Men at Play: A Working Understanding of Professional Hockey


222 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2220-4
DDC 305.9'7969




Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Robidoux, who is currently an assistant professor of kinesiology at the
University of Lethbridge, has based Men at Play on his 1999 doctoral
dissertation. By reworking the material, he has attempted to make his
research more accessible to a wider audience; however, its style remains
more scholarly than popular.

Robidoux is a former collegiate and junior hockey player. During the
1996–97 hockey season, he followed an American Hockey League team,
studying the team using an ethnographic approach. His stated objective
was “to gain an understanding of hockey as an occupation, as it is
‘worked’—a view not generally shared by Canadians,” who still
tend to see professional hockey, somewhat romantically, as involving men
who are “playing” a game as opposed to earning a living.

As required by ethical research protocols, Robidoux assigned the AHL
team’s players, coaches, and other staff pseudonyms; he also disguised
the team’s location and real name. Unfortunately, this required
anonymity distances the nonacademic reader. Robidoux was also
constrained in his research by being denied access to the team’s
dressing room, a situation that largely forced him to gather his data
more indirectly, while the team was on the ice for practices or games.
Additionally, his interviews with team personnel were limited by the
individuals’ willingness to be interviewed.

Though Robidoux spent some seven months with the team, the book’s
chapters do not follow a chronological approach. Instead, he focuses
each chapter on a particular theme, such as the use of initiation
rituals to “homogenize” men in professional hockey. The conclusions
of his research are not startlingly new. His bottom line is that
professional hockey “must be reintroduced to the players ... for what
it is—an occupation.”


Robidoux, Michael A., “Men at Play: A Working Understanding of Professional Hockey,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 29, 2024,