TSN’s Bob McKenzie on White Privilege sparked fans and real hockey heroes


If you want a glimpse into the evolution of hockey culture, take a look at Everyday Hockey Heroes Volume II, the newly released sequel to the successful collection of stories about the ordinary people who inhabit the Canadian game, directed by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The first volume, published in 2018 and subtitled Inspirational stories on and off the ice, consisted of more than a dozen portraits of passionate Canadians (and an American) who embody the core values ​​of the sport. Many of them had overcome significant adversity to make it into the game.

In his introduction to this book, McKenzie admitted that he had never faced the same kind of obstacles as those faced by Métis player-turned-coach Kevin Monkman; or the Hockey night in Punjabi broadcaster Harnarayan Singh; or three-time Olympian Hilary Knight. But in the introduction to Volume IIMcKenzie goes further and identifies a specific term for what he described, but not identified in the first book: “white privilege”.

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He knows this will upset some of his fans. Even if he doesn’t think it should.

Like the first volume, which spent two months on The Globe and Mail’s bestseller list, most Vol. II is written by former Sportsnet broadcaster Jim Lang. His subjects include Jack Jablonski, who suffered a terrible injury during a high school hockey game and became a paralysis advocate; Émilie Castonguay, a former player who is now one of the few female NHL agents (not to mention Alexis Lafrenière’s representative); and Rob Facca, an NHL scout who became an advocate and fundraiser after his son was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. PWHPA’s Jessica Platt has written her own chapter, in which she shares the challenges she has faced as a transgender player.

In addition to the introduction, McKenzie contributes a chapter, writing about Terry Mercury and Lindbergh Gonsalves, two black players from the Toronto suburb of Scarborough who had promising junior careers but never made it to the pros. McKenzie tells them about their precocious talent, as well as the racism they faced: the physical and emotional abuse from other players and the wider community that slowly washed away the joy of their game.

On the one hand, McKenzie writes that as a data-focused and skeptical hockey analyst he might be inclined to point out that a few players who fail to make it to the big leagues may not necessarily be attributed to systemic issues. . After all, “the road is littered with guys who could, would, should play professional hockey if not for this or that. But he also acknowledges that “for me, as a white man, it is totally incomprehensible to feel what it is to have your passion and love of gambling stripped of you for no other reason than the color of your skin. ”

On the phone this week, McKenzie elaborated. “If someone says you have white privilege, someone might step back and say, ‘Oh, I’m not privileged.’” In fact, as he wrote in the first volume, he grew up in a house where his father worked twice. works; her mother was in a wheelchair for many years until her death at age 54; money was tight. Even so, “once you understand what white privilege is, you [realize you have it.] It really is that simple.

“I am white and I am male, in a sport dominated by white men. So I had no obstacle in finding a job in the hockey media. I had no obstacle in tracing the career that I had. Women would not have the same frame of reference. A black person would not have the same frame of reference – or an Indigenous person, or a person of color, or an LGBTQ [person]. Or a disabled person. It’s all about saying, ‘Hey, you’re white, you’re a man, and you maybe had things easier than the others.’ ”

He realizes, however, that some people will be offended by his words – perhaps even, to use a harmful word, triggered.

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“What’s hilarious about people who are triggered when they hear ‘white privilege’ is how sensitive they must be,” he says. “Because when you read the stories of how many women or LGBTQ, or black or indigenous [people], when you understand the difficulty of so many challenges they face in trying to move from the margins to the center of culture – someone who says, ‘You have white privilege’, it’s like nothing.

The original mission of Everyday The series was simply to tell good stories about pioneers or those who overcame adversity. But since the publication of the first volume, “there have been more stories, themes and conflicts, or whatever you want to call it, in terms of hockey culture” – he mentions the ugly allegations made by the last year by Akim Aliu, who sparked the dismissal of his former coach, Bill Peters – “so I wanted to try and tackle myself head-on. “

The writing itself, he admits, is a challenge. “It’s a long and painful process,” he says. “A lot of times when I write a story there is last minute information, I have to do social media, I have to do that [TV] hit, so i have to go do a hit on the radio, i have a family engagement – you try to put it all on and you lose your mind. The onset of the pandemic last spring therefore seemed like a mixed blessing, as McKenzie had some rare downtime in his schedule where he could write his contributions for Everyday.

In theory, he should have even more free time these days, as last August he announced he was stepping down from his full-time job at TSN. Not that you know it: this week he recorded a NHL Draft Preview and wrote a long side piece for TSN.ca. And on Saturday, after a first family Christmas celebration, he heads to Edmonton to cover the World Junior Hockey Championships, which will run until Jan.6.

“The world junior rankings and the draft are two of the biggest things I will continue to do over the next five years for TSN,” he said. “When I semi-retired I was sure to use the word ‘semi’ because I knew I was still going to be pretty busy at certain times of the year.


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