Hockey RPF

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RPF Fandom
Name(s): Hockey RPF
Scope/Focus: Mostly NHL players
Date(s):
See also:
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Contents

Overview

Hockey RPF fandom focuses on the celebrity personas of ice hockey players, mainly those in the National Hockey League (NHL). There is a strong emphasis on m/m shipping.[1] Says paxpinnae of her introduction to Hockey RPF:

It's been an interesting trip, because this is the first time I've read a LOT in a fandom where I knew absolutely nothing. I have cousins who play hockey and a sort of vague hereditary obligation to cheer for the Flyers when prompted, but going into this I didn't even know how many periods were in a game. However! Hockey fandom has stepped in to fill the gap and taught me many things:
1. Sidney Crosby is a hockey-playing robot.
2. Patrick Kane is a horrible human being.
3. Jonathan Toews is a hockey-playing robot and a horrible human being.
4. No one pines like Geno Malkin.
5. Alexander Ovechkin is a puckish matchmaking spirit of whimsy.
6. Duncan Keith has no teeth whatsoever, because he gave them all to Brent Seabrook as a declaration of love.
7. Carey Price is a stoner cowboy.
8. PK Subban is a big dumb puppy.
9. Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere are married and have three adorable French-Canadian children. They just haven't realized they're married yet.
10. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews kinda know that they're married, but they keep fighting because the make-up sex is awesome.
11. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook know that they're married, and spend a lot of time worrying about other people's marriages.
12. Everyone in the NHL is funny-looking except for Patrick Sharp.
13. NHL players are the worst at pranks.
14. Somewhere in the NHL is an entire team composed of players named Staal.
15. No one in the NHL in the entire history of ever can ever talk about their feelings. Ever. [2]

Fandom Growth

Although hockey fanfiction is not a new phenomenon, in 2012, hockey fandom saw a large influx of new fans. BNFs such as Thefourthvine, a popular reccer, helped spread interest in the fandom. Hockey RPF also attracted fans from Bandom, which was between major albums at the time. On the AO3, 326 hockey fics were posted in 2011; this increased to 1237 fics in 2012, and 2805 in 2013. (Conversely, in 2010 there had been only 43 fics posted; those dated 2009 or earlier are only 127 in total).

While new fans were filled with squee, some older fans were amused or annoyed by the n00bs joining their fandom, as discussed in this Fail Fandom Anon thread. Thefourthvine was criticized for contributing to the popularity of extremely inaccurate fanon characterizations, thus inspiring others to produce a lot of fic oldtimers didn't want to read. Meanwhile, many fans who love hockey as a game, even fans in fanfic fandom, disapprove of fans they see as only being interested in the slash potential. The FFA thread had defenders and detractors on both sides:

It's easy to get invested in narratives, which are as common in sports journalism as they are in fandom.
I do think there's a fannish double standard going on here. It's super, super common for people to leap into fandoms wholeheartedly, feet first, and fall instantly in love. Why is this fandom such a special case that people doing this is hilarious?[1]

In response, another poster wrote:

Because it's a bunch of stereotypical fangirls, usually of the nerdy "ew sports" kind, getting into a sports fandom.
Not a hockey fan, but it's sort of irritating to see a lot of the people who dropped me from their flist when I got into a sports fandom a few years ago (because sports, so antifeminist, so homophobic, etc.) getting into sports and sports RPF with both feet.[2]

This discussion points to a potential separation within hockey fandom, between those who are invested in the game itself versus those who are interested in it primarily as a fanfiction-based experience. However, there are fans who love it both for the game and for the fic.

Locations

Since 2012, the fandom was mostly active on Livejournal, Tumblr, and Twitter, with fics posted to Livejournal communities and the AO3 and frequently member-locked there.

