Saturday, 15 February 2014

Medal Quest - Escapades on Ice

With 125 days left before the start of the 9th Gay Games in Cleveland/Akron we take out first look at some of the Gay Games medal winners of the sports which are keeping us on the edge of our seats this week – figure skating and ice hockey.

These are two sports which have been always blighted by stereotypes in the men’s competitions. Ice hockey has always been seen as a macho-man’s sport and one which is too “hard” for gay men. Figure skating, on the other hand, has more often than not had more than it’s fair share of “is he/isn’t he?” questions about skaters’ sexuality.

In a way, the Gay Games are a bit like some of the early modern Olympics. The first officially recognised Olympic Winter games were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. But several summer games had winter sports in them before this. The 1908 London summer Olympics had figure skating. In Antwerp in 1920 this was joined by ice hockey.

Both figure skating and ice hockey have been popular sports at the Gay Games. Ice hockey made its first appearance at the third games in Vancouver in 1990. Figure skating first appeared in the New York Gay Games in 1994.

For a time there was some talk about establishing a separate Gay Winter Games. Denver, Colorado, was even chosen as the venue for the inaugural games in 1986, but problems with funding and logistics led to the project being abandoned.

I’ll take a look at the figure skating medallists during the Paralympic Games next month. But for today let’s look at medal winners in ice hockey.

It’s no surprise to learn that it was the Canadians who introduced ice hockey to the Gay Games – it’s a national sport. Complete results for the tournaments in Vancouver 1990 are not available but the gold, silver and bronze medals went to Team Seattle, Los Angeles Blades and Team Vancouver respectively. There was also a women’s tournament. Results have not been published. Three teams are known to have competed, one from Saskatchewan, one from Alberta, and an unidentified third team.

Overall the traditional US/Canada rivalry has put the Americans at the top of the ice hockey medal table, with 32 teams winning medals of various colours. Needless to say, the fact that the US have entered more teams over the decades is a big factor. Canada, in comparison, has had 14 teams win medals.

Most of the teams were originally formed specifically for the Gay Games and have been the catalyst for lgbt ice hockey clubs forming across north America.

A few of the individual medallists from the Gay Games ice hockey tournaments are :

Lauren Apollo, who played on USA’s national women’s ice hockey team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the 2002 Sydney Gay Games she won a gold medal with the Bad Dogs team. Lauren played for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats in the early 80s, and in 2010 was inducted into the university’s athletic Hall of Fame.

Brent Benaschak, founder of the WinterPride festival (originally called Altitude) in Whistler, British Colombia. He who won a bronze medal with Vancouver’s Cutting Edges team in Sydney 2002. I’ll be saying more about WinterPride next month.

Kevin Brauer first competed at the Gay Games in the 10km road race in Vancouver. He returned in Sydney 2002 to win a silver medal with the Colorado Climax hockey team. Kevin is currently the Director of the North American branch of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, the organisers of the Outgames.

Brian Cordeiro has probably more gold medals in ice hockey than anyone, but complete lists of team members are not available for some Gay Games. As a member of the Boston Lobsters (originally Boston Pride) team Brian won gold in Amsterdam 1998, Sydney 2002 and Chicago 2006.

Daniel Gawthorp was the main mover in establishing the first ice hockey tournament in Vancouver, and is an author, biographer, and first editor of “Xtra! West” lgbt magazine. He formed the Cutting Edges hockey team for the 1998 Gay Games, and was on the same bronze medal team as Brent Benaschak.

The Leftwing team – a true family affair! Siblings Rebekah, Bobby and Mary Seaman, their mother Kathy Seaman and her partner Jen Putney, and Jen’s brother Ted and his wife Rebecca, won silver medals in Chicago 2006.

Many more players could have been mentioned but space restricts me to those above.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Thanks for the awesome shoutout to the Left Wings. The Gay Games were one of the most amazing experiences. Incredibly powerful moment for our family. - Rebekah