NHL Heavyweights: Narratives of Violence and Masculinity in Ice Hockey

Open access


Sport is often considered a masculine area of social life, and few sports are more commonly associated with traditional norms of masculinity than ice hockey. Ice hockey is played with a great level of intensity and body contact. This is true for both men and women’s hockey. However, men’s ice hockey in particular has been subjected to criticism for its excessive violence. Sport has also been analyzed as an arena where boys and men learn masculine values, relations, and rituals, and is often linked to orthodox masculinity in particular. Tolerance for gender diversity and diverse forms of masculinity has generally increased during the last 30 years. However, orthodox masculinity seems to maintain a dominate position in sports, particularly in hyper-masculine sports such as ice hockey. In this article, narratives of masculinity and violence in professional ice hockey are a central focus. Through a narrative analysis of the biographies of two former National Hockey League (NHL) players, Bob Probert and Derek Boogaard, this article explores how narratives of masculinity and violence among hockey players have been described and how these narratives tell stories of the interplay between masculinity and violence in modern sport. The analysis illustrates how the narratives of the lives and careers of these athletes provide insight into the many personal risks and implications athletes in highly masculine sporting environments face. The analysis also illustrates how the common acceptance (and sometimes encouragement) of player violence and ‘violence against the self’ in ice hockey has led to many broken bodies, lives, and careers among professional male athletes.

Anderson, E. (2002). Openly Gay Athletes: Contesting Hegemonic Masculinity in a Homophobic Environment. Gender & Society, 16(6), 860-877.

Anderson, E. (2005). Orthodox and Inclusive Masculinity: Competing Masculinities among Heterosexual Men in a Feminized Terrain. Sociological Perspectives, 48(3), 337-355.

Anderson, E (2009). Inclusive Masculinity. The Changing Nature of Masculinities. New York: Routledge.

Anderson, E. (2011). Inclusive masculinities of university soccer players in the American Midwest. Gender and Education, 23(6), 729-744.

Andrews, M. (2002). Generational consciousness, dialogue and political engagement. In J. Edmunds, & B. Turner (Eds), Generational consciousness, narrative and politics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Andrews, M. (2007). Shaping history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Andrews, M. (2014). Narrative imagination and everyday life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Apter, M.J. (1989). Reversal Theory: Motivation, Emotion and Personality. London: Routledge.

Atkinson, M. (2001). ‘It's just a part of the game’: Toward a typology of sports crime. Paper presented at North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, San Antonio, Texas, 31 October-4 November.

Atkinson, M., & Young, K. (2008). Deviance and Social Control in Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Atyeo, D. (1979). Violence in Sports. Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Benson, B.W., & Meeuwisse, W.H. (2005). Ice Hockey Injuries. Medical Sport Science, 49, 86-119.

Branch, J. (2014). Boy on Ice - The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Bratberg, Ø. (2014). Tekstanalyse for samfunnsvitere /Textual analysis for social scientists/. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk.

Cashmore, E. (2000). Sports Culture: An A-Z Guide. New York: Routledge.

Cashmore, E. (2005). Tyson - Nurture of the Beast. Malden: Polity Press.

Coakley, J., & Donnelly, P. (2004). Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies (1st Canadian edition). Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.

Coakley, J., & Pike, E. (2009). Sports in Society: Issues and Controversies. Toronto: McGraw-Hill.

Coates, D., Battre, M., & Deutscher, C. (2012). Does Violence in Ice Hockey Pay? Cross Country Evidence from Three Leagues. Sports Economics Management and Policy, 9, 47-63.

Connell, R. (1995). Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Courson, S. (1991). False Glory. Stanford, CT: Longmeadow.

Dahlén, P. (2003). Beckham - mannen, myten och varumärket /Beckham - the man, the myth and the brand/. Retrieved from: http://idrottsforum.org/articles/dahlen/dahlen031209.pdf

Douglas, K., & Carless, D. (2009). Abandoning The Performance Narrative: Two Women's Stories of Transition from Professional Sport. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21(2), 213-230.

Dropyourgloves.com (n.d.). Retrieved from: www.dropyourgloves.com

Elias, N. (1939). The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell.

Elias, N., & Dunning, E. (1986). The Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in The Civilizing Process. Oxford: Blackwell.

Eng, H. (2002) ‘Idrett og seksualitet: Om heteronormativitet og homoerotikk på idrettsarenaen’/Sport and Sexuality-heteronormativity and homosexuality on the playing field/. In Ø. Seippel (Ed.), Idrettens bevegelser/The sports movement/. Oslo: Novus.

Engebretsen, E., & Heggen, K. (2012). Å lese makt i tekst /Reading power in text/. In E. Engebretsen, & K. Heggen (Eds.), Makt på nye måter /Power in new ways/. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

ESPN (n.d.). Degree of Difficulty: Sports Ranking. Retrieved March 14, 2016 from: http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/sportSkills

Freeman, M. (2003). Rewriting the self: history, memory, narrative. New York: Routledge.

Gee, C.J., & Leith, L.M. (2007). Aggressive Behavior in Professional Ice Hockey: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of North American and European-Born NHL Players. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 8, 567-583.

Gibney, A. (Director). (2011). The Last Gladiators [Motion Picture]. Canada: Phase 4 Films.

Guttmann, A. (2004). From Ritual to Record - The Nature of Modern Sport. New York: Columbia University Press.

Hjelseth, A, (2005). De som streber nedover. Om klasse og identitet blant fotballsupportere/Those who reach down - of class and identity among football supporters/. Sosiologi i Dag /Sociology Today/, 35(4), 69-87.

Hjelseth, A. (2006). Mellom børs, katedral og karneval. Norske supporteres forhandlinger om kommersialisering av fotball/Between stock exchange, cathedral and carnival. Norwegian supporters negotiations of the commercialization of football/. Unpublished doctoral thesis. Bergen: Universitetet i Bergen.

Hjelseth, A., & Tjønndal, A. (2016). Sink or Swim? Håndtering av maskulinitet og intimitet i herrefotball /Sink or Swim? Handling og masculinity and intimacy in men’s football/. Sosiologisk tidsskrift /Journal of sociology/, 24(2), 79-100.

Hockeyfights.com (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.hockeyfights.com/

Horrow, R. (1980). Sports Violence: The Interaction between private lawmaking and the criminal law. Arlington, VA: Carrollton Press.

Juhn, M.S., Brolinson, P.G., Duffey, T., Stockard, A., Vangelos, Z.A., Emaus, E., Maddox, M., Boyajian, L., & Henehan, M. (2002). Violence and Injury in Ice Hockey: American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine (AOASM). Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 12(1), 46-51.

Kerr, J.H. (2004). Rethinking Violence and Aggression in Sport. London: Routledge.

Kerr, J.H., & de Kock, H. (2002). Aggression, violence and the death of a Dutch soccer hooligan: A reversal theory explanation. Aggressive Behaviour, 28(1),1-10.

Lieblich, A., Tuval-Mashiach, R., & Zilber, T. (1998). Narrative research: Reading, analysis and interpretation. London: Sage.

Marchie, A., & Cusimano, M.D. (2003). Bodychecking and concussions in ice hockey: Should our youth pay the price? Canadian Medical Association Journal, 169(2), 124-128.

Marsh, P., Rosser, E., & Harre, R. (1978). The rules of disorder. London: Routledge.

McEwen, K., & Young, K. (2011). Ballet and pain: reflections on a risk-dance culture. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 3(2), 152-173.

Messner, M. (1990). When bodies are weapons: Masculinity and violence in sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 25(3), 203-219.

NHL (2014). Official Rules 2014-2015. Retrieved from: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/en/v3/ext/rules/2014-2015-rulebook.pdf

Probert, B., & McLellan Day, K. (2010). Tough Guy: My Life on the Edge. Chicago: Triumph Books.

Pronger, B. (1990). The Arena of Masculinity. London: GMP Publishers.

Riessman, C. (1993). Narrative analysis. Qualitative research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Riessman, C. (2008). Narrative methods for the human sciences. New York: Sage.

Rule 56 Fisticuffs (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.nhlofficials.com/rule56.asp

Russell, G.W., & Dwewry, B.R. (1976). Crowd size and competitive aspects of aggression in ice hockey: an archival study. Human Relations, 29(8), 723-735.

Rustin, M. (2000). Reflections on the biographical turn in the social sciences. In P. Chamberlayne, J. Bornat, and T. Wengraf (Eds), The turn to biographical methods in social science. London: Routledge.

Smith, M. (1983). Violence and Sport. Toronto: Butterworths.

Smith, S., & Watson, J. (2010). Reading autobiography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Stuart, M.J., & Smith, A (1995). Injuries in junior A ice hockey: A three-year prospective study. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 23(4), 458-461.

Squire, C., Anderws, M., & Tamboukou, M. (2008). Introduction: what is narrative research? In M. Andrews, C. Squire, & M. Tamboukou (Eds.), Doing narrative research. London: Sage.

Squire, C., Davis, M., Esin, C., Andrews, M., Harrison, B., Hyden, L-C., & Hyden, M. (2014). What is narrative research? London: Bloomsbury.

Theberge, N. (2003). “No Fear Comes” Adolescent Girls, Ice Hockey and Embodiment of Gender. Youth & Society, 34(4), 497-516.

Tjønndal, A. (2016). The Inclusion of Women’s Boxing in the Olympic Games. Qualitative Sociology Review, 12(4) (In press: manuscript accepted for publication).

Tjønndal, A., & Hovden, J. (2016). Kjønn som sparringspartner. En kvalitativ undersøkelse av ledelse og betydninger av kjønn blant norske boksetrenere /Sparring with Gender - A qualitative study of leadership and gender among Norwegian boxing coaches/ (In press).

Weinstein, M.D., Smith, M.D., & Wiesenthal, D.L. (1995). Masculinity and Hockey Violence. Sex Roles, 33(11-12), 831-847.

Whannel, G. (2002). Media Sport Stars. London: Routledge.

Whitson, D., & Gruneau, R. (2006). Artificial Ice: Hockey, Culture, and Commerce. Canada: Garamond Press.

Widmeyer, W.N., & McGuire, E.J. (1997). Frequency of competition and aggression in professional ice hockey. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 28(1), 57-66.

Williamson, I.J.S., & Goodman, D. (2006). Converging evidence for the under-reporting of concussions in youth ice hockey. British Journal of Sport Medicine, 40(2), 128-132.

Young, K. (1993). Violence, risk, and liability in male sports culture. Sociology of Sport Journal, 10(4), 373-396.

Young, K. (2012). Sport, Violence and Society. New York: Routledge.

Physical Culture and Sport. Studies and Research

The Journal of Josef Pilsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw

Journal Information

CiteScore 2018: 0.3

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.201
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.333

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 1445 1237 113
PDF Downloads 858 824 67