During the lockout, a NHL labour dispute which lasted between mid-September 2012 and mid-January 2013 and during which no NHL games were played, puckling @dreamwidth; @tumblr ran a squee thread which helped keep the fandom going.[3]

Fanfiction

Popular fanfiction tropes include Pining, genderswap, AUs in which one or more players don't play hockey, and Animal Transformation.

Regarding some of the more fantastical scenarios, puckling wrote,

I love how we all handwave magical realism in hockey RPF by having a player go, “Oh, yeah, I knew this guy in Juniors…”

I always like to think that it’s the same guy.

"Hey Coach, Belc can’t come to practice today, he’s a kitten."

"Hey Coach, Belc is changing in the supply closet, he’s a girl right now."

"Hey Coach, Belc is seven again. His billet mom says he’ll be okay for tomorrow’s game though."[3]

See also That One Guy In Juniors Tumblr tag.

A thread on the role fighting plays in hockey RPF can be found here.

Deadspin is a sports website owned by Gawker that is often referenced in fanfic and is presented as "a terrible site that only follows hockey and is constantly prowling for the next big gay hockey scandal (or drunk Patrick Kane scandal)."[4]


Fandom and the fourth wall

The fandom has a very fraught relationship with the fourth wall. There have been several notable incidents:

The Seguin tweet

In December 2012, player Tyler Seguin tweeted a link to a picspam of the two of them to Tyler Brown with the message "your girl should see this..." (Seguin's Twitter has since been deleted; see section below). Though not explicitly slashy, it highlighted their bromance and contained links to a slash primer on the two of them. In response, a lot of the commenters on the picspam deleted their posts.

After a screenshot of the Tweet was posted on tumblr, rsadelle wrote: “That is my picspam, and I can’t stop laughing. (Meaning, you all are welcome to freak out on your own behalf, but it’s not going to make me lock/delete things.)”[4]

This casual response was not universally appreciated, with dexwebster writing:

Your way of doing fandom—in this case gleefully accepting attention from the objects of an RPF fandom, and thinking about seeking out more—is directly at odds with, and in fact hurtful towards most of the fandom’s way of doing fandom.[5]

Rsadelle responded, saying:

I am absolutely not saying it is okay to go tell the objects of RPF fandom about fandom. I am saying that, to me, the opportunity for people who want to be part of this community to find it outweighs the risk of the objects of RPF fandom finding it. I know not everyone agrees with me, and I’m sure I’m not any more likely to convince any of them of my view than they are to convince me of their view. I think this is one of those places where people disagree and do things differently, and although we all wish people would do things our way, that just isn’t possible.[6]

Dexwebster reached a rapprochement with rsadelle, but touched on the concerns of many hockey RPF fans in a follow-up comment:

I absolutely realize you didn’t direct Seguin toward it at all, but I was uncomfortable with how…flippantly you reacted, I guess, and more so at the comment about replying to him. I’ll admit I was one of the people cringing when I saw the tweet. If I had a choice, my fourth wall would be bank-vault impenetrable, not out any professional concern—I don’t even work—just personal comfort for me, and for fans who do have those concerns.[7]

The exchange (full thread here) highlights the tension between openness/visibility and subculturalism experienced by members of hockey RPF fandom. As dexwebster wrote,

My real issue was that I think the enthusiasm for Open Fandom goes beyond that, and will in the long run do more damage than it will good, because other people already in the fandom will lock down (as is already happening on AO3) and make it less accessible to new fans, and that potential new fans will avoid a (visible, because the rest would be locked) fandom whose openness was beyond their comfort level, which seems to be the exact opposite of what you hope for. I think keeping things as low-key as possible allows us to stay visible to those potential fans in a way a lot more people are comfortable with.[8]

Additionally, the Seguin tweet was brought to a wider audience when Aja wrote about it for The Daily Dot at the beginning of 2013.[9]

