WSU education professor is an expert on the NHL

Hockey fans are wondering how the U.S. team will fare in the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

“Who would win the competition in Turin is anybody’s guess,” said John Wong, associate professor at WSU’s College of Education.

“With 10 out of 23 members having previous Olympic Games experience, the U.S. team will get a good chance in Turin,” he said. “But, unlike the 1998 tournament, the American team is no longer the odds-on favorite, and it is this unpredictability that will make the Olympic hockey competition a most interesting event.”

Wong, author of “Lord of the Rinks: The emergence of the National Hockey League,” defines himself as “merely a student of the history of hockey,” but his research has given him deep knowledge about the history of the NHL and its teams.

Against the U.S. team stands the fact that Olympic hockey is different than professional hockey as played in the NHL. The National Hockey League game, which most North American fans are familiar with, is a game that involves a lot more body contact.

“In addition, different rules and size of the rink used in Olympic competitions favor European-born NHL players, who grew up using international rules and playing on international size rinks,” Wong said.

“All the top contenders–Canada, the United States, Russia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland–have rosters consisting almost entirely of professional players in the NHL, the dominant if not the premier league in the hockey world. Additionally, these countries have won medals at one Olympic Game or another,” he said.

Hockey is what scholars call a “modern sport,” since it appeared in its organized form in the late nineteenth century.

“Hockey was and has been associated with white masculinity ever since given its potential for, and actual incidents of, aggression and violent confrontations,” Wong said. “Although there had been evidence that women and minorities played hockey early on, the focus, especially by the media, was on men – white men. One can argue that this is still true today.”

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