A few years ago CBC Radio sent me to a NHL game to write about homoeroticism in hockey. I got a little CBC tag with my name on it and got to watch the game with all the other journalists, many of whom I recalled from watching televised games in my youth. Nobody knew what I was there to write about, but I could tell from the looks from a few of the guys that I didn’t fit in. This disturbed me a little bit until I used the men’s washroom and discovered the largest collection of boogers above the urinals that I’d ever seen. If being a sports writer meant having to pick my snot and use it to make a polka dot wall than I didn’t mind being an outsider.
Apart from the boogers, I enjoyed the demystification of the sports writers’ world, but it was my ability to sit in the press box while taking notes on possible gay takes on the game that satisfied me most. While the other journalists considered the statistics handed out after each period, I considered the flexibility of the goaltenders and how, in the gay world, they’d be able to satisfy a trinity of fetishes all at once: uniform, jockstrap and guys who can do the splits. I also realized how Don Cherry would make the perfect gay porno name.
I’m more of a figure skating fan, so I hadn’t really thought about that night until Canadian celebrity gossip site isthishappening.com (yes, a Canadian celebrity gossip site exists!) released controversial photos depicting Toronto Maple Leaf player Jiri Tlusty almost tonguing another guy, and a full-frontal shot of him standing in front of a mirror. I thought about my press box night because sometime during the second period of the game another journalist asked me if I was going to attend the coach’s post-game interview in the locker room, and I freaked out at the thought of naked players walking around me.
I never thought they’d let me into the locker room and for the rest of the game I imagined what the hell I’d do with all those players walking nude around me. Where would I look? At the ceiling lights? At the floor? At their fabulous hockey player asses? At their uncut European cocks? I guess I’d just look them in the eyes and take notes as per usual — as if such scenes could ever be usual.
Much to the horror of all the gay men and straight women I know, and in an act that many folks around me still consider heresy, I decided against visiting the locker room that evening. Or, more precisely, my entire body shook so much that my legs would never have let me make it past the doorway.
To be honest, part of my decision stemmed from some internalized homophobia, but most of my decision stemmed from my belief (and, at the time, my fear) that if I visited a NHL locker room and wrote about the players’ bodies or objectified them I would be the most hated Canadian of all time.
People are a lot more forgiving when female athletes are described in desirous terms. Put a little homo context into the mix with a perceived straight male athlete and they’ll revoke your Canadian citizenship.
I’d do it differently now, of course, but for the longest time I thought that the closest I’d ever get to a nude NHL player would be trying on Wayne Gretzky’s fashion line at the Bay.
While his lawyers have now denied folks the pleasure of seeing him in his full glory (nothing like a little bit of cease and desist), I’d like to thank Mr Tlusty for sharing his wang with me. I only wish it was as freeing to him as it was for me.