October 19, 2015
Change Of Arena: Hockey's Politicians
Since it's election day in Canada (notice how they picked the election day to coincide with only one NHL game and none played in Canada?) I thought we'd look at hockey's politicians over the years:
Swing State Project, a Democrat blog covering election news in the United States, is reporting that former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter wants to US Congress.
The three time Olympian and 1994 Stanley Cup champion is reportedly looking at a number of possible districts to run in, with the website speculating in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New York state as the most likely.
Richter is also a recent graduate of Yale, where he obtained a degree in Ethics, Politics & Economics in 2006. He also reportedly campaigned for Democrat John Hall in a successful congressional bid in 2006.
Richter has not yet made any comments on this possibility.
With this announcement, I wanted to dig deeper into the intertwined history between politics and sport.
There are no shortage of crossovers, including Steve Largent (NFL Hall of Famer and US Congressman), Bill Bradley (NY Knicks star and US Senator), Arnold Schwarzenegger (body builder and Governor of California), Sebastien Coe (distance runner and British MP), and Imran Khan (Pakistani cricketer and leader of the Justice Party).
Hockey has no shortage of political crossovers, either.
Syl Apps was a superstar hockey player and a pole vaulting Olympian who showed an interest in politics long before his athletic career came to an end. The All-Star center ran for federal parliament in 1940 with the Conservative party, then known as the National Government Party. He would fall 138 votes shy of election.
After returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs from his service in the Second World War, star center Syl Apps also served as Ontario's Athletics Commissioner. He would later jump into provincial politics, serving the Kingston area from 1963 through 1975. He was Ontario's Minister of Correctional Services from 1971 through 1975.
Liberal Bucko McDonald was twice successful in serving federally, representing the Parry Sound area in the 1945 and 1949 elections. A fellow liberal MP in 1949 was Lionel Conacher, who represented the Toronto Trinity riding, successfully defending it in 1953. Conacher had served as an Ontario MLA over a decade earlier.
Howie Meeker made it a federal hat trick when he won the Conservative seat in Waterloo South in a 1951 by-election. Meeker, who was still playing with the Leafs at the time time, did not seek re-election in 1953.
The only other active NHLer to serve politically was Red Kelly, then with the Toronto Maple Leafs. At the request of Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson, Kelly ran in the Toronto riding of York West, successfully defending in 1963. In that 1963 election Kelly defeated Conservative candidate R. Alan Eagleson by over 17,000 votes.
In 1998 Hockey Hall of Famer Frank Mahovlich was appointed to the Canadian senate by then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Around the same time Chretien was trying to convince Jean Beliveau to take the post of Governor General. Beliveau had to turn down the offer, choosing to instead help raise his grandchildren who had lost their father.
Former Flame Bob MacMillan served as a MLA in Prince Edward Island beginning in 2000, though he lost his seat by a slim margin in 2003. "Mack the Knife" represented the Conservatives.
In 2004, Hall of Fame goaltender/writer/executive Ken Dryden entered into politics in the safe Liberal riding of York Center. Dryden has twice been elected, and even ran for leadership of the federal Liberal Party.
2004 saw another Hockey Hall of Famer skate onto the political rinks. Peter Stastny ran for office in his native Slovakia, later being elected as one of the country's three Members of the European Parliament. Viacheslav Fetisov was named chairman of Russia's state federation for physical culture and sports and federal sports agency, although as I understand it neither was an elected position. He later became a federal council senator
Earlier in 2007 Richter's one time teammate Darren Langdon ran for the Conservative nomination in a recent Newfoundland by-election, but fell short.
Jim Bennett, son of NHL goalie Harvey Bennett and brother of NHLers Curt, Bill and Harvey Bennett Jr, has had a long but unsuccessful career in politics. Jim played hockey while studying Classics at Ivy League Brown University. While still in school he made his first foray into politics, running for the Rhode Island state legislature. He later would run for Rhode Island treasurer and governor, falling short both times.
In the 2008 federal election, Thomas Steen star candidate for the Conservatives in that Winnipeg's Elmwood-Transcona riding