SOUTH SHORE — An upcoming book from a Black hockey player and writer from the South Side and one of the few Brown women reporting on hockey explores the sport’s “toxic culture” through the stories of its marginalized players and supporters.
“Game Misconduct,” an upcoming book from Sun-Times culture reporter Evan F. Moore and freelance hockey reporter Jashvina Shah, explores the ways people can be excluded from or harmed by hockey.
The book begins with a primer on hockey’s “insular” culture and the sport’s decentralized structure, which are barriers to systemic change, the authors said.
The book then focuses on the experiences of people who have dealt with racism, sexual violence, ableism, transphobia and other harmful aspects of the sport. It also offers solutions.
“Game Misconduct” is $28 for a physical copy or $15.99 for an e-book. It’s available for pre-order through publisher Triumph Books and will be released Oct. 12.
When the book drops, “no longer can folks stick their head in the sand” about inequities in hockey, said Moore, a South Shore resident.
He and Shah interviewed “players, fans, journalists, coaches, administrators, siblings, aunties, uncles and cousins” in hockey who have faced exclusion or discrimination.
“We talked to people that are working within the current constructs of hockey culture, and other people who frankly want to burn it down,” Moore said.
“Game Misconduct” includes interviews with the Chicago Gay Hockey Association, whose members speak to a need for the National Hockey League to go beyond “performative allyship,” given how homophobia is normalized at all levels of the sport.
Jason Wilson, an Army veteran with disabilities who plays on the Chicago Warriors, shares his experience with ableism.
The Gay Hockey Association, Wilson and the Warriors are among the locals making hockey safer for players who don’t identify as straight, able-bodied white males, Moore said.
They’re part of a longstanding push to diversify the sport that’s been more successful than some may realize, he said.
“I just point to the fact that the sport reached [me,] a Black kid from 71st and Luella and [Shah,] a South Asian woman from New Jersey,” Moore said. “That shows the sport has a bigger reach than previously thought.”
Also featured is the Black Girl Hockey Club, whose founder, Renee Hess, wrote the book’s foreword. Groups like Hess’s “aren’t interested in waiting” for change and have taken the work of bettering the sport into their own hands, Moore said.
Their efforts are necessary for broadening horizons in a sport that, like so many other aspects of society, is an “old boys’ club,” Shah said.
“Things won’t change until we get some fresh eyes and folks who have different experiences” in power, Moore said.
But even as marginalized people introduce their communities to the sport and fight for equity, there are barriers to widening hockey’s base, Moore said.
South Side youth in particular lack options for learning the game close to home, with the nearest year-round rinks on the Near West Side — like Johnny’s Icehouse and the Chicago Blackhawks’ facility — or in northwest Indiana, he said.
Even if there were rinks nearby, few families can afford the equipment, travel and fees necessary to succeed in hockey, he said.
“For a kid in my neighborhood … there’s really nothing around here for him or her to learn about the sport outside of seeing it on TV,” Moore said. “Rinks are nearby where the people have the capital and the clout. That’s why a lot of these rinks are in the suburbs.”
With hockey’s challenges nowhere near resolved, Shah and Moore said they’re open to building on their work for “Game Misconduct” with future books.
Shah is “kind of fried” after going in-depth on heavy topics like hazing and sexual assault, but she could revisit the issues after taking a needed break.
“My plan was always to be a novelist, not a nonfiction writer,” Shah said. “I never thought I would write a nonfiction book. But if the opportunity [to write another] presents itself … it’s definitely not something I would shy away from.”
Moore expects to see increased demand for more books on hockey’s toxic culture, especially considering “Game Misconduct” was sent to the publisher months before the Chicago Blackhawks’ alleged refusal to report a staffer’s sexual assaults was revealed.
At the same time, he’s preparing for pushback from a “loud minority” who will assume he and Shah are trying to “cancel hockey” with their book.
That’s not so, they said. Their criticism comes from a place of love: a desire to share the stories of those underrepresented in hockey media, and to make the sport they enjoy more accessible to all.
“We turned in our manuscript in January. So much has happened in hockey since then,” Moore said. “People can critique us and everything else, but there was never a shortage of content [about inequities in the sport]. Those folks have to ask themselves why that is.”
Moore and Shah will discuss “Game Misconduct” and hockey’s future at a release party 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at Madison Street Books, 1127 W. Madison St.
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