A Real Hockey News investigation has shown that hockey commentators, including professional hockey writers, players, and team executives, really like to describe young, black hockey players as “cocky.”
Winnipeg Jets star Evander Kane has been the victim of hundreds of slanderous rumors everyday since the team moved to the Saskatchewan city from Atlanta. The 30-goal scorer has been accused of everything from skipping out on restaurant bills and demanding trades to owning a sweat shop in China that exploits workers who make machines that are designed to throw sand in baby’s eyes. None of these accusations, however, have been as damaging and constant as being described as “cocky” by everyone hockey commentator in Winnipeg.
“He’s got some attitude, an air that straddles the line between confident and cocky,” said Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun, said of Kane.
“Call me old school, but until you’ve scored more than 19 goals in a season and actually skated in the post-season there’s not so much to be cocky about,” said Gary Lawless, of the Winnepeg Free Press.
And Scott Taylor, of JetsNation.ca, used a lot of words to describe Kane as cocky without actually calling him “cocky:”
“His problem would appear to be the fact he’s a big-city, 21st Century athlete in a small town that has never warmed to athletes who (a) need to be paid for just about everything they do and (b) carry themselves as bigger, richer and more important than other members of the community.”
Montreal Canadiens defenseman, P.K. Subban, has also been accused of thinking he’s better than others and being “cocky.” Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards, at the time playing for the Flyers, said in 2010 that Subban was too cocky for his own good and needed to earn respect “veteran” from players like himself, who had been in the league for an entire 5 seasons. From CSN:
“He’s a guy that’s come in the league and hasn’t earned respect,” Richards told Team 990. “It’s just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he’s better than a lot of people.
“You have to earn respect in this league. It takes a lot. You can’t just come in here as a rookie and play like that. It’s not the way to get respect from other players around the league.
“Hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because, uh, I’m not saying I’m going to do it but something might happen to him of he continues to be that cocky.”
Don Cherry backed up Richards’ threats of eventual violence due to Subban’s extreme cockiness, which doesn’t fall in line with “proper” cockiness. From the CBC:
“There’s a difference of being cocky — and I love cocky guys — than being disrespectful. He doesn’t have to play like this…
“And you know what’s a funny thing? It only happens after a whistle. I think he will smarten up. He better smarten up because someone is going to get him. It’s too bad because he’s a good little hockey player.”
The CBC also pointed out that Cherry warned about Subban getting attacked the year before when the Canadiens star defenseman was seen talking trash to Penguins star, Sidney Crosby. “I’ve watched him since he’s 14,” he said at the time. “Somebody is going to get this guy and if he has a big mouth like that, he’s going to get hurt.”
In order to find the reason for the allegations of cockiness against these two particular hockey players, despite an entire league of other players who have exhibited similar behavior, Real Hockey News talked to hockey stuff expert, Dr. Randal Horn, who teaches Hockey Theory at the University of Central Saskatchewan.
“There’s a lot of white people in hockey and black guys who are really good are seen as ‘cocky,’” Dr. Horn said. “It’s really pretty obvious. I don’t even know why you’re asking me.”
When asked if there was a current of racism in the NHL, Dr. Horn said there was kinda-sorta.
“It’s not burning crosses on front yards racism,” Dr. Horn said. “It’s more like a ‘who are these black guys’ kinda racism. You see it in how some players and team executives act towards them. And you see it in the comments of hockey blogs from fans who, a large percentage of them, are middle-aged white guys and sexually-frustrated teenagers who think being just a little racist is ‘edgy.’”
Despite the negative attitude towards hockey players who aren’t white and didn’t grow up on Canadian farms like the universally revered Staal brothers, Dr. Horn said there is hope for the game of hockey to be completely accepting of black players – and maybe even Russians!
“Look, eventually, all these old white guys who run the sport are going to die,” Dr. Horn said. “And new people will be running the show. But until then, all black players will be ‘cocky’ and all Russians will be ‘lazy.’ And if there’s ever a black Russian player in the league, he will be the cockiest and laziest sonofabitch ever made.”