Goon: the enforcer in hockey
Hockey movie Goon (Dowse, 2012) explored many of the themes and tensions in the sport of hockey surrounding violence. The film glorified fighting, the enforcer role in hockey, and was the highest rated sport film of 2012 in Canada. The values of the enforcers were depicted as hyper-violence, homophobia, and a total disregard for one’s health. Overall, the goon was portrayed as a simpleton in the film as the story of fictional Doug Glatt, “a dumb but lovable bar bouncer plucked from obscurity to be the enforcer” for a minor league hockey team (Boyle, 2014).
Boyle probed much deeper into the film’s significance as indicative of a crisis in white masculinity and working class labor in the Great Recession era, as well as in hockey itself (Boyle, 2014). The article argued that celebrating enforcers and not acknowledging the violence as problematic “can be read as a requiem for the enforcer’s labor-a mournful lamentation for their muscle work as a lost or dying art at an historical moment of crisis in hockey identity” (Boyle, 2014). The typical hockey enforcer was a working class male, a class suffering a crisis of little opportunities and lost prestige. The elimination of fighting in hockey would mean one less shot at escaping blue collar poverty for potentially many hundreds of males and their families. These are the players that cannot score a point but get a professional contract based on enforcer status. As the hockey commentator Don Cherry stated about the growing highbrow assessment against fighting: “It’s all we’ve got and the elite want to rip it down” (Boyle, 2014). There were approximately 60 jobs in the NHL for enforcers who couldn’t play but who could fight, although that number is shrinking particularly in the US franchises.
Despite this, many young men take the chance to play enforcer in the NHL, even with the growing evidence of injury, to move up in status and income. One past enforcer, Toronto Maple Leaf Nick Kypreos, stated “the labor market of the NHL coerces men into accepting the tough guy role” (Boyle, 2014). Is it ethical to allow young men to be coerced into harmful decisions based on these factors knowing the costs and highly likely injuries involved?
Review by Dr. Rob Hudson, Director of Library/Archivist, Associate Professor, United States Sports Academy
Dowse, M., Carmody, D., Baruchel, J., Goldberg, E., (2012). Goon. US. Magnolia Home Entertainment.
Boyle, E. (2014). Requiem for a “Tough Guy”: Representing Hockey Labor, Violence and Masculinity in Goon. Sociology of Sport Journal, 31(3), 327-348.