Recently, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews vocalized to press outlets about the recent rising heat of politics within the locker room, and more or less where he stands on the spectrum of things.
The internet’s dominant reaction? The same as it always is:
“Stick to hockey.”
Toews has continually been one of the more vocal players when it comes to expressing his standpoints on politics, and he has not felt obligated to hide the importance he finds in being vocal about them. Nor should he.
It’s been a recurring effort amongst hockey fans—and fans of most sports—to deter players from outwardly voicing their political opinions. Not only are players discouraged in every way to hold back on what they may want to say, more often than not they are told they’re not allowed to.
Perhaps it comes as sort of a shock to those who invest their emotional energy in the heat of the game, and have an objectified view of an athlete’s role in society. There is a certain tunnel vision that accompanies an athlete’s public platform, especially to those who are aggressively close-minded, or stubbornly nonpolitical. Here are a few reminders for those folks:
Hockey players are humans too. Shocking, right? By the looks of Carey Price’s abundance of heavenly saves, it sure appears that the hockey gods on his side. But that doesn’t make him one. While some may not avidly engage in them publicly, they form their own opinions, perceptions and ideas about the world just like the rest of us.
The establishment of beliefs comes with a choice to vocalize them, and some might not. Brandon Saad of the Columbus Blue Jackets has recently been confronted on a regular basis regarding his political opinions because of his Syrian descent. On every occasion, Saad chooses not to comment. A hockey player’s high-profile status does not come with them any obligation to take an open stand politically.
You don’t have to agree with them. Just as though your opinion may differ from that of your next door neighbor’s, it may not correlate with your favorite winger. A player’s entitlement to their own opinion is not determined by whether you like it or not.
In the end, hockey and politics don’t have to be mutually exclusive because the sports community is an intermingling of passionate people. The thing is, some are more passionate in others and some are passionate in different ways. There are going to be players like Saad who refrain from publicly establishing a political front, and that’s okay. There are also going to be players like Toews, who are open about politics and the governance of issues going on in the world. Like it or not, that’s alright, too. If they are boldly deciding to express what they know could be controversial views, chances are they’re indifferent to the consequences. You can separate the player’s belief system from the press, but you can’t separate the player from the belief system.