Why, exactly, is it a problem for hockey to be unfair? Okay, sure, maybe it has some depressing existential implications concerning the potential for fairness in other parts of life. And maybe it’s a troubling experience when that unfairness hits your team. But there are plenty of games- not sports so much, but the sorts of games we play on boards or at tables in Vegas- wherein the outcomes are dictated in part or in whole by randomness. Even knowing that, we still enjoy them. We still choose to play. Why can’t we think of hockey in the same mold, as a long succession of weighted dice, rolled by a trickster god? Is it possible to say, yeah, sure, it’s unfair, so what?
Yes, it is, but in doing so one calls into question many, if not all, of the conventional narratives of the sport. Admitting that a large part of the game is not determined by any particular skill, action, or intention on the part of any team or individual means decoupling results from both talent and choices. This is troubling because sports narratives are almost universally meritocratic in tone, with winning postulated as the highest value. If you admit that any and all actions, no matter what their inherent value, can easily and frequently be swamped by chance, it starts to undermine the functionality of free will.