The Rink and the Stage: Melodrama, Media, and Canadian Hockey

By Taylor McKee.

Published by The International Journal of Sport and Society

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A pervasive fiction has permeated a particular historical narrative regarding hockey’s history in North America. This narrative suggests that violence is woven tightly into the fabric of hockey, due to the prevalence of violent incidents in the history of the game. Many authors, especially those writing for popular audiences, have argued that simply because violent incidents have been recorded throughout the history of hockey, violence must have been condoned in the past, and therefore should continue to be a part of the game. The purpose of this study is to examine the early history of hockey violence by evaluating media reactions to violence, as published in Canadian newspapers from 1875–1911. This article evaluates the relationship between melodrama and hockey reporting during the first years of organized hockey in western Canada. To conduct this appraisal, specific attention is paid to the language used by reporters to characterize violent play, a lexicon shaped by sensationalist trends in Canadian media that mirrored the theatrical tradition of melodrama. Through the lens of performativity, newspaper reporters demonstrated an active resistance to violence present from the first days of organized hockey in North America.

Keywords: Violence, Media Studies, Theatre, Hockey, North America

The International Journal of Sport and Society: Annual Review, Volume 7, December 2016, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 671.368KB).

Taylor McKee

PhD Candidate, Sociocultural Studies, Department of Kinesiology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada