Hockey, sport of thinkers

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

The NHL lockout has been good for education.

Ask Dee Morrissey, who is teaching a course on hockey at Fanshawe College.

That's right -- hockey.

Morrissey may be the only woman teaching such a course at the post-secondary level.

It explores hockey from a number of perspectives, including historical, political and economic. Falling within those outlines are subjects like violence in hockey, the media, small- and big-market teams, and the development of players through the minor system.

The fact the NHL season never got off the ground hasn't been a detriment at all to Perspectives on Hockey, which first appeared as a Fanshawe course this year.

"The strike had a positive impact on the course. As far as material goes, it's just been raining material," Morrissey says. "All the sportswriters who would be writing about rather isolated issues such as injuries, this incident happening or that incident or game summaries, had to dig a little deeper. They had to write more interesting feature stories, more exposes (and) a lot more reflective in-depth feature stories that they might not have done before."

Some might find it a little strange that hockey is taught in school. Morrissey believes it's a natural. Hockey is such a big part of Canadian culture that issues surrounding the game foster discussion and "critical thinking."

"There was no problem making it academic," Morrissey says. "Hockey is the hook, but within this course there's sociology, political science, culture, an economic course. To close out the course, we are looking at hockey and our national identity."

Hockey is a passionate subject for Canadians, so passionate that too often it overshadows reality and common sense.

"I hope at the end (that) students can comment on the historical events on hockey and discuss how hockey and culture relate," she says.

"From a generic outcome, I hope they learn things like presentation skills, organizational skills and the most important one of all is critical- thinking skills. They are passionate about hockey, they are passionate about their opinions. What I want to do is present them with more information so they can have informed opinions on things like violence in hockey, so they can support those opinions."

Sounds like we can use a few more of these school courses to change the direction hockey has been heading over the years.

A passion for the game is what really drove Morrissey to create the course. She has a history degree from Western as well as degrees in journalism and adult education from elsewhere.

She wanted to find out a way to teach a subject she loved.

"I knew from interaction with my students that hockey would be a winner."

One section was a sellout with 60 students while 50 registered for the second. She had expected about 30 students would sign up for the course. It was unquestionably one of the most popular courses offered.

Morrissey will offer the course again after Christmas.

"When word gets around that there's actually work involved the numbers might drop a bit," she laughed.

"They saw hockey and thought, 'Yahoo.' Then they found out there is a book report, reading papers, we do a clippings' scrapbook . . . they have to read editorials, commentaries."

Just in case you were wondering, Morrissey says it appears her students are mirroring the feeling of most Canadians when it comes to the NHL lockout. They are siding with the owners.

"I did my best to provide both sides of the argument, but there is still the feeling that players are at fault," she says. "They do have a better understanding of what the players have been through over the past 75 years."

As for Morrissey, "I feel like the luckiest person here to be able to teach a course that I'm passionate about and that the students are interested in," she says.

"I'm looking out the window right now and someone is walking out, carrying a hockey stick. How Canadian is that?"

As Canadian as Hockey 101.


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