Hockey and Law Librarianship

I’m a bit of a sports nut. I love watching all types of sports on TV. And I get ridiculous when I go see any sport live. Roller derby is the bomb! The only sport I just don’t get is cricket. Maybe one day. Anyway, when I found out that the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) was meeting in Toronto, I just had to go. It’s the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame!

The Hockey Hall of Fame was all I had imagined and more. There’s a shrine to Wayne Gretzky, uniforms from players for all over the world, hockey equipment and uniforms over time, an interactive play-by-play booth (it’s harder than it looks). And…the Stanley Cup!

During the conference, I was chatting with everyone about my quest and found out a lot of information about Canadian hockey and hockey in general. There was a surprisingly tense eight-game series between Canadian NHL all-stars and a team of Russian amateurs. It was supposed to be a slam dunk, but Canada ended up having to play a decisive final game to win:

In September 1972, Canada’s best hockey players from the National Hockey League (NHL) played the élite amateurs from the Soviet Union in a friendly series. When Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau met his Soviet counterpart Alexei Kosygin in 1971, their discussions had included increasing the hockey competitions between the two countries. Soon after, hockey hierarchies of both nations decided on a series of eight games, four to be played
across Canada and four in Moscow.

For Canadians, the Summit Series was intended to be a celebration of their global supremacy in ice hockey. The architects of Soviet hockey, on the other hand, had designs on surprising Canada and the world with their skill and claiming the Canadian game as their own.
[Wilson – See below.]

Almost every major Canadian city seems to have a pro hockey team. Face masks don’t seem to have been standard equipment until the 1970s. How did the players survive?!

I got to reminisce about some of the great games I’ve seen on TV. It was such fun watching the Sidney Crosby-led Canadian team win Olympic Gold. And the best NHL moments for me – the players on the winning team each carrying and kissing the Stanley Cup at the end. The speed and strength of pro hockey players on ice is a wonderful sight to see!

Now hockey is not all fun and games. The things that make watching and playing hockey great can also mean potential life-threatening injuries to players and fans. So, being a good law librarian, I also checked into the legal aspects of hockey. Hockey players risk concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Fans sometimes get hit by flying pucks. Players assault each other on the ice. And people get head injuries falling from Zambonis (they seem to only get run over by Zambonis in movies).

John Barnes’ The Law of Hockey (LexisNexis, 2010), recommended for sports law practitioners by Daniel Perlin (2011 Canadian Law Library Review), is a good introduction to the legal issues in Canada and the U.S. In one case, R. v. Ciccarelli, (1989) 54 CCC (3d) 121, a player was found guilty of assault for high sticking another player after the whistle had blown. The victim did not implicitly consent to being struck when play was dead. In a similar case, in Lewis v. Soucie, 1990 CanLII 1745 (BC SC), the court found a player liable for negligently injuring a spectator, because the player, while practicing his shot between periods at a game, positioned himself to increase the chance that his shots would hit the plaintiff. The plaintiff did not assume risk of injury from a defendant’s negligent (or perhaps quasi-intentional) acts.

There is no other book focusing solely on ice hockey and the law. General books on sports law sometimes cover hockey. These books and journal articles usually cover labor law, antitrust, contracts, trademark, copyright, criminal law, and tort law issues. Note that sometimes searching for “hockey” is not sufficient as you will get results for field hockey also. For resolution of hockey disputes between different countries, the Tribunal Arbitral du Sport / Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS/CAS) provides a useful forum. Summaries of its cases are published in the Recueil des sentences du TAS = Digest of CAS Awards.

For further reading, here are some interesting articles I found:

  • Donald J.S. Brean & Aldo Forgione, “Missing the Net: The Law and Economics of Alberta’s NHL Player Tax,” 41 Alberta Law Review 425 (2003).
  • C.E.S. Franks, Michael Hawes, & Donald Macintosh, “Sport and Canadian Diplomacy,” 43 International Journal 665 (1988).
  • Jeffrey P. Gleason, “From Russia with Love: The Legal Repercussions of the Recruitment and Contracting of Foreign Players in the National Hockey League,” 56 Buffalo Law Review 599 (2008).
  • Donald Macintosh & Donna Greenhom, “Hockey Diplomacy and Canadian Foreign Policy,” 28 Journal of Canadian Studies 96 (1993).
  • J.J. Wilson, “27 Remarkable Days: The 1972 Summit Series of Ice Hockey Between Canada and the Soviet Union,” 5 Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 271 (2004).
  • Kate Zdrojeski, “International Ice Hockey: Player Poaching and Contract Dispute,” 42 Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law 775 (2010).


  1. Hi Lyo – maybe you and I should write the next “ice hockey and the law” book. Love the picture with the Stanley Cup, and so happy my Kings’ names are finally on it. :-) Great article.


  2. PS – I did a blog post on the NHL labor dispute for Pepperdine’s blog, it’s here:

  3. Lyonette Louis-Jacques

    Thanks! And great blog post! Crossing my figures they can play some of this season.

  4. Lyonette Louis-Jacques


  5. Any indication in those law review articles in US publications of how many of the authors are Canadian? It seems a fairly common practice among Canadian graduate students in the US to write on Canadian topics, in part because that’s what is familiar, in part because that’s what is of interest to them, and in part because there are probably fewer competing articles than on US-focused subjects. I suspect at least that the nationality of authors would be different than for articles on, say, basketball or NASCAR racing…

  6. Lyonette Louis-Jacques

    Jennifer Allison has followed up her great blog post with a great legal research guide! “The National Hockey League and the Law” (Harvard):
    (it focuses on NHL legal issues, mainly labor disputes)

  7. The Law of Hockey” by John Barnes is not included —Unbelievable !!!