Hockey: the cure for rape?


Hi! Here’s a table of reported sexual offences for the city of Vancouver for a particular group of months.

Sex Offences in Vancouver (city), Apr-Jul, 2004-11

If you adjust the figures slightly for Vancouver’s population growth and look at the annual playoff progress of the city’s beloved Canucks, what you’ll find is that you can’t use these numbers to prove much of a link between NHL hockey and sexual violence. But if there is one, it’s probably negative. July is (at a high level of statistical significance) the worst month for sexual offences; it’s also the only one of these months in which hockey is never played. In months during which the Canucks were eliminated from Stanley Cup contention, the rate of sexual offences was, on average, more than 20% lower than in other months. There were more sex offences in months with less hockey even if you correct for pure date effects, and the lockout year (2005) had a higher rate of sex offences than either the year following or the year prior.

If I took these data nuggets and attempted to argue from them that hockey prevents sexual violence, you would probably not be impressed. (Indeed, it would probably occur to you that reports of sexual offence are a poor proxy for the overall level of sex violence in the population.) Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning, even in much weaker and less rigorous form, isn’t a problem for Laura Robinson and the Winnipeg Free Press. (For fine details of the horror, see Tyler Dellow’s reaction to Robinson. For other examples of Wade Belak’s death being used irresponsibly in sociological arguments, simply pick up absolutely any Canadian newspaper at all.)


Hockey: the cure for rape?

  1. I really have no idea about the relationship between hockey and sexual assault…but I think you are being unfair to your colleagues in regard to their handling of Wade Belak’s death.   Given the questions that have been raised about the effects of multiple head injuries and the recent rise in deaths of hockey enforcers by non-natural causes, I think it is only normal that people want to know what is happening.  I saw a very insightful interview done by George Larocque.  He talked about his job as an enforcer for the Edmonton Oilers and how difficult it was to psych himself to fight every night.  He also talked about wide-spread drug and alcohol abuse in the NHL.  According to him, a lot of players are self-medicating instead of getting help for problems like depression.  One thing about suicide is that it often spreads.  If one person does it, someone else close to them sees that as a solution to their pain and they do it.  Not confronting and not talking about it, doesn’t make it go away.

    • So the relevant thing about Wade Belak’s death is that it was “non-natural”? If he’d had a bike accident, we’d be equally justified in writing hundreds of columns and editorials about fighting, all pegged to his demise?

      • Okay Colby, Wade Belak’s death was self-induced as were the deaths of the other two NHL enforcers this summer….that is relevant.  I work in psychiatry.  When someone takes their own life, you look for reasons why.  When three people in the same line of work, take their own lives, you look at a pattern.  If three people who basically “fought for a living” died in cycling accidents, we would probably write hundreds of columns about their demise – wondering if they blacked out or commited suicide by bike.
        How can you not wonder if the fighting had something to do with the mental unwellness of these men?

        • It was self-induced? You and “my colleagues” know this how?

          • His mother gave an interview saying he hanged himself.
            You guys reported he commited suicide in this online magazine.

          • No, she did not. Her exact quote was “All I know is that it is still under investigation. The only thing I can tell you is he did not die of natural causes.”

          • delete comment

          • Look at your own online magazine Macleans online. It says he commited suicide and a tv station said his mother said he hanged himself.  It is also on google.

          • Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.

          • Colby, I have no interest in discrediting you.  I would be happy to delete my comments, if you would like to do so as well.

          • You’re discrediting who now? I’m still waiting for an answer to my question.

          • delete comment

      • Sorry, I could not reply to the comment thread because there was no reply button… I am not sure what question you want a reply to.  If it is the one about Wade Belak taking his own life then I can only tell you that it has been reported everywhere that he did.  Including in your own online magazine.  In fact, there is an article saying he did right now.  There is also an article on google and it was reported on tv that his mother said he hanged himself.

        • I see we do have a short unsigned item that states flatly that “Belak committed suicide”. I know of no warrant for this. The police seem to have tipped off the Star but the anonymice were careful to characterize it an “apparent suicide”. And assuming your claim to “work in psychiatry” is worth more than a lead dime, I bet you can figure out how a man in a hotel room could be found hanged without having intended to kill himself. Pop quiz!

          • Yah, but working in psychiatry we know when it is not a suicide attempt but something else too.  Believe it or not, it is not that hard to figure out the difference….it has something to do with their state of undress.
            By the way, ESPN and CBC and everyone is quoting the same source and saying it is suicide…and that he was on anti-depressants for 4 years.  Maybe he left a note.

          • Police have said specifically there was no note. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/belaks-death-pushes-nhl-to-investigate-off-ice-tragedies/article2151146/
            That Globe piece is, unlike so many, appropriately careful NOT to say Belak committed suicide.

          • You are reaching, Colby, with the Globe and Mail story!  No they didn’t say suicide but they said “hanging” and they said his death has spurred the NHL to investigate the deaths of three enforcers.  Obviously, he had his pants up.

          • You know he had his pants up because the NHL is investigating? So sensible.

          • Absolutely Colby.  Had he died the way David Carradine did, we all would know about it by now.  The NHL brass would make sure.

          • Colby, I stand corrected.  Now the papers are all reporting that Wade Belak’s death was likely an accident.   Shame on the police for not just disclosing that it was an accident in the first place.  No matter what people think, it is a relief to know it wasn’t suicide.

  2. Well…maybe a connection between hockey and our foreign policy…

    Hockey is a violent game….and we had peace keepers for years.

    Americans have baseball….the boringest game ever…but are very warlike  LOL

    As to the serious topic of mental illness…it has to be addressed ….1 in 4 people have a problem with it…either short or long-term.  We ignore it at our peril.

  3. Wall St Journal, July 2011:

    Superstitions arise as the result of the spurious identification of patterns. Even pigeons are superstitious.

    Beliefs come first; reasons second. That’s the insightful message of “The Believing Brain,” by Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic magazine. In the book, he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are “belief engines” that naturally “look for and find patterns” and then infuse them with meaning.

    Mr. Shermer marshals an impressive array of evidence from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? 


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