Does any other country have a sport as closely associated with it as ice hockey and Canada? I think not. Hockey has long had a reputation for being exciting and inspiring intense emotions in both players and fans. Fights on the ice are rarely controversial, but there have been many very controversial moments in Canadian hockey history. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s classic quip: “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out” captures how a lot of people, fans and non-fans alike, feel about the sport.,
2012-13 NHL lockout
The 2012-13 season was shortened from 82 to 48 games because of the labor dispute between the NHL ownership, led by commissioner Gary Bettman, and the NHL Players’ Association. The dispute seriously hurt the league as many players left for Europe since they couldn’t play, and many businesses that relied on hockey fans suffered. The players from three Canadian teams were nearly protected from the lockout, but the courts ultimately ruled in favor of the NHL. The lockout and this controversial ruling hurt the image of the NHL in many fans’ eyes.
Changing Status of the Enforcer
The enforcer or ‘goon’ is a classic role in hockey and is seen as central to the spirit of the game. Recently, however, there has been controversy surrounding the position of enforcer and whether or not the NHL should ban the role to protect its players. This stems from a growing awareness of the impact that repeated concussions have on the brain. In 2011, three enforcers – Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak – all died, and reports suggested that the men’s deaths had been at least partially caused by the years of substantial head trauma that they had sustained. The NHL has responded by discouraging fighting and enforcing new rules. Some fans understand the changes and believe more should be done to protect the players, while others are upset that a classic part of the game is lost.
Kane Betting Scandal
Betting on sports has long been a popular way for fans to feel connected to the game and raise the stakes beyond just wanting their favorite team to win. With online casinos and sports betting sites now providing so many new opportunities for fans, such as fast payout casinos or special new player offers, betting on sports is easier than ever. Recent changes to legislation have also made this possible. Sports betting is a great activity for fans but can become a bit tricky when players get involved.
The NHL is in the middle of a match-fixing scandal in July of 2021 when his wife accused Canadian forward Evander Kane of gambling on his games. In a series of social media posts, Anna Kane suggested that her husband is a gambling addict who has been betting on his team losing – and then throwing the games. Kane has denied these allegations, but they have plunged the entire league into turmoil.
Alan Eagleson was a popular and powerful figure in Canadian hockey until his actions behind the scenes were exposed. Eagleson was an agent and promoter for players, who began his career by advising players and helping them to negotiate better contracts. With stars such as Bobby Orr and Darryl Sittler under his influence, Eagleson became one of the most powerful and well-respected men in hockey. Yet sadly, throughout this time, he was also embezzling money from players, stealing their disability insurance awards, and stealing pension funds. He was forced to resign from the Hockey Hall of Fame and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. His was a dramatic fall from grace.
One of the most lighthearted controversies is affectionately referred to as Lickgate. In 2018, the league reprimanded Brad Marchand, a player from Halifax, Nova Scotia, for repeatedly licking his opponents. What makes this story even more bizarre is that a month before his reprimand for licking Ryan Callahan, the NHL and Marchand denied reports that he had been told to stop licking other players. Why did the NHL backtrack on their earlier denials? Why had they tried to hush up Lickgate? Sadly, we will probably never know the truth.