Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Path To Hockey Hell

I was going to talk about the NHL's realignment plan today when another piece of news floated across my desk today. It would appear that Tessa Bonhomme has been traded to a Boston or Pittsburgh team based on the image to the left, but the truth is that Hockey Canada will be wearing the uniform depicted for their opening game against Team USA on April 2 at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. Canada has worn some different colors in the past - green at the World Juniors and pink at the Women's World Championships - but Canada has yet to wear this bright shade of yellow seen here. So what gives? What reason does Canada have for sporting black and yellow?

Well, if you notice the maker's mark on the breezers of Miss Bonhomme, Nike and Hockey Canada have decided to team up and help support the LIVESTRONG brand while promoting cancer research and fundraising. The Canadian women's team wore pink at the first Women's World Championships to help promote breast cancer awareness and research, but this new partnership seems a tad more self-serving for Nike's and LIVESTRONG's needs than it does about cancer research. Canadian National Womens Team head coach Dan Church gave this comment at the press conference this morning:
Hockey Canada and Team Canada have had a strong partnership with Nike for nearly 20 years. In that time we have seen how their ongoing commitment to the LIVESTRONG Foundation has made a real and undeniable difference in the fight against cancer. As a team, we are extremely proud be a part of this opportunity and we look forward to wearing the jersey with pride and supporting this great cause.
Look, I'm all for supporting the cause and hopefully finding a cure for cancer one day, but why does Hockey Canada need to wear LIVESTRONG colours to do so? Nike is a partner with LIVESTRONG as well, so this move by Hockey Canada feels very much like the tail wagging the dog as Hockey Canada is outfitted by Nike. Personally, I'm not buying all the goodwill and rhetoric coming out of the Hockey Canada camp. They may mean what they say, but as a proud Canadian, I don't want my country's national team being a billboard for the wishes of Nike and a somewhat-disgraced charity.

Further to this, Nike and LIVESTRONG touted their work in investing money and resources in Canadian organizations and resources that help survivors and research cancer-fighting drugs and techniques to the tune of $620,000. The problem I see with this is that an organization like "Nike has helped raise more than $100 million for the LIVESTRONG Foundation, which has brought in nearly $500 million to battle cancer since its inception 16 years ago". Doing the math, $620,000 of $500 million is a handsome 0.124% of all the monies raised by LIVESTRONG. Well done, Nike and LIVESTRONG. Solid work there in investing just over a tenth of one-percent of all money raised in Canadian cancer-fighting effort! Excuse the sarcasm, of course.

But aside from all the self-serving ideology that Nike and LIVESTRONG are doing, is Hockey Canada's partnering with a somewhat-disgraced charitable organization the right thing to be doing at this stage of the game? Look, I'm not against what LIVESTRONG does in terms of fighting cancer and giving people hope, but the very polarizing scandal of founder Lance Armstrong is still very fresh in the eyes of the sporting world, and while he's attempted to distance himself from the organization by stepping away, the fact remains that people still associate him with the LIVESTRONG Foundation because of his long-time association with it. Will there be a backlash towards Hockey Canada from its fans because of the Lance Armstrong association with LIVESTRONG considering how loathed Lance Armstrong seems to be in today's sporting world?

I accept the statement that LIVESTRONG made in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, but the public isn't being one to forgive and forget. This is something that Hockey Canada needs to be acutely aware of when it comes to forging strong partnerships with exemplary organizations. The LIVESTRONG Foundation wrote on its blog,
We at the LIVESTRONG Foundation are disappointed by the news that Lance Armstrong misled people during and after his cycling career, including us. Earlier this week, Lance apologized to our staff and we accepted his apology in order to move on and chart a strong, independent course. We look forward to devoting our full energy to our mission of helping people not only fight and survive cancer, but also thrive in life after cancer.
Strong words from the organization that was founded in Lance Armstrong's name and used his image to promote its message. It's this association, though, that is etched into the mind of the unforgiving public when it comes to anything associated with Lance Armstrong, and the fact that he lied to millions may result in this merchandise and marketing campaign to underachieve in reaching its goal.

If there is one thing that bothered me early on, it's the fact that the uniform itself is black. I am sick of seeing Canadian teams wear black uniforms. Look, I get that it's one of Hockey Canada's colours, but WHY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD WOULD A CANADIAN TEAM WEAR BLACK?!?

Of course, it dawned on me that the yellow and black look that Team Canada is wearing, including the Hockey Canada logo itself, is the colour scheme of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. However, the LIVESTRONG Foundation uses black-on-yellow, not the opposite. Why can Canada not wear a yellow uniform? After all, they've worn green, they've worn pink, and the men even wore the old Winnipeg Falcons colors at the World Cup of Hockey. Why does Canada have to wear black if they are only wearing this uniform for one game against the Americans? It's not like they're playing Sweden in yellow, so why must Canada wear black?

Honestly, the black uniform in hockey has been played out. It's no longer effective. Colour is better, and this uniform honestly gets lost amongst the vast number of black hockey uniforms that have sprung up over the last two decades in hockey. There's nothing unique to make it stand out or memorable other than NOT BEING CANADIAN COLOURS, and it seems like this is a nothing more than a cash-grab by the Hockey Canada-Nike-LIVESTRONG triumverate to help the latter two companies generate a little extra cash for their cause. I'll gladly support Nike and LIVESTRONG through a Hockey Canada donation in purchasing their wares, but don't sell-out Hockey Canada's look or Canada's colours to make a few extra bucks. That's utter garbage.

I'm not holding the players responsible for this manifestation of corporate buffoonery because they wear what they are told to wear. I'll still cheer for the women when they take the ice on April 2 against the Americans because they are playing for Canada and not for Nike and LIVESTRONG despite the strong presence of those two organization on the uniforms. I will not, however, purchase any black-and-yellow Canada gear with my own hard-earned money because I disagree with the business practice of putting merchandise dollars before one's own national pride. Hockey Canada is the governing body of hockey in Canada, and that should not be available to be bought and sold.

As an asterisk, I would proudly purchase Hockey Canada wares with a LIVESTRONG patch or emblem on them because that makes sense, but Nike and LIVESTRONG have removed the Canadian red-and-white identity from the Canadian uniform and from the Hockey Canada logo. That's blasphemy as far as I'm concerned, and no person or corporation should ever be allowed to do that if one believes in any sort of national pride.

As the old saying goes, "the path to hell is lined with good intentions". Welcome to a prime example of hockey purgatory.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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