Scott Moir, Ambassadorship, and the fight against toxic masculinity in hockey

Ice dancing isn’t a sport as historically ingrained in Canadian culture as hockey, but there’s no denying the legacy that Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue have created within it. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Maple Leafs decided to honour the pair’s 2-gold-medal Olympic season last night with personalized jerseys gifted by Leafs legend Darryl Sittler.

There was also a pre-game interview with Tessa and Scott for Hockey Night in Canada, which prompted this “thinking-out-loud” tweet from Tessa:

The sideways laughing emoji clearly shows that this is intended as a joke, but… what if it wasn’t? The Leafs don’t have an celebrity ambassador currently, so the job is open. Maybe some hype could make this joke a reality. So, I hereby nominate Scott Patrick Moir for the position of Maple Leafs ambassador.

This “ambassador” role would be a very different job for Scott Moir than it is for Aubrey Graham. Drake obviously has a ton of money and does a lot to promote Canadian basketball prowess around the States and world-wide. Scott isn’t in that same boat. He doesn’t have the same fame, or money, but he also wouldn’t be tasked with the same job as Drake. The problems that the Raptors face are different than those that the Leafs face. Spreading the word about the Maple Leafs isn’t the goal here, and with how often Leafs fans overtake away arenas, there isn’t really much room to grow there anyway. The Leafs have a long, somewhat tortured, but very well-known history that the Raptors don’t share. The Raptors are also in a league that is primarily American, both in teams and players, whereas the Leafs are the most financially valuable franchise in hockey. Being a figurehead in Canada’s passion sport doesn’t require anyone to spread the word.

Instead, what the Leafs should be doing with this type of position is growing as people within the game. Major league sports suffer a well-noted problem of toxic masculinity and this is one way to solve that. For those that don’t know, toxic masculinity is essentially a flawed idea of what it means to be a man. Lauding male athletes in these leagues for qualities like fearlessness, never accepting “no” for an answer, toughness, taking what you want, stoicism, etc., are problematic for men, women, and non-binary folks all to some degree. If you want more information on the specifics of what toxic masculinity is, or what it does, there are some links at the bottom of this piece.

Even if you’re not an aficionado in the world of figure skating (I am certainly not), the femininity of the sport should be obvious from an external view. And while figure skating isn’t immune to the effects of toxic masculinity, what better way to combat toxic masculinity than the beautiful femininity the sport of ice dancing offers? And similarly, what better human being to do this than Scott Moir? An athlete with incredible dedication and a multitude of achievements within his sport, who does so without the needing tropes of toxic masculinity.

Canada has been in love with Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue for a long time now, but that love seemed even stronger at what was their last Olympic competition, perhaps their last competition ever, in Pyeongchang. The love even spread world wide with many international Olympics-fans jumping on the Tessa and Scott bandwagon (or “ship” for some). We all know the love we felt seeing an… eccentric… Scott Moir in the stands at the Canada-USA gold medal game.

And with that earlier interview with Scott Oake and that sweet double axel dangle included in this excellent montage Tessa responded to above, it’s clear that he knows his hockey:

All of these things carry weight with people who are passionate about hockey. Being an Olympic hero, knowing the game of hockey, and knowing the tribulations of being a professional athlete all earn respect points for Scott. By tying together his Canada-wide love, passion for the Maple Leafs, and athletic femininity, his word carries weight with all of the stakeholders in this issue, to some degree. This could be a step forward in truly making hockey “for everyone”.

Obviously, the Maple Leafs’ ambassador for people who aren’t straight, or white, or biological and gender-identified men probably should not be a straight (presumed straight, at least, in this case), white, biological and gender-identified man. Instead, Moir could be someone who represents men who, while not being part of a marginalized group, have still suffered the effects of toxic masculinity, and make use of any resulting experiences to represent that viewpoint. This hopefully will reduce toxic masculinity as a whole, even by some small amount, to the benefit of everyone, including those who are not straight, or white, or biological and gender-identified men.

A better world for everyone is what we all should strive for, and while this idea is theoretical, and not even guaranteed to have the hoped-for positive effect, it’s important to keep trying. Hopefully, this idea of femininity breaking walls within the confines of the hockey world isn’t threatening to you, and if it is, maybe this proposed ambassadorship is exactly what you need to jump on board.

Suggested Reading

Since I’m not very good at this kind of writing, I thought it was important to share the pieces of others who have done excellent work explaining the effects of toxic masculinity in a way I don’t think I could.

This piece by Nation Network’s own Curtis Leblanc details the effects that the sport’s toxic masculinity can have on a straight man wanting the best for hockey.

On Violence: Steve Downie and Toxic Culture in Hockey

This piece by Katie “Phyllis Kessel” and Achariya Rezak at Pension Plan Puppets talks of Alex Galchenyuk’s domestic abuse issue, and what it means to support men who are experiencing domestic violence against them.


And lastly, this piece by Andrew on his experience as a transgender man and the effects toxic masculinity has had on him:

View story at Medium.com


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