Volume 92, Issue 40

Friday, November 13, 1998

listening or hearing


Writer pushes hockey to the boards

Laura Robinson will be at Althouse College on Monday

By Jill Sutherly
Gazette Staff

Hockey has always been considered a landmark in Canadian culture. It is one of the few sports considered uniquely our own.

However, in Crossing the Line: Violence and Sexual Assault in Canada's National Sport, freelance journalist Laura Robinson uncovers startling issues which suggest something has gone wrong with our once untouchable national sport.

Robinson exposes the seriousness of issues such as violence, drafts, hazing and sexual assault in junior hockey. "This book does not try to persuade the reader that the sport itself is problematic or that most coaches and players are, in fact, predators. But it does ask the reader to examine the male-only, violent, multimillion dollar subculture of rep hockey," Robinson said.

Crossing the Line examines the junior hockey system which she believes reduces young boys to commodities. "They think this is character building but I say [the system is] just using these boys, their minds, their spirits, their intellects. The coaches and owners aren't helping them, they're helping themselves. They're helping themselves to these boys' bodies and making money on them," Robinson states.

The book also works to reveal the violent "rape culture" of the hockey room and sites numerous recent cases of sexual assault where the victims were either women or the players themselves.

"It's really in your face," she claims. "You'd have to be deaf, blind and dumb not to see this. But people who are used to it, think it's normal. Anytime a group of men have a lot of power and it is translated in an aggressive, physical way – it's a recipe for danger, for them and for everybody else."

Robinson emphasizes young hockey player's vulnerability in a hierarchical sport system. "The more I dug, the worse the picture became," she remarks sadly. "Often players recognize something is wrong in the environment, but who can risk challenging management when they're the ones who decide your future?"

But Robinson feels change is possible and Crossing the Line offers various hopeful solutions in order to regain the pride of Canada's sport. One suggestion involves having boys and girls play together.

"At the young levels, I think it's very important for boys and girls. Unless some idiot adult comes in and tells them otherwise I think those kids have healthy attitudes towards each other. I think what we have to do is play by ability.

"I think one of the saving graces will be more girls in hockey because they bring with them a different value system. Women respond to things differently," she continues.

Robinson explains her main objective for Crossing the Line is to warn and expose. "I think it's a very important book for parents so they see exactly what can happen," Robinson remarks. "I'm not saying it will happen. It can happen. It has happened very frequently and if you want your children to be safe you're going to have to become involved and contribute to a more positive environment."

Laura Robinson will be at Althouse College on Monday.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998