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Boycott NHL: Professional Sports are Agents of Social Control

Professional Sports are Agents of Social Control

by Morgan Duchesney

Boycott NHL: Professional Sports are Agents of Social Control

January , 2013

Why does the Harper government not cooperate with Obama’s administration to force NHL owners and the NHL Players’ Association to restart the hockey season through binding arbitration or legislated collective agreements?  The apparent gravity of the situation seems to warrant the type of government intervention meted out to Ontario’s teachers, Air Canada employees and others who dared to inconvenience the public in pursuit of fairness. 

Contrast the patient reverence paid to striking NHL players compared to the ugly vitriol and condemnation heaped on Ontario teachers. The poor dears have to suffer through tiresome practice sessions between trips to the food bank. Free market dogma simplistically dictates that supply and demand should rule the world.  A collective boycott by hockey fans would quickly bring the warring hockey parties back to the table. Imagine if a hockey fan collective indicated zero participation in the NHL until ticket prices were reduced 50 per cent in every hockey city on the principle that half of something is better than 100 per cent of nothing. Fan participation would be contingent on player salaries and owner income dropping accordingly without affecting the income of secondary service providers. Let the trouble-makers take the hit for a change.

Professional hockey players and their apologists use the flimsy excuse of a short career and extensive networks of NHL-dependent businesses to justify their huge salaries and inflated ticket prices. While even the lowest-paid NHL player earns about $400,000 per year; I wonder what they would do if it weren’t for professional hockey: sell cars or work construction?  Even half of that would set a young person up in a small business or finance years of school. After that, they could take their chances like anyone else.

Is there something uniquely Canadian about professional hockey and must it be defended as a national institution along the lines of the Human Rights Charter? While hockey is perceived by many as harmless entertainment; consider for a moment, the less obvious purposes served by our NHL circus.  In a nation where working people have been politically - marginalized by a federal government that is essentially controlled by unelected advisors in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office; people are understandably frustrated by the government’s indifference to their expressed opinions. This frustration; combined with the pressures of work and family, leaves little energy for political activism. Beyond that, many people prefer to abdicate their citizen’s responsibility to an MP or MPP who is more prisoner to party discipline that peoples’ champion. Sports statistics don’t require an Access to Information Request.

Here is where professional sports like hockey demonstrate their value as agents of social control and public passivity. The political and corporate elite are undoubtedly delighted when vast numbers of citizens are more concerned with sports statistics than affairs of state.  As well, professional team sports normalize violence, suppress individuality and encourage people to shout empty, jingoistic slogans and condemn political dissent. This is great mental training for those destined to silently pay taxes, vote occasionally and support foreign wars. Perhaps the NHL owners might agree to supply 34 platoons of fit, aggressive and patriotic young men for frontline service in our next military adventure? I think the Americans lost at least one professional football player in Afghanistan. We can do better than that and the Afghan mission’s not over yet. There is no shame in digging trenches and emptying latrines if combat duty offends.

Author Bio: Morgan Duchesney is an Ottawa writer and Karate instructor. His political philosophy has appeared in the Media Co-op, Humanist Perspectives, Adbusters, Canadian Charger, Muslim Link, the Ottawa Citizen and the Peace and Environment News.



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