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  • A VoIce in the Rink: Playing with Our Histories and Evoking Autoethnography
  • Megan L. Popovic

Autoethnography, Narrative, Story, Lived Experience, Hockey, Family

  When ice freezes    cheers can be heard.The bare canvas of incredible magnitude      has emerged.  The voice of expansion comforts  those who do not fear its turbulenceWhen protected from immanent danger,    joy is the reward of connection.Stillness has made a way for the impossible:    everyone can walk on water.

When Ice Freezes1

After all of these years, it is that smell, the bittersweet scent of the ice, which takes me away to another time. . . . [End Page 235]

. . . The maroon 1987 Chrysler mini van is packed, and each teammate is in his or her assumed position. Dad is in the front seat, focusing hard on the road, stating periodically

An intriguing yet obscure fact about Bruce [Springsteen] or his hero Frank, the Big M [Mahovlich], as his mind races in and out strategic plays to coach the boys through.2 Mom is in the passenger seat, Arenas of Ontario map tightly in hand while her right foot instinctively slams on her (imaginary) brake pedal in case my father drifts to the left or speeds a little too fast for her conservative proclivity. Mark and I stretch out on our designated benches, humming along while La Bamba blasts from the speakers. Mark, being the younger brother, is relegated to the shortened middle bench (naturally!) as he sits in his habitual state of peaceful, silent contemplation, while I, the strong-minded, dictatorial older sister, lie in my self-acquired fortress at the back and escape familial interaction by daydreaming about Gordeeva and Grinkov’s perfection on ice. . . .3

From his first day of hockey, Mark has been a defenseman, quiet and calm, sharp-minded, and physically-gifted. Even two decades ago I could envision him taking the puck up centre ice, end-to-end, with both the fluidity of a dancer and the strength of a warrior, competing with some of the best players of his time. From rinks in small Ontario towns, to the Pee Wee tournament in Quebec City, to outdoor rinks in Switzerland, to the historic Luzhniki Stadium4 in Moscow for the World Junior Hockey Championships, my family was able to travel the world with Mark’s hockey as the catalyst.5 While Mark was the sole hockey player on our family team, many memories of my youth draw from the Games in the rink.6

I am not in love with the game of hockey. Hockey is the sport my brother plays. However, Mark’s commitment and destiny to become a professional hockey player has influenced myriad perceptions of my self over the tenure of my young life. While striving to uncover the person I really am and my life’s purpose throughout my doctoral journey, I reflect constantly on the ways in which my upbringing molded the woman I am today. I have come to appreciate and feel the ways that the intimacy of our family, and dynamics of sibling-rivalry within a national sporting arena that idolizes its young hockey stars, carved their edges into my memories, and shaped my perspectives on my past, hockey, family, and sport in general.

The purpose of this multi-layered, unconventional scholarly piece is to demonstrate an opportunity that exists within the field of sport history. This opportunity is the empowerment of voice through the invocation of autoethnography as a powerful research method/ology.7 Using the hockey game as a template for my paper, I write literally and metaphorically to show how the rink was my arena of memories, and its ice the surface from which I found my Self. In the Foreword section to Phillips’ book, Deconstructing Sport History: A Postmodern Analysis (2006), Munslow writes, “[H]istory is as much about the historian and the present and its own future as it is about the past [End Page 236] itself.”8 I share my memories from a first-person perspective, with the conviction that my stories will inspire the unveiling of a new way to do, or more so to be, history within our academic ice rink. Moreover, my hope is that...


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pp. 235-255
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