Aja and the article that wasn’t

Aja had previously, in December 2012, announced that she would be publishing an article on hockey fandom.[10] Despite her assurance that the article would not focus on hockey RPF, the prospect of her article was strongly opposed in the hockey RPF/tumblr fan communities. Many fans were simply uncomfortable with attention being drawn to fanfiction which focused on real people in (often) erotic situations, but jedusaur, for example, cited the delicate position of the anti-homophobia movement in sports as a reason to curtail such an article.[11] LJ user quiet000001 also noted the marginalized status of female hockey fans as a factor:

[H]aving attention called to hockey RPF, which does seem to be predominantly women, is potentially just going to be one more thing used by hockey fans and the hockey industry to marginalize women and give them 'proof' that the only reason women like to watch hockey has really nothing to do with the actual game of hockey.[12]

Hockey RPF fan and fanfic writer impertinence posted about how she would be locking down her fanfiction: “This is totally an overreaction and I own that, but […] I don't want to deal with people who aren't in hockey fandom being all "omg, hockey boys~" or "tee hee, RPF" or what the fuck ever.”[13] Impertinence’s post attracted a large number of comments, including an extended discussion with Aja herself.

The article ultimately remained unpublished, with Aja apologizing, and writing:

But it’s not worth it to me, it is never worth it to me, to cause hurt or harm to fandom in my attempts to cover it. I can’t state strongly enough how much I don’t want to do that. But when you wake up and find that a story tag on AO3 that had 55 stories on it last night now only has 10, it’s pretty clear that despite your best intentions, the harm has already happened.[14]

An anonymous commentator on the Yuletide Coal LJ community highlighted the tensions between grassroots fandom and Aja’s mainstream-oriented articles:

My biggest problem with Aja isn't that she's writing about fandom, because she absolutely has the right to do that, it's that she wants it both ways, to be a part of fandom and report on it, and a lot of people don't feel comfortable with that. She doesn't get to play the "I'm just a fan like you card" when people are responding to her pro work.[15]

There was a general feeling that Aja was not being respectful of many people involved in hockey fandom’s wish to remain a subculture. As LJ user beatperfume wrote in a comment on Impertinence’s post, “Look no offense, but if you respected the concerns of fandom and this fandom regarding privacy, you wouldn't be writing an article that makes us incredibly uncomfortable.”[16] It was not just the prospect of the publicizing of hockey RPF that made people uncomfortable, but also Aja’s approach to it. As another commenter on impertinence’s post wrote,

Please stop trying to convince us that you'll be the best one for the job and that other people will be mean to us or whatever. […] These actions you're taking right now on this post are really annoying because it seems like you're trying to convince us to believe that your article will be a good thing. […] Please stop trying to convince us. Just do whatever you have to do and then leave us alone so that we can go back to writing our fic and worrying about the lockout instead of worrying that people will come treat us like a freakshow.[17]

The situation received coverage on Fandom Wank[18], and was also discussed here on Fail Fandom Anon.

(Aja did, however, publish a non-RPF-referential article called "5 ways the Internet will help you survive the NHL lockout").[19]

Later in January, Aja alluded to the controversy in an article encouraging fans to break down the fourth wall:

I bumped headlong into the fourth wall even as I was editing this piece about the fourth wall. While finishing an article dealing with a particular community, members of that fandom panicked at the intrusion of media into their online world. They began locking their fanfiction, which was previously public, so that if my article brought other members of the press to their door, they would be “safe.” I watched the panic from outraged fans with dismay, and I listened. I chose not to publish the article. I'm still not certain that was the right decision for me as a journalist—but it was the right decision for me as a fan, understanding all too well the possible fallout.[20]

Impertinence commented on the piece on her tumblr, describing it as "that article about how hockey fandom can’t handle the truth", and further commenting on her problems with Aja’s approach. As she wrote:

My reaction to Aja writing an article on hockey is based on 3 things: 1) my need for privacy/boundaries 2) my awareness of fandom as a subculture, and 3) my frustration with people attempting to dictate the personal choices of others.[21]

