Award-winning paper takes swing at historic hockey violence

Taylor McKee, a PhD student in Kinesiology, recently won the International Award for Excellence from The International Journal of Sport and Society. His article, The Rink and the Stage: Melodrama, Media, and Canadian Hockey, topped the 10 highest-ranked articles emerging from the journal’s peer-review process.

Adela Talbot // Western NewsTaylor McKee, a PhD student in Kinesiology, recently won the International Award for Excellence from The International Journal of Sport and Society. His article, The Rink and the Stage: Melodrama, Media, and Canadian Hockey, topped the 10 highest-ranked articles emerging from the journal’s peer-review process.

Taylor McKee was “pleased, tickled and over the moon” when he heard the news.

A second-year PhD student in Kinesiology, McKee recently won the International Award for Excellence from The International Journal of Sport and Society. His article, The Rink and the Stage: Melodrama, Media, and Canadian Hockey, topped the 10 highest-ranked articles emerging from the journal’s peer-review process. As a result, the article will be featured – open access – on the journal’s website, and McKee has been invited to attend the International Conference on Sport and Society, in July at Imperial College, London, U.K.

“The (article) is a chapter out of my Master’s thesis that I finished at the University of Victoria. When you’re a master’s student, you’re always kind of groping in the dark, wondering, ‘Is this idea something?’ To have that kind of recognition that you’re onto something, that early, is great,” he said.

“I was so happy to find a home for this. When they accepted it for publication that was enough for me. But to get the award was great.”

McKee’s research looks at violence in hockey in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The paper’s focus is narrowed down to representations of violence in hockey in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, where he examines media coverage of the sport to see how the game was sold and received in the first stages of its organized history in Canada.

“There are similarities and common thematic elements between melodramatic theatre – a theatrical tradition born in England in the 19th Century – and the way in which hockey was sold to people through newsprint,” McKee noted.

The historical narrative of hockey in North America suggests violence is tightly woven into the sport, he explained, due to the prevalence of violent incidents in games.

“If you talk to people about the way they remember violence in hockey, they often say things like, ‘You should have seen hockey violence in the 1970s – it was much worse.’ People in the 1970s would say, ‘You should have seen the 1950s – it was terrible.’ If you talked to people in the 1950s they would have told you about the 1920s,” he noted.

This implies the resistance to violence in hockey was not significant in the past. McKee, however, found resistance to violence in hockey has been around as long as violence in hockey. Media coverage, by way of melodramatic elements, used this to sell the sport to the Canadian audience, he explained.

McKee looked at the early history of hockey violence by evaluating media reactions, as published in Canadian newspapers from 1875–1911. His paper evaluates the relationship between melodrama and hockey reporting during the first years of organized hockey in western Canada. McKee examined language used by reporters to characterize violent play – a lexicon shaped by sensationalist trends in Canadian media that mirrored the theatrical tradition of melodrama. By doing this, newspaper reporters demonstrated an active resistance to violence present from the first days of organized hockey in North America.

The subject and the success of McKee’s paper underscores the significance and potential impact of the kind of research happening in the Health Sciences, said Janice Forsyth, who teaches in the faculty.

“At one level, it highlights the diverse range of contributions coming from our faculty, and especially our students. At another level, it calls attention the valuable perspectives the social sciences contribute to what are often scientific debates,” she noted.

And while his research looks at the early days of violence in hockey, McKee said it is still relevant to understanding the sport in the present day.

“The extent to which people consent to violence in this game, as both consumers and participants, is an extremely controversial topic. If you’re going to use a historical argument to justify contemporary violence in hockey, you should probably know there’s been resistance to this all along the way,” McKee said.

“The beauty of studying hockey in this country is it already has an instant audience built in. And I don’t believe there is a more pressing issue today in (the sport) than violence.”