By Alessandro Rea
for the course English 101
Instructor: Gina Granter
Is Hockey a “low culture” Event?
The essay, ‘‘Hockey Etiquette for the Beginner”, written by Albert Koehl, discusses how hockey is a legitimate cultural event with its own social rules. According to Albert Koehl, hockey deserves to be considered as a “high culture” rather than “low culture” activity (91). In his essay he compares opera and hockey, and Koehl tries to attract people unacquainted with hockey to look at it as the important event he claims it to be. Koehl’s main idea, that hockey is a legitimate cultural event, is highlighted throughout the essay with his use of comparison/contrast and his level of language.
Albert Koehl starts his essay by stating a few simple rules that a hockey beginner should follow when attending a game. Koehl employs a directive process analysis, instructing his readers in what they should do to follow etiquette; for example, he says they should always make sure to arrive on time, otherwise they will be stuck outside waiting until intermission starts. Hopefully they’re in winter attire, because it might take a while. Similarly, at the opera no one is allowed to come in late because it would cause a disturbance among the audience. Hockey fans are very much into their sport; they are focused and intensely concentrated in the game. Mocking them is one thing you cannot do, just like you cannot tell a mesmerized opera lover to calm down while he or she is enjoying a symphony. As the game is in play, conversations should be limited to questions that can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Comparably, when at the opera, phoning a stockbroker during a symphony would be very inappropriate. Die-hard hockey fans will even go to the extent of crying at the “demise” of their favored team during a playoff match (92). This is in fact very acceptable behavior according to Koehl, who gives the example of a man who only cried twice in his life, each time when the Toronto Maple Leafs got eliminated from the playoffs. Belittling a man who weeps at the sight of a hockey game is as wrong as mocking someone “moved to tears by fair Juliet’s plight” (92). Koehl’s comparison between behavioral conduct at a hockey playoff game and at the opera illustrates how hockey and opera are very alike, and how it is a cultural event that should be noted as “high culture” (91).
Opera is usually characterized as sophisticated and as an event only for well-to-do people who speak in a comparatively ‘fancy’ way. Hockey, on the other hand, is seen as a sport only for those who cannot speak proper English and who have a bottle of booze at arm’s reach. Koehl gives his language prestige to emphasize hockey’s significance, and uses informal language when describing the opera to show how hockey and opera are very similar. This is ironic because there is a reversal of convention happening in Koehl’s writing, due to the fact that he associates his higher-level language to hockey, and improper language to opera. As Koehl describes the appropriate conduct of a guest attending a playoff match, he uses quite the vocabulary. Not arriving on time for a hockey match is considered a “punctuality faux pas”, and may “prejudice” a future invitation (91). Here Koehl’s level of language is sophisticated and it gives the idea that hockey can fall into the same category as opera. This is because his word choice is one that is usually only associated to “high culture” (91). Koehl continues on with elaborate words, such as “declassé”, when he addresses yet another important rule to follow when attending a playoff match: never remark upon the skill of the opposing team (91). If the opposing team scores, then Koehl states that you must quietly “gauge” the host’s reaction, rather than writing it in more simplistic terms such as look or stare (91). Once again, this demonstrates how Koehl is interpreting hockey as the important cultural event that it is. When he describes the opera, he uses informal language to emphasize the idea that opera is similar to hockey, even though they are thought to be part of two completely different social orders. Koehl uses the words “singin’” and “yellin’” when he refers to what an opera actually is in the eyes of a beloved fan, rather than using a more elaborate word choice (91). This implies yet again his disdain for those who classify hockey as ‘‘low culture’’, since he uses irony when associating proper language to hockey and not opera (91).
To conclude, Albert Koehl thoroughly explains how he feels hockey deserves more acknowledgement as a “high culture” event, and that it should not be classified solely as “low culture” (91). His use of comparison and contrast between hockey and opera emphasizes how similar these events are, though they are thought to be polar opposites. In fact they should both fall under the same category of high society events. Furthermore, Koehl’s level of language also allows the readers to see that in using better terminology when describing hockey he reinforces the idea that hockey is a legitimate cultural event.
Koehl, Albert. “Hockey Etiquette for the Beginner”. English Course Pack. Ed. Gina Granter. Montreal: Dawson College, 2011. Page 9-9. Print.