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October, 2012

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Chris Nilan is the Last Gladiator…

Vaughan, ON As CBA negotiations drag on and the prospect of an 82 game season has officially expired, hockey fans in Canada can find a fix for their NHL withdrawal in The Last Gladiators, a documentary on the career of Chris Nilan and the lifestyle of NHL tough guys.

Naturally, I was a little more than eager to see this film. After watching the official trailer for the first time yesterday, I actually got so excited that I wanted to kick someone in the neck. Believe it or not, I was so eager to see this thing that I literally had to wait in the parking lot of Cineplex Colossus for the doors to open for the first screening of the day.

I had my own private screening this afternoon, too! It was just me and a napping Cineplex employee in cinema #16, which was great since The Last Gladiators can get quite emotional. The film takes you back to the age of old time hockey – a time when players earned their nicknames, and enforcers won Stanley Cups. This film will make anyone from my generation wish that they were born 10 or 15 years earlier just so they could have been old enough to really appreciate that colourful era in hockey’s history.

Of course, The Last Gladiators isn’t just an entertaining montage of highlight reel worthy fights, black eyes, and toothless grins. The documentary successfully humanizes the pressure that many hockey players struggle with, and the brutality of the role of the enforcer. By sharing his personal struggles as an NHL tough guy, and with adjusting to life after hockey, Chris Nilan has probably done more than he knows to change the way the fans and the critics view the game.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that as a hockey fan I was really desensitized to violence in hockey to the point that I didn’t even realize that it was violence at all. I remember the exact moment that I had my epiphany on hockey fights. It was a few seasons back now, and I was at the game of a guy that I had been seeing. Sure, I had done the same thing many, many times before, but for some reason this night was different. I remember he ended up getting into a brawl with another guy – again, this wasn’t exactly new. But this time something just clicked. Like a switch had been flipped on. He was getting punched in the face! Actually, PUNCHED. IN. THE. FACE! It was like hockey stopped being theatrical and started being real. These were real hits. This was real pain. This was a real fight. I’m not sure why I had this revelation that night. Maybe in some sick way I had grown attached to him. Whatever the reason, The Last Gladiators is a revelation maker, and the opening scene will make you all understand what I felt at that hockey game that night.

I think it is hard for many fans nowadays to really understand the psychological strain that athletes are under. I mean, I don’t think there are many fans that would hold a bad play or missed opportunity against a player for more than the duration of the game. The fans aren’t losing sleep over a lost game, and I think we all assume that National Hockey League players are professionals that have been trained specifically to let things roll off their backs, and recover quickly from mistakes that would have completely shattered the confidence of lesser men.

Furthermore, in today’s NHL many hockey players have really put themselves out there with social media outlets, and given the fans access to their lives 24/7. While all of this is great (sometimes), the public just doesn’t know when there is something wrong and if a player is struggling emotionally, especially when his tweets consist of invites to exclusive parties, and a few sets of implants on each of his arms. To us, everything seems more than fine, and many fans would probably kill for how their lives appear. Players are making huge money now and climbing up a few notches on the celebrity ladder. But, obviously, things aren’t always the way they seem online.

How can we forget the shocking events of 2011 when the hockey community lost both Wade Belak and Rick Rypien to suicide? The events were tragic, but seemed to be quickly swept under the rug by the media and the NHL. How can these athletes (or anyone for that matter) reach out for help, if depression and mood disorders are stigmatized by the people they should be able to talk to about them without risk of losing their jobs? Luckily, The Last Gladiators was able to break some ground in this area by putting Nilan’s seasoned face (and knuckles) to the issue.

As you can plainly see, I’m definitely not a film critic, but I do give The Last Gladiators my Psycho Lady stamp of approval. It’s a must-see for any red blooded hockey fan, and a great way to forget all about your lockout sorrows. Enjoy!

Click here for showtimes!

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Thursday, October 25th, 2012

You Can Play, We Can Play

Toronto, ON The You Can Play Project, founded by Patrick Burke, Brian Kitts, and Glenn Witman, is making great strides to create safe locker rooms for all athletes despite sexual orientation. Now, I don’t mean to take away from this great cause by talking about my own personal plight with discrimination in the fan community. I have a degree in Sexual Diversity Studies, and I support this project 100%. You Can Play delivers the message that an athlete shouldn’t be judged, or terrorized, or overlooked based on his/her sexual preferences, so why is it OK for female hockey fans to continue to be ostracized and belittled for theirs?

For many female hockey fans, especially teenagers, the rink is an unsafe and unhealthy environment. While hockey fans may cast the cold eye of scrutiny on a player after he takes a stupid penalty, many female hockey fans endure that same scrutiny for all 60 minutes of regulation, and the duration of the intermissions, too! All night long people around the rink watch them looking for telltale signs that these women are there to meet the players, are there because they are sleeping with the players, or are there because they want to sleep with the players. Such signs may include that their hair is too blonde, or their pants too tight, or, gasp, they may have decided to put on some lipstick. And how about the women who try desperately to land their dream jobs in sport, and have to fight 110% harder to prove their knowledge of the game and authenticity as a “non-puck bunny” to their coworkers? Or the women who start blogs or join online hockey communities, but shy away from providing a female’s perspective on the game out of fear that it will be interpreted as membership to Club Bunny? Being a fan is supposed to be fun, and yet for most of us it is exhausting.

Maybe you don’t see this as discrimination against sexual orientation, but I do. I mean isn’t chauvinism rooted in the belief that women are meant to be submissive and subservient to men both in and out of the bedroom? In hockey women have been given artificial status solely on the fact that we like men (or are assumed to like men). Is it really so wrong if we find a hockey player attractive? Do we change as people if we choose to involve ourselves with one? Not so much.

Of course for you Psycho Lady Hockey regulars, none of this is new territory. What I think pisses me off the most, is not that we are judged for being attracted to hockey players, but that we are also labeled as whores who are continually used, abused, and humiliated by the players. This is obviously a common sentiment among jock sniffers. Not sure why. They must be jealous or something. Why is it that no one ever stops to consider that “puck bunnies” (a.k.a. any woman ever sexually involved with a hockey player) are actually in control of their sex lives? Do you really assume that we are all stupid and use sex as a way to trap a man that would never want us?

I’m going to talk about myself for a minute. Shocking, right? An example of the aforementioned stupidity came when I posted my last article on my OHL/AHL game experiences so far this season. Some guy left the usual moronic comment about how I’m just bitter that no hockey player will ever take me seriously. I’m not really sure what that had to do with the article, but it got me to thinking about how I’ve never taken a hockey player “seriously,” so why is it a crime if none of them have seen me as wife material? People always make assumptions about the women who have been involved with hockey players. For some reason the assumption is that we throw ourselves at their feet (read: crotch), they take advantage of us, and then break our stupid slut hearts. Hmm… I can’t speak for all girls, but I can estimate with a lot of confidence that hockey players do the pursuing 95% of the time. I’ve never “thrown myself” at anyone – both hockey players, and non. Oh, and believe it or not, most women have the brain cells to know that if they are consenting to something casual that it’s not going to be something more than that. Painting us all as deserving victims is unbelievably offensive. We have needs (and brains), too.

I guess the other eyebrow that was raised by people who assume I am just the “average” slutty mess patrolling arenas for a good time, is that I’m not even “on the market” right now. Relax, I’m still single. Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ve just returned from 15 months in Japan. It messed with my head probably more than any of you could ever understand. I lived in the middle of nowhere. I was the only visible foreigner in the entire place. I was stared at wherever I went. It would not be uncommon for people to act aggressively toward me because I was visibly different. At 5’9” I was much taller, and much bigger than most people, so even though I am not overweight, it was hard not to feel like I was practically obese. Also, western women are typically treated like prostitutes. I don’t think I have to remind you about the Starbucks masturbator. So, naturally, I was celibate the entire time. Maybe this wouldn’t have been the case if I was living in a big city like Tokyo, or my city in Korea, but I wasn’t. And because of this I have a very warped sense of what I even look like right now. So, since I am a mighty female with a grasp on my sexuality and sexual limitations, I know that it is probably not a good idea to get involved with anyone (seriously or casually) until my brain clicks back over to North America. So, yeah, I can say with all honesty that hockey players (and guys in general) are not on my radar at the moment, and the thought is definitely not even crossing my mind at the rink, but, unfortunately, the truth isn’t going to stop strangers from judging me or any other girl at the game.

So I guess what I’m trying to say with this whole rant is that I think the female hockey community needs their own You Can Play project. There isn’t enough being done for women’s equality in sport. If you have a love for the game, or just a damn ticket, then I think you should be allowed to watch it in peace. Two years ago, James Wisniewski of the New York Islanders was suspended for making a homophobic, cock sucking gesture to Sean Avery. The League was right to come down on the incident, and stamp out the flames of homophobia which are so prevalent in sport. However, every time a female hockey fan is scrutinized because of her sexual preferences or basic anatomy, she is labeled a puck bunny. And, well, we all know the implications that go along with that label, so really, this is no different than reducing us all to nothing more than a bunch of cock suckers.

Click here to check out You Can Play.

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