Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why's hockey so white?

There is an interesting post on Puck Daddy today taking issue with a Chicago columnist's observation that nearly all of the fans at Blackhawks games are white. Puck Daddy didn't like "the soft inference of racism" among hockey fans in Richard Roeper's column.

I didn't read it that way. I agree with Puck Daddy that Roeper's column was hardly a work of art or studded with facts. But I think Roeper did touch on an important point that many other hockey writers are glad to ignore: many people never get to play the game and thus don't become fans.

As I've written before, participation in ice hockey among kids and adults is very low. The sport of muzzle-loading is more popular, according to the National Sporting Goods Assn.

You don't need to have played the game to be a fan, of course. But it certainly helps someone more appreciate pro hockey. I've spent the past year learning to skate and play hockey and I still couldn't skate the length of my local rink and stop on a dime at the opposing boards to touch up for icing with someone on my tail. It's a common play at pro games and one I still admire even if it's just routine.

The real problem here isn't race: it's that not enough people of all races are exposed to hockey.

I lay blame for that on the various pro hockey leagues around North America. They should be pushing for more beginner clinics for adults, helping buy ice time for hockey at local rinks, helping construct more rinks and working with local rinks to get more people involved in the sport.

None of this is brain surgery. But it is difficult and goes beyond the usual marketing favored by the types of people who get into sports marketing. It's grunt work, it's unglamorous and doesn't look as pretty as a billboard or chesty Ice Girl.

--Steve Hymon

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