Yahoo Sports- Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe had an interesting look at religion in the NHL over the weekend that’s worth your time. The theologian thesis: “While spirituality is on display in other professional sports — with pitchers’ fingers pointing skyward, tattooed crosses adorning NBA arms, words of divine praise in postgame sideline interviews — that’s not the case in hockey. In the NHL, religion is mostly omitted from the conversation, God left unsaid.”
But Doan has a theory as to why there aren’t more openly religious men in the NHL, via the Globe:
“The reason I think that faith isn’t as big a part of hockey as maybe other [sports] is the men in hockey are good men. I really do.
“Sometimes good people don’t necessarily believe they need faith. You know, I’m good enough. I think there’s an element to that, and I understand. There’s just really a lot of good men in hockey.”
As a player that has always been so adept at all the intricacies of the game, Shane Doan certainly picked a hell of a time to broad jump into generalizations. There's no way I can sit here with straight face and tell you that someone's religious affiliation, or lack thereof, makes them a good or bad person. I wrote a blog earlier today about DMX. A guy who literally used to give full on sermons at the end of his albums, yet has a rap sheet longer than his discography. In that same breathe, there are people that don't hold their actions to a higher standard because they don't believe in some higher power constantly judging them. For every person that goes to church weekly yet treats infidelity likes it's a daily prerogative, there is a person that lacks any semblance of religious guidelines and lives their life without any definitive concept of right and wrong. There are good people and bad in all walks of life. Whether it be sports organizations, religious institutions, or your average, everyday company. Whether or not those people have strong religious ties or not, is not a determining factor.
You know why religion isn't as pronounced in hockey? I'll give you a hint. It's not because hockey players are any more noble than the next athlete. It's because generally speaking hockey is a much less individualistic sport. When you see a player celebrating he is surrounded by his teammates in a matter of seconds. During a postgame interview, hockey players are far more likely to give praise to their teammates than they are to a higher power. Does that make them better people? Doubtful. Some of the most degenerative alcoholics and womanizers I have met have been through hockey. More than likely it just makes them more down to Earth. That's something that, without much debate, has always been the case. Hockey players have always embraced the 'common man' personality. Just because they don't display their faith regularly does not mean it's presence in the locker room doesn't exist. It doesn't mean they uphold themselves to a stronger set of ethics than say, a football player that drops to his knees and points to the sky following a touchdown. Just because hockey players are better at embracing each others commonalities and making light of their differences doesn't mean they are superior to anyone else, athlete or not.
I don't know whether Doan misworded what he was trying to say, or whether it was taken out of context, but his statements certainly don't do hockey any favors in the public eye. It just comes across as another case of those affiliated with the sport trying too hard to defend it's legitimacy. Hockey is a great sport, and one I enjoy watching on a regular basis. However, the toughness of the players, nor their apparently good natured values, are going to gain them any fans, and it certainly isn't going to make the sport more enjoyable to the people already watching.
I would say Dan Hamhuis hit it right on the head...
“In a hockey dressing room if you do anything out of the norm you’re going to get called out on it, whether it’s a funny hat you wear, a new pair of shoes, or a bad haircut,” said Hamhuis. “So you’re always kind of on guard and aware of yourself. In matters of faith, it could be something that guys might give you a hard time about, and if you’re not real mature in your faith, you might not be comfortable defending it.”