A long commentary on the fourth wall and Aja's article was posted by amazonpoodle, pointing out the conflict between Aja's fan presence and journalistic presence. As amazonpoodle writes,

I also think this identity clash adds some major bias to this essay about fandom and the fourth wall, as Aja has an extremely unique vested interest in fandom learning to be less touchy about being brought into the mainstream, and also a much more blasé attitude about fandom meeting mainstream, because that is what her job is about. [...]
Her assertion that “the fourth wall crumbled long ago” is untrue, and is based on her individual experience as a person who did not want a boundary between her mainstream life and her fannish life, and who was lucky enough to find a way to make it happen and profit from it — which is something that many of us do not want to do, and for most of whom it wouldn’t be an option even if we did want it. [...] Her insistence on ignoring the power imbalance between herself (a BNF with a huge fandom following who combines this with her paid work as a journalist with a mainstream audience) and the fannish people she interacts with is worrisome. Her consistent refusal to understand and respect people’s self-selected boundaries as fans is even more worrisome.
The fourth wall is important. It exists, though its dimensions are constantly changing, and it can provide privacy, safety, security, and boundaries between work and fandom, school and fandom, other personal life and fandom, creators and fandom, text and fandom, and media and fandom. Lots of us want that.[22]

Goodreads

In another example of fandom colliding with other spaces, salifiable republished her Crosby/Ovechkin story "Heart in Hand" as original fiction via name changes after it began to be recommended on Goodreads.[23]

Tumblr tagging

Many fans use creative tagging for their hockey posts, possibly as a strategy to retain hockey RPF as a niche activity. Many tags poke fun at NHL players and their fandom personas, for example:


Key Players and Pairings

Not all teams get the same amount of attention from fic writers. Popular teams with major or multiple pairings are the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Vancouver Canucks. As is common with RPF of all-male groups (see also Lotrips, One Direction), an improbable number of players are gay or bi in fanfiction; fic also often features players with their real-life female partners, who are generally ignored or glossed over for the sake of slash storytelling. As of January 2014, there are no out current or former NHL players.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks, or Hawks, are probably the most popular team among Hockey RPF fans.[5]. Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews is the most popular pairing by far. Patrick Kane is close to, and also sometimes shipped with, Patrick Sharp (sometimes in threesomes with Sharpy's wife Abby). Sharpy, the resident Blackhawks dreamboat,[24], in fic often acts as a confidant/advice-giver/friendly muck-raker to Kane and/or Toews. During the 2012 lockout Kaner played in Switzerland together with Tyler Seguin, who he is also sometimes shipped with, and many fics have Seguin as a bystander/helper while Kaner pines for Jonny. Jonathan Toews is also shipped with Pittsburgh Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby, since they have several similarities and met at the Olympics. Duncan Keith/Brent Seabrook, a defense pairing that is very close, is another popular pairing.

Blackhawks General

This video has: Hockey players looking like absolute idiots. A serious failure to take into account their actual abilities. Unfortunate clothing. A dance that will haunt your dreams. Terrible in-jokes. Terrible jokes, period. Plus, this video is probably the only time you'll ever see Jonathan Toews smile when not in the presence of the Stanley Cup. [...] Here, you can meet most of the team, and also rest comfortably assured that no matter how ridiculous things get in the future, you've already witnessed the absolute nadir of sense and reason. Also, you will discover that either there's a secret musical aptitude test in the Combine, or the Blackhawks just got lucky in terms of scoring a completely tone-deaf roster.[26]
  • My Little Blackhawk: Hockey is Magic.[27] Inspired by Patrick Kane donning a unicorn head in post-Stanley cup revelry[28] (which he later denied), this blog depicts Blackhawks and occasionally other hockey players as My Little Ponies.
  • Picspam/Primer: The Chicago Blackhawks by panfix

Jonathan Toews

Jonathan "Tazer" "Captain Serious" Toews is the captain of the Blackhawks. Interviews usually note how serious Jonathan Toews is, though he himself dislikes the "Captain Serious" nickname. Though a confident speaker, he is less playful than Kaner; fandom pokes fun at his speaking voice (example) and his ability to make hilarious faces. Fanon also has St Louis Blues player TJ Oshie as Toews' college boyfriend, based on this picture and the fact that they are/were buddies.

Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane - "Kaner", "Peeks", "Peekaboo" - is a top forward and a colourful figure. In 2009, he got into an altercation with a cab driver over a dispute about change, leading to the nickname "twenny cent" and plenty of ribbing both in fic and the media about taking taxis. He made headlines again when a bunch of shirtless photos of him and teammates partying with girls in a limo were published online.[29] In 2011, Deadspin covered his exploits after a 'lost weekend' in Madison on Cinco de Mayo[30] where Kaner acted like a drunken lout (and in turn spawned a Photoshop meme[31]). Other notable Kaner moments include him growing a 'playoff mullet' in lieu of a beard,[32] getting busted by his mother for reading Twilight,[33] taking the Stanley cup to a Jimmy Buffett concert,[34] importing his mother with him to Switzerland while he was playing there during the 2012-13 lockout,[35] and the Kaner shuffle. Much fanfic focuses on or mentions these events, particularly the Cinco de Mayo incident.

Duncan Keith & Brent Seabrook

Keith & Seabrook are a formidable defensive pairing, part of the Blackhawks core, and are often talked about as a duo by the media.[36][37] Duncs & Seabs most often turn up in the background of Tazer/Kaner or other Blackhawks fic, often as an established couple who provide support and/or help to get Tazer/Kaner together. In real life both defensemen have female partners, but by all accounts they have an extremely close, fraternal bond.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins, or Pens, are probably the second most popular team among Hockey RPF fans. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, their two star centers, are the most popular players and Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin is the biggest pairing. Another one is Paul Martin/James Neal. There are also some fics set several years ago about former star player (now co-owner) Mario Lemieux and former star player (and still playing) Jaromir Jagr.

Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby is widely considered one of the best hockey players the sport has seen. RPF has made much of his pre-game rituals, his participation in a rather bleak commercial,[38] his muscle tone,[39] and his seemingly tame lifestyle.[40] RPF fans have also made use of the fact he moved in to the guest house attic of former hockey player (and Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux as a rookie, and appears to have lived with the Lemieux family pretty much ever since, a fact also noted by his teammates.[41] Despite being the "face of the NHL", Crosby has been very good at separating his public and private lives and has rarely publicly dated anyone; this lack of romantic partners has led a lot of ficcers to write him as deeply closeted and/or asexual to some degree. Fanon also translates Crosby's privacy into angst and/or deep-seated issues. Fanfiction often portrays him as hockey-fixated to an almost autistic degree; common tropes that pop up are Sidney having an aversion to being touched, extreme awkwardness & social obliviousness, and pining for his team-mate, Evgeni Malkin. While Sid/Geno is one of the most popular pairings in Hockey RPF, Sid is also shipped with his rival Alex Ovechkin, his college friend Jack Johnson, fellow Canadian captain Jonathan Toews, Matt Duchene, and a few others.

Evgeni "Geno" Malkin

Crosby's on-ice foil--and romantic foil in fanfic--is Evgeni Malkin, nicknamed Geno. Malkin's public persona is genial and goofy; sports coverage indicates that he is well-liked even among rival players. His history is chronicled from a fannish perspective in a extensive primer by chibirhm. Fandom has taken note of how Geno likes to pose with animals,[42] use lots of Russian eyeless smiley emoticons in his tweets, and reaffirm his love for Russia while tweeting other hockey players.[43] "Geno" is the anglicized version of his Russian nickname Женя, transcribed Zhenya: some stories use Zhenya when writing from his PoV. He is most often shipped with Sidney Crosby, but also occasionally with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin and linemate James Neal. In some stories he is part of the fanonical cabal of Russian hockey players (nick-named the 'Russian knitting circle'[44]).

Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux/Danny Brière is the most popular Flyers (Flyers/Habs) pairing. Luke and Brayden Schenn and Sean Coutourier also appear frequently.

The Flyers often play the villains in stories about the Penguins (their teams have a fierce rivalry) or Jeff Carter/Mike Richards (because of the trade.) Ilya Bryzgalov became known league-wide for his unique phrases during his time as the Flyer's goaltender, and as such he sometimes appears in the background of other stories.

Danny Brière & Claude Giroux

Giroux lived with Brière and his three children and two dogs for the 2010-11 season; however, Brière later replaced Giroux with a younger model. Brière was bought out by the Flyers at the end of the 2013 season and subsequently joined the Montréal Canadiens, but most stories (so far) are set during their time together on the Flyers.

Edmonton Oilers

The biggest pairing is Taylor Hall/Jordan Eberle, often in a threesome with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Sam Gagner often appears and sometimes Nail Yakupov.

Montréal Canadiens

Popular pairings are PK Subban/Carey Price and various combinations of Alexander Galchenyuk/Brendan Gallagher/Brandon Prust.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Most of the fics about Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, the most popular Leafs pairing, involves a lot of pining and/or obliviousness.

Vancouver Canucks

Popular players are Alexander Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Maxim Lapierre, Kevin Bieksa... Twitter and Tumblr love to follow the almost-canonical romance between the goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, but so far there is little fic about them. Luongo is also shipped with his former back-up goaltender Cory Schneider.

Varying teams

Jeff Carter & Mike Richards

Best friends who played together in Philadelphia, until they were both traded away in a genuinely surprising deal (both players had recently signed long-term contracts with the Flyers, of whom Richards was also the captain). All ended well when Carter was later traded again to Richards' team and Richie memorably tweeted: "Reunited and it feels so good...... Excited to be back playing with carts #needaroommate"[45] As playfully described by slexenskee in her post 20 Things Hockey RPF has taught me that are irrelevant to the sport of hockey, "Jeff Carter is the Juliet to Mike Richard's Romeo, but instead of dying at the end they win a Stanley Cup."[4]

In fic, a secret relationship is sometimes used to explain their real-life obvious shock and disappointment at the trades; another trope has them picking up women together, ultimately leading to a liaison between the two of them.

Tyler Seguin & Tyler Brown

Fans have chronicled Seguin and Brown’s history of tweeting each other about holding hands, joking about the dates they used to go on, and the fact that they were for a time married on Facebook. Seguin is a young, talented player with a reputation for a lack of discipline, and was traded in summer 2013 amid rumours of difficult behaviour and partying. In July 2013, Seguin came under fire for a homophobic tweet,[46] after which he claimed his Twitter was hacked; he later deleted it. Seguin and Patrick Kane played together in Switzerland during the NHL 2012-13 lockout, and Seguin therefore also often appears as a side character in Tazer/Kane fic, often as a hookup or confidant of Kaner.


Non-NHL Hockey RPF

As well as fic set during the Olympics, there is also fic about players in college hockey teams, and fic about players in women's hockey. Popular female hockey players to write fic about are Amanda Kessel, Hilary Knight, and Julie Chu.


