Hockey, Violence, and Masculinity: Newspaper Coverage of the Ottawa ‘Butchers’, 1903–1906
This case study of violence and masculinity in Canadian hockey examines newspaper reports of Stanley Cup matches involving the Ottawa Silver Seven between 1903 and 1906. It assesses media narratives of rough and aggressive hockey in relation to gender and class identities in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Canada. Sports like hockey played a significant role in the social construction of masculinity during this time period, helping to counter the fear that overcivilization was making men weak, effeminate, and over-sophisticated. Media coverage of Ottawa’s championship hockey team frequently made reference to violent incidents and rough tactics. Newspapers constructed cultural narratives of hockey that combined elements of ‘brutal butchery’ and ‘strenuous spectacle’. These narratives spoke to different ways of experiencing and enjoying hockey, and to various tensions within public perceptions of the sport. Depictions of ‘brutal butchery’ combined outrage and fascination; accounts of ‘strenuous spectacle’ portrayed violence as part of an absorbing, masculine display. Thus, descriptions of robust and hard-hitting hockey expressed both ideals of respectable, middle-class masculinity and characteristics of rough, working-class masculinity. In addition, the admiration of rugged and physical hockey articulated in early twentieth-century newspaper accounts is still prominent in the culture of hockey today.