, such stories we were told: Raising the dead, stilling storms, walking on H2O, hocus pocus involving fish and bread, turning water into wine, selling out a dear friend with a kiss, healing the lame, the sick, the deaf and the blind with the touch of a hand, wandering the wilderness for 40 days and nights without so much as a snack. That stuff was better than anything on TV. It left me gobsmacked.
The nuns with the 12-inch, wooden knuckle-rappers would regale us with these, and other, biblical tales that seemed more fable than fact, and we were expected to accept them as the gospel truth, no matter how far they stretched the boundary of reason.
We were a captive audience, awash in naiveté and prepared to believe anything those nuns, or the parish priests, told us. If they informed us Jesus fed thousands with no more food than what we had in our school lunch boxes, then it was true. If they told us Catholics are the only people who qualify for entry into Heaven (they did) or that we’d literally burn in a place called Hell if we committed a mortal sin (they did), we bought it, lock, stock and Bible scripture.
Odd thing, though: My strength of recall (which, admittedly, has ebbed) fails to recapture a single moment (not one) when the nuns/priests of my youth gave us the Bible’s, or Jesus’, take on the (apparent) evils of homosexuality.
But, based on “Sacred Scripture,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that gay sex acts are “of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances can they be approved.” The inclination toward gay tendencies, meanwhile, is “objectively disordered.” Gay people have a “condition.”
So if I read it correctly, gay sex is a sin while gay people have something akin to dandruff, which can be treated and remedied.
I suppose this is what the NHL players believe when they tell us they love LGBT(etc.) people yet their religion doesn’t allow them to use a rainbow-themed jersey for a welcome mat.
I hesitate to question the depth and sincerity of anyone’s faith, but those outriders leave themselves open to accusations of hypocrisy. They cannot support the LGBT(etc.) community because gay sex is a sin? Fine. Yet how many among them have lusted after a woman who isn’t their wife?
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus told the people: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
It’s the seventh commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. It’s considered such a grave sin that it’s mentioned 52 times in the Bible.
I know male hockey players. Trust me, they lust after women, and many of them act on that lust. According to Jesus, that’s a sin long before clothes begin to come off. Yet I’ve never read or heard of a player, or talked to a player, who denied or turned away a teammate based on adulterous behavior.
In other words, the sinners condemn the sinners (gay people) but not the sinners (adulterers).
Sounds positively unChristian to me.
So, again, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Faith can be a beautiful thing. To this day, I carry a rosary with me, I wear a medallion of the Virgin Mary and a cross of Jesus, I believe in angels and anticipate the day they come and carry me to the other side of the river.
But I don’t pick and choose scripture to serve an agenda that disenfranchises a beleaguered and oppressed people. It appears to me that’s what the “holy” hockey players are doing.
Matthew 23:28: “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
Whenever an LGBT(etc.) issue in sports becomes a topic du jour, I look and listen for gay voices in mainstream jock journalism to bring perspective and personal insight to the discussion. Alas, other than Devin Heroux of the CBC, those voices don’t exist. Maybe there are LGBT(etc.) news snoops on Our Frozen Tundra that I don’t know about. If so, I wish they’d join the conversation. Allies are wonderful, but I’d rather read or listen to someone with skin in the game.
Interesting read on Ponytail Puck from Hailey Salvian in The Athletic. She took the pulse of women’s hockey by asking 30-plus elite players from Canada and the U.S. their views on the game, and she included this question: What is the biggest issue facing women’s hockey? One answer: “We need to get back to having a league with a real season where we can play hockey.” I don’t know if that’s arrogance or ignorance from a member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, but it’s definitely stupid. There is a league with a real season—the Premier Hockey Federation, which crowned the Toronto Six champion on March 26.
So who’s the best female player of all time? Gotta be Hayley Wickenheiser, no? No. According to Hailey’s poll, Marie-Philip Poulin is numero uno (62% of the vote), with Hilary Knight (21%) and Cammi Granato (9%) next in line. Jayna Hefford, Cassie Campbell-Pascall also received votes. And the great Wickenheiser? Nary a vote. Go figure.
No surprise that the TV talking heads continue to fawn over Tiger Woods, as if he’s still leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Apparently, his making the Masters cut is undeniable evidence that his Superman cape is not torn and tattered, and it doesn’t matter that 63-year-old Fred Couples qualified to play the weekend with a better score. Woods finished Saturday last on the leaderboard, but the squawk boxes couldn’t make it all about him today because he withdrew.
That was some kind of scary stuff during second-round play at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National on Friday, when stormy weather and high winds brought down three giant trees. Fortunately, the area was clear of patrons, thus no injuries.
Actual BBC headline: “Trees fall at stormy Augusta.”
How TV announcers described it: “Boy, that was quick-thinking and fast-acting by Tiger Woods, who prevented a disaster by moving patrons away from 17 tee and out of harm’s way just seconds before those giant trees toppled to the ground. No one saw it coming except Tiger, and we can only imagine how many lives the great man saved today.”
Things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 2,147: Would you wager $222,000 on Woods to not win the Masters? Well, one bettor did that very thing at Circa Sportsbook before the boys teed off on Thursday at Augusta National. The payout when Tiger comes up short? Just $2,000. Hmmm. Sounds like my last grocery bill.
Things that make me go hmmm, Vol. 2,148: According to researchers at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, there’s been a jump in dingers in Major League Baseball due to our shifting climate. In a paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, scientist and co-author Justin Mankin writes, “Global warming is juicing home runs.” Apparently, more than 500 HRs since 2010 are the fallout from “historical warming.” Hmmm. And here I thought it was due to syringes and butt cheeks.
To arrive at their conclusion, the Dartmouth climate nerds pored over data from 100,000 games and 200,000-plus balls swatted into play, as well as weather, facilities and other pertinent points. I don’t know if chicks still “dig the long ball,” but Greta Thunberg disapproves.
What’s that Yogi Berra line about attendance? Oh ya: “If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” And no one in Oakland is stopping the rabble from attending Athletics games. The head count at Oakland-Alameda County Colisum last Tuesday was 3,407. Twenty-four hours later, 4,930 took in the ol’ ballgame. Imagine that, less than 5,000 fans. Or, as the Arizona Coyotes call it, “a near sellout.”
Real nice read from young Taylor Allen in the Drab Slab last week. He tells us all about local volleyball player Averie Allard, who’s now playing pro in Italy. Good stuff.
Our women won a bronze medal at the world curling championship and our men collected silver Sunday in Bytown. So I ask: Do the alarmists still demand a major overhaul of our entire system, or have the flaws in the program been greatly exaggerated?
Chalk one up for the LGBT(etc.) community: Skip Bruce Mouat of the freshly minted world champion Scottish team, which whupped Brad Gushue and the boys 9-3 in the men’s final Sunday afternoon, is an openly gay man.
And, finally, the Stars are aligning for a big reunion bash on April 15 at Shooters Golf Course in Good Ol’ Hometown. I’m talking about my old outfit, the West Kildonan North Stars, and organizer Gord Homenick is looking for more former players to join in the fun. If you wore the colors, coached or worked with Westkay in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, get in touch with Gord, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-782-1884.