Issues and criticism in hockey RPF fandom

International players

There is some tension in the fandom around international players, xenophobia and racism. The NHL gets a lot more attention in the English-speaking fandom than the KHL or other European leagues, and US- or Canadian-born players generally get a lot more attention in fandom than other players (exceptions include PK Subban and Nail Yakupov). This is particularly noticeable with Russian players, who suffer xenophobia from US and Canadian fanbases in their careers, and are sometimes also under-represented or mis-represented in fic. Marina (herself a controversial figure in fandom) has commented on the shallowness and lack of Russian cultural grounding of characterization of Alex Ovechkin in fic.[48] And as slexenskee notes, according to fanfic, Russian players are generally subject to a series of clichés:

All Russian hockey players are secretly in a communist KGB society and totally up in each others business all the goddamn time, and when they go back to Russia they all knit together and get even more up in each others business.[4]

Russian players have also traditionally not been well-served by the mainstream media, to the point that the “enigmatic Russian narrative” is established as a tired cliché.[49] At Grantland, Sean McIndoe writes:

At this point, most hockey fans realize that the phrase “enigmatic Russian” has become redundant. Every Russian NHLer is enigmatic. And every NHL enigma is, by definition, Russian. It’s been one of the league’s treasured clichés since the first wave of Russian players arrived in the late 1980s.[50]

Race and racism in the NHL

Compared to athletes in other sports, most hockey players are not known for large personalities, and indeed are encouraged not to cultivate colourful public personas. Related to the “enigmatic Russian” stereotype, this unwritten rule at times intersects with race and ethnicity in problematic ways, especially in the context of a sport where the vast majority of athletes are white.

PK Subban has attracted much attention (and negative press) for his outgoing personality, with many commentators detecting a racialized element in media coverage of him, especially after a former hockey player-turned-pundit suggested that Subban should do things the “white way” off the ice, i.e., adopt a more muted attitude. An article at the National Post called “Subban benching a shame as NHL conformity wins out” described the opposition between Subban’s flamboyance and the NHL’s conservative stance, alluding to how race tied into the matter:

He was quotable. He was fun-loving. He was cocky. He chirped at opposing players more famous than himself. He refused to bow and kiss the hems of their robes just because he was a rookie. […] When he returns, hopefully it will be with no personality at all. Never will he speak another interesting thought, if he knows what’s good for him. […] He will remain black on the outside, but as colourless, for all that, as everyone else in a game that has pretty much hammered all individuality out of its players, and values vanilla above all other flavours.[51]

In her PK/Carey Price primer, LJ user just-katarin discusses the matter more directly:

[G]iven the specific way people talk about PK, as not having respect for others, about being overly flashy and a showboat, it does come across as sort of code. And for anyone who's had to sit uncomfortably while a bunch of hockey fans talk about why hockey is better than basketball, all of the talk of "respect" and "showboating" begins to sound incredibly familiar. Because it's the exact same code everyone was using to discuss why the sport played by mostly black people and enjoyed by many black fans is inferior to a sport played by white people and enjoyed by overwhelmingly white fans.[52]

Tatar/Russian player Nail Yakupov is another who has run up against these conventions to his detriment, attracting criticism for what some felt to be an over-exuberant goal celebration.[53][54]

In another racial matter, impertinence brought up Patrick Kane dressing up in blackface,[55], a post which generated several direct responses (for example, here), and was discussed [56] on Fail Fandom Anon.

Race and hockey fandom

The issue of a possible racial dimension to hockey fandom's popularity has been raised; compared to basketball, baseball and football, hockey features far fewer non-white players and is generally agreed to have a whiter fanbase. None of these other sports have anything resembling the RPF/fangirl fandom of hockey, despite the fact that hockey is the least popular of the "big four" sports in the United States (although not, of course, in Canada). In the context of fanon characterization, an anonymous commenter wrote,

No [writers won’t move beyond one-dimensional fanon projections] because they're madly in love with their one dimensional projections and are hellbent on turning the rest of the fandom into that until they find another whitecock fandom to roll around in.[57]

Responses included “The fact that all this is happening in the whiteyest white sports fandom that will ever be pale, salt-white for the foreseeable forever is so not a surprise”[58] and “Yeah, the fact that the two sports I see the most fannish activity for are tennis and hockey says a lot.”[59]

