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Hockey in the bedrooms of the nation

David Sherman

I’m proud about being heterosexual. Some nights I’ve been prouder than others. On some occasions I’ve been really proud, as well as maybe a little drunk or high or confused, as in, “What they hell am I doing here?”

After a few romantic interludes, my partner was almost as proud as I was. No one ever stood up and applauded but snoring is a sign of profound pride.

Now, gay people are publicly proud about their sexual preference and, if evidence of an adequate display of pride is lacking, the National Hockey League is there to help.

It’s NHL Pride month and most players are wearing pride sweaters and taping their sticks with rainbow-coloured tape, during practices. Wearing the rainbow-coloured accoutrements might be a bit much when it comes to the real business of trying to ram a piece of lumber down their opponents’ throats but it’s symbolic of well … something other than “I wouldn’t be caught dead on TV wearing this stuff during a game.”

But, NHL hockey is determined to prove they’re proud that gay and transgender people are proud. And that all the cohorts described by a single letter – L, G, B, T, X, Q, Va Va Va Voom – want to be proud. And the NHL wants them to be proud, too.

I don’t know why who’s breathing enthusiastically in your bed or on your carpet has anything to do with why the Habs can’t win and the Leafs fall apart at playoff time, but it seems before the puck is dropped there is a reckoning about our sex lives.

Why anyone cares who sleeps with whom I have no idea. And as long as they bring a decent bottle of wine or something for dessert, they are welcome to dinner.

What happened before hockey decided to be publicly proud of your sexual activities?

“You’re gay, queer, trans, bi? Sorry, no $250.00 tickets for you and definitely no five-fifty bottles of water.”

I’d tape my stick with rainbow tape if I could find rainbow tape and if I had a stick. I could use black tape to prove I believe Black Lives Matter, too, to go with hockey’s decision to publicly attack racism. The fact that on the ice, Black Lives Matter as little as white lives when it comes to cross checking, spearing, slashing and decapitation – part of the “hockey code,” which promotes general mayhem and increased ratings and ticket sales – is best ignored.

As does the fact, not too long ago, a Black or openly gay hockey player would be treated with as much respect as a hockey puck. Today, they are still insulted, bullied and assaulted on the ice and off, where it’s called hazing or “being one of the boys.” Dishing out humiliation is part of the spoils of the spoiled, like getting young women drunk and preying on them like packs of wild wolves.

Hockey is a fast, violent sport, often played by the under-educated who spent their formative years in locker rooms surrounded by other less-than educated young men. They need to be domesticated. They need to be taught gang-raping women and team members and the arcane hazing rituals should get you 15 years behind bars rather than a game’s first star.

Wilt Chamberlain wrote that he slept with 20,000 women in his time as NBA superstar. How he had time or energy to dribble and shoot after spending so much time doing pushups is anyone’s guess, but if he had cuddled up with a male, well, Wilt the Stilt would be Wilt Who?

But, with birth rates dropping, we may also need het pride night with players in pink and baby blue, and logos promoting unprotected sex and pregnancy. “Knock ‘er up Night” or “Get Laid Tonight” might work and maybe a few commercials. “Coming up – another ad for sports betting. Can you get pregnant before intermission ends?” It would be a winner for the Christian right in Dallas and Florida and North Carolina who are more interested in gun pride than gay pride.

Maybe a swinger’s night or an evening for victims of hockey’s more rapacious heterosexuals, male and female, call it, “Thank you for not calling the cops” night.

Or, an evening for men with ED, including merch – a penis-shaped polished wood souvenir with a Canadiens logo ingrained in a rainbow of colours, useful no matter which letter of the alphabet you belong. A workman’s only as good as his tools.

Why hockey is worried about what’s going on in our bedrooms when people are hungry, unhoused, unemployed, sick and broke and probably give no thought to what hockey thinks of their sexual proclivities is some business-school type’s idea of marketing "inclusion."

Some players, macho to the filings in their teeth, probably feel a little silly wearing Gay Pride sweaters. They’re not gay – having slept with more impressionable young women in small towns from coast to coast than High Hefner – and probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking much of anything outside their game, their families, their foundations, their contracts and will their wives find out what they were doing during the last road trip.

NHL hockey is festooned with Gay Pride sweaters because all publicity is good publicity, gay people like hockey as much as straight people and gay pride sweaters are just more over-priced merch to sell.

Hockey, like all spectator sports, is fighting for audience and advertising share with too many streaming services and too many cell phones and too much click bait. They need all the attention they can get.

Putting an end to players trying to kill each other is not a winning marketing tool. A lot of fans like the blood and stretchers and flying bodies. Proclaiming LGBTQ+ people are welcome to come watch and play hockey is a harmless marketing tool, will make a few bucks for every team and add a few bytes to the servers already crammed with sports publicity overkill.

Though it’s a burning issue for a few million Republican dementos, who people share their intimate moments with has nothing to do with me, you or a bunch of gifted twenty-something millionaires. It’s no one’s business but hockey has turned the business of wrapping hockey sticks for a few minutes in multi-coloured tape into good business.

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A scintillating, cannonading drive with a deft touch of Savardian spinarama!

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