Chicago Blackhawks v Vancouver Canucks

Last night the current Best Rivalry in Hockey resumed, as the Vancouver Canucks hosted the Chicago Blackhawks and promptly beat them into submission by a score of 3-1, the Blackhawks goal coming with nine minutes left in the third and the game likely out of reach. Understandably, the Blackhawks were frustrated.

Mild evidence of such can be found on the goal below, the Canucks third, where Daniel Sedin sensed the offensively over-eager d-pairing of Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson were pressing in, flew zone right as the Canucks gained possession, then scored a beauty on a breakaway with Duncan Keith chasing, and eventually, slashing him in the hip area. Check it out:

Karen Thomson, a reporter for Vancouver’s Team 1040, thought the slash a bit excessive, and decided to confront a frustrated Keith about it in her post-game interview. (An odd choice of an issue to take up, really – when a guy is in clean on your goalie, you want to give him a whack or a push, ideally on the hands as he shoots, to disrupt him. That’s a defensive desperation attempt than pretty much any pro defenseman would tell you they use. Again, a touch excessive at most, but note that no players took issue with it.)

Anyway, Keith, coming off a loss against a rival that saw him play over 27 minutes against seriously tough competition, didn’t care for how the interview went:

Keith: “What did you see?”

Thomson: “Well, there it looked like there was a penalty that went undetected. You seemed a bit frustrated.”

Keith: “Oh, no. I don’t think there was. I think he scored a nice goal, and that’s what the ref saw. Maybe we should get you as a ref maybe, hey?

Thomson: “Yeah, maybe. Can’t skate though.”

Keith: “First female- first female referee. Can’t probably play either, right? But you’re thinking the game, like you know it? See ya.”

Not good, Duncs. That said: listen to the audio. It doesn’t make Keith come off as a good guy – that’s some dumb s**t to say right thurr – but the context is helpful.

It’s a poorly thought out remark from a guy who doesn’t say too many deeply thought out things. When hockey players – hell, athletes – feel cornered, they tend to fire back with whatever’s easiest, which is half the reason homophobic slurs used to get tossed out so much. When there was no obvious thing to chirp a guy about (“Getzlaf is bald!” “Byfuglien is fat!”) that was the universal default (fortunately, big strides have been made in this department). That doesn’t make any of that okay, I’m explaining what happens on the ice in post-whistle scrums and the like. Players do their best to tidy it up in public, but the fact is that hockey players are not getting smarter, and they’re still going to go for the obvious thing when they’re worked up.

The problem, of course, is with putting gender (or sexual orientation) out there as a negative like you would, say, being an overweight athlete. Which it obviously isn’t, which is why Keith is an asshat for implying that.

I don’t think Duncan Keith is sexist. I think he was irritated and too lazy to search for some better way to fire back at a reporter that pissed him off about a play that, like him, I don’t think was all that awful. He went to both of the easy defaults – “here’s why you’re slightly different from your average person in this environment, oh and also you never played the game.” I think he just wanted to fire back and end a conversation.

If anything, this interview was probably a good thing for Karen Thompson. She held her own and she knows it…

…and she comes out looking like a pro.

I want everyone in sports to have equal opportunities to succeed, but I’m finding it hard to feel like Thomson was limited or minimized in any way. If anything, I’m sure she’s exasperated at having to deal with crap like this for another day in that line of work. It can’t be fun. But, she had a great sense of humour about it, and appears to have moved on. We probably should too, hockey fans.