You Can Play Project responds to the Cam Janssen radio interview by Greg Gallinger

I won't get into the details of the statements, but basically Cam Janssen of the New Jersey Devils made an offensively homophobic comment on a talk radio show which spurred an emotional debate on Twitter.

Patrick Burke and the rest of You Can Play waited for the reactionaries to quiet down and released their official statement.

Excerpt from the concluding paragraph of You Can Play Project's official statement:

Athletes have been raised in a culture that encourages, if not celebrates, casual homophobia. Changing their habits is certainly necessary, but it is not easy. We simply must give athletes a chance to learn, to grow, and to be educated on these issues. We must never condone the private or public use of these hateful slurs. But we must also be constantly aware that for many athletes, they do not see the full extent of the hate these words carry. We remain convinced that we are on the right track.

Bartley Kives admits the return of the Jets has made the city a sunnier place. by Greg Gallinger

Seeing the (Blue) LIGHT:

We were doing fine without the NHL, I protested to the expats in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, where half of Winnipeg now lives and romanticizes its past. We were humming along as a medium-sized city where the locals were finally comfortable in their nowhere-near-world-class skins. I felt Winnipeg didn't need this weird media phenomenon to reattain legitimacy in the eyes of elsewhere. And I was a little pissed.

But then something happened that I did not expect. I wound up with a small share of season tickets, thereby joining Winnipeg's new overprivileged clique. I started watching the games on TV, even though I had not watched the NHL since the original Jets left town in 1996. I started reading league and team statistics online after every game. I acquainted myself with some of the math involved in playoff probability projections. I became a bit obsessed.

I thought this was an especially good piece by Bartley Kives of the Winnipeg Free Press.

Kives isn't blind to the favouritism the City has shown True North, or the jingoist undertones in the Jets franchise. That however, doesn't mean he can't enjoy the NHL's return.

You Can Play, creating safe spaces in sports. by Greg Gallinger

You Can Play, Our Cause:

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.

You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

With the increasingly intolorant vitriol being spouted by politicians and religious zealots it's nice to see there are still good people working towards making the world a better place. The You Can Play project is a prime example.

Reconciliation through hockey by Greg Gallinger

David Jacks, Hockey Lives Here: In the Straight of the Great Spirit:

I think we should do what many other organizations in Canada are beginning to do. Prior to, or immediately following the singing of the National Anthem, we should officially acknowledge at the beginning of each Winnipeg Jets home game that this wonderful sport and coming-together of people is being played on traditional Assiniboine, Dene, Cree, Dakota Sioux, Ojibway, Metis, and Inuit territory.

I couldn't agree more. As was shown by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report, Canadians need to be better educated about our history and residential schools. A gathering of 15,000 hockey fans is a good venue for reminding Canadians where our country came from and who we share it with.

The NHL already has several ceremonies honouring the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Air Force, Police and Rescue Workers, and other groups, it only makes sense that Winnipeg have a ceremony to honour the local First Nations.

Urban outdoor hockey by Greg Gallinger

Photo 2012 02 01 10 21 58 PM

Edward Keenan, writing at The Grid:

During the winter in Toronto, you can find pick-up hockey virtually any time of day on one of the city’s free outdoor rinks. Shinny is a freewheeling version of the game played without a timer, referee or scoreboard. There are no fees, no registration and no need to be particularly skilled. The game is reduced to its essentials: the crunch of skates digging into the ice, the feel of the wind in your face, the weight of the puck on your stick. And then there’s the instant connection that comes when a collection of neighbours is transformed effortlessly into a team.

The same is true for Winnipeg, head to any community rink in the city and you're bound to find a group of people looking to play shinny.

Despite professional hockey's reputation for violence, shinny is the most egalitarian sport I've ever played. I've played with guys 10+ years older than me and kids just learning to skate (boys and girls). No one complains about being placed on the team with the kid who can't skate and always passes the puck to an opposing player, they have fun anyway and hopefully the kid will learn a thing or two.

Sociologists could make an interesting study of your local rink. It's truly amazing that people manage to assemble without advance notice and manage to make teammates out of strangers. Rules are rarely discussed in detail, instead it seems they are instinctively known. It's the closest thing to an anarcho-collectivist organization I've ever encountered. There are no politics, no egotistical squabbles, just a desire to work up a sweat and maybe score a goal.

*Photo by Jory Hasselmann

Support our troops — or else by Greg Gallinger

Tyler Shipley, writing at Uptown

It seems even the mildest deviations from the ‘support the troops’ mantra are disciplined quickly and intensely. Ironic, since we’re routinely told those troops are fighting for our ‘freedom.’

You may remember Shipley's reaction to the new Winnipeg Jets military inspired branding, also featured in Uptown. Tyler, along with other advocates for social justice such as John K. Samson, and myself, were all at the receiving end of the status quo's guffaws when we expressed our discontent with the co-opting of sports by a pro-military agenda.

It's easy to brush off Shipley and Samson's opinions as sensitive liberals who want the whole world to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but I believe the type of criticism being directed at them is indicative of Canada's growing role as a jingoist nation, much like our neighbours to the South.