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If you want a snapshot of how hockey culture is changing, take a look at Everyday Hockey Heroes Volume II, the newly published sequel to the bestselling collection of tales about regular folk who populate Canada’s game, fronted by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

The first volume, published in 2018 and subtitled Inspiring Stories On and Off the Ice, consisted of more than a dozen portraits of hockey-loving Canadians (and one American) who embody the sport’s grassroots values. Many of them had overcome significant adversity to be part of the game.

In his introduction to that book, McKenzie acknowledged he had never faced the same sort of barriers as those that confronted Métis player-turned-coach Kevin Monkman; or the Hockey Night in Punjabi broadcaster Harnarayan Singh; or the three-time Olympian Hilary Knight. But in the introduction to Volume II, McKenzie goes