Similar thoughts were expressed in this Metafilter thread. In response to the question of why Hockey RPF is so popular, one commenter wrote: "well, what is the major difference between Hockey and {Baseball, Football, Basketball}... let's see... could it be that the players are almost exclusively white?", with another person writing, "the racial makeup of professional hockey players vs. pro football, baseball, and basketball is pretty hard to ignore here". On the flipside, another poster pointed out that even white stars of other major American sports don't receive the same kind of attention:

I mean, it is and it isn't. Certainly hockey is the whitest professional sport. But the bulk of the stories seem to be centred around a small number of specific players (usually the stars, obvs.) and it's not like baseball and football don't have loads of white star athletes people could choose.

RPF, slash, and queer subcultures

A post by LJ user mardia examined fan assumptions, privilege, and homophobia in relation to hockey RPF fandom and fic. Among other things, Mardia talked about her discomfort with fandom’s speculation with Sidney Crosby’s real-life sexuality. One of the main issues she touched on (which is also applicable to a larger conversation about slash fandoms), is the difference between slash fic conventions and RL queer existence, particularly in reference to real people. As she writes,

I know that coming out fics are and will always be big tropes in sports rpf fandom, and that's not going to change. And yet I keep seeing things that...well. Suffice it to say that if you're writing what purports to be a serious, or even semi-serious look at what it would be like for a gay athlete to be discovering their sexuality/coming out in a both violent and aggressively heterosexual sport, it's probably not a good idea to graft what are essentially slash tropes onto a deeply personal and complicated RL issue. And yet I see this happening a lot in fic, and just--yeah.[60]

A discussion meme on Fail Fandom Anon followed, where some commenters were bothered by how mardia (a straight woman) was talking about writing gay characters. One commenter made the point that a lot of these stories fulfil a fantasy function for queer readers:

Also, I'm really bothered by the comments about the ~naivety~ of the coming-out stories in sports RPF, and how these straight people know how trivializing it all is. Ugh. First of all, way to assume everyone writing non-angsty coming out stories is straight. Also, a huge part of them is wish-fulfillment for queer people![61]

The thread also discusses how coming out stories are often coupled with ‘One True Love’ narratives in fanfic/fandom, and the different ways in which fandom engages with Sidney Crosby’s public persona.

On Fail Fandom Anon, a commenter posted the following lighthearted précis of hockey RPF tropes:

/brought to you by meme's frequent discussions of hockey rps and subsequently creeping on the fandom. I feel like an anthropologist in the wild! "Subverting the Hegemonic Masculinity of Professional Hockey through the Creation of Transformative Homoerotic BDSM Narratives: A Fangirl Anthropologist Observes Her Peers As They Reinforce And Subvert The Prevalent Stereotypes of Female Sports Audiences Via Stories of Men Bonking"[62]

Food

Fic tends to contain a lot of mentions of players going to practice, going to the gym and eating healthily, as well as the games themselves. However, many writers think of "healthy" as being salads and other light foods suitable for an office worker, rather than the typical diet of an athlete. Lightgetsin had a notable post explaining what team nutritionists would actually recommend or disapprove of;[63] Snowdarkred also posted about this on tumblr.[64]


Resources


References

  1. The Archive of Our Own hosts 4595 Hockey RPF fanworks, of which 3957 are m/m slash, 420 are not romance-focused, 320 are het, and only 53 are femslash. Half of the fanworks with het ships (149) also contained m/m slash ships. Numbers taken from the tag filters on the Hockey RPF page on 8 January 2014.
  2. Things Hockey Fandom Has Taught Me (Accessed Feb. 18, 2012)
  3. puckling. December 2, 2013 Tumblr post. Accessed 8 January 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 slexenskee. 20 Things Hockey RPF has taught me that are irrelevant to the sport of hockey, posted to Tumblr on February 14, 2013. Accessed 8 January 2014.
  5. Judging from the number of fics on AO3 (February 2014) as well as completely subjective looks at Tumblr and Twitter
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