A bundle of hockey romances was recommended by a reader whose taste I generally trust, who has recommended sports-themed romances in the past that were okay. And the bundle cost $0.99, so what was the harm? I started the first book, but nope.
To start with, the heroine was a spineless cliche.
Next, book was set in Chicago. And the team? The Chicago Wolves.
The Chicago Wolves are an actual team. Located in Chicago, they are the AHL minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. And they are the very first return when you search “Chicago Wolves” using Google. They have a Wikipedia page.
Except the team in the book was clearly meant to be an NHL team. Because of the implied wealth of the hero (spendy watch, throwing cash around, apartment on Lakeshore, etc.), he was not on an AHL or two-way contract. Plus, the team plays the New York Rangers. And the player is gearing up for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup.
No. Just no. Do not name your fake NHL team the exact same name as an existing minor league team in the same general metropolitan area. It’s lazy and sloppy. If the author couldn’t use the Blackhawks (actually located in Chicago) as her team for trademark reasons (or other legal reasons), why not do a modicum of research about the names of other actual hockey teams?
Beyond that, the team wore red, brown, and black jerseys….coincidentally, those are the colors of the Blackhawks’ (racist) jerseys. The jersey colors made me wonder if the hero was originally written as a Blackhawks player but then edited to be other for trademark/legal reasons. Which also made me wonder about the origin of the book (RPF?), but not enough to waste time doing any research.
The other books in the series (brothers, I think) might be better, but nope, I’m done.
Last week Courtney Milan asked a Kirkus Reviews blogger some pointed questions about race/diversity in romance following a post by said blogger. One of them was about the whiteness of athletes in sports romances. (Check out Milan’s blog and Twitter for a really frustrating/disturbing example of structural racism and willful ignorance.) Tangentially, it occurred to me that I don’t remember there being many hockey romances in the past. [It’s entirely possible that my memory is failing or that there is a plethora of older hockey romance out there that I missed.] Some baseball and football, but the only hockey I remember were Rachel Gibson’s books. But hockey seems popular now…possibly because it is the whitest professional sports league in North America?
While there are some POCs in the NHL, most of them are not huge stars or widely reported about, except when there’s something negative to be said.* The exceptions being probably PK Subban (Jamaican) and Carey Price (First Nation), and I don’t think any team has more than two players who are POCs.
I went and looked at rosters after typing that last sentence. MTL has Price, Subban, and Devante Smith-Pelly, so one team has three (\o/?). San Jose has Matt Nieto (Mexican-American) and Joel Ward. PHL has Wayne Simmonds and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Buffalo has Evander Kane. CBJ has Rene Bourque (Metis) and Seth Jones. NJD has Jordin Tootoo (Inuit). NYI has Kyle Okposo. Pittsburgh has Trevor Daley. Tampa Bay has JT Brown. Anaheim has Chris Stewart. Arizona has Anthony Duclair. Colorado has Jarome Iginla. Minnesota has Matt Dumba. Dallas has Johnny Oduya. Edmonton has Darnell Nurse. Los Angeles has Alec Martinez (Latino) and Jordan Nolan (First Nation). St. Louis has Ryan Reaves. Vancouver has Emerson Etem. Winnipeg still has Dustin Byfuglien…for now, but his contract talks are apparently not progressing.
These are just the visible POCs, and the list doesn’t include any players who might “pass” but are not necessarily of WASP/Caucasian/European descent, like Brandon Saad (Syrian), Mika Zibanejad (Swedish-Iranian), Nail Yakupov (Tatar Muslim), Nazem Kadri (Lebanese), or other First Nation, Metis, or Indigenous players.
It looks like there are eleven teams with no POCs on their current, active rosters: Detroit, Boston, Carolina, Florida, NY Rangers, Ottawa (unless you consider Zibanejad), Toronto (unless you include Kadri), Washington, Calgary, Chicago, and Nashville. Maybe they have POCs in their affiliates; after all, off the top of my head I can point to two more Subbans in development at the affiliated minor league teams for Boston and Vancouver, plus Josh Ho-Sang (whose rocky relationship with Hockey Canada and the NHL could get 1,000 words of its own), Jaden Lindo, and Andong Song (the first China-born player to be drafted, currently playing in New Jersey at a prep school). Auston Matthews, widely expected to be the first pick of the 2016 draft, is Mexican-American. But that handful above, 25 out of approximately 650 players? So very white. And thus “safer” as a sports setting for mainstream romance?
Right now, I want someone to write a hockey romance with a POC hero. Or – hah! – a POC hockey heroine (Blake Bolden! Julie Chu!). I would read either of them! Both of them! And buy copies to hand out to every hockey fan I know and to non-fans who are just readers.
*For example, Byfuglien was suspended for a crosscheck to the neck but Marc Staal has done the same or worse repeatedly without even a side-eye from DoPS. Brandon Dubinsky did the same thing and got a single game suspension in comparison to Byfuglien’s 4 games. Was his crosscheck objectively worse than theirs? I don’t know, they all looked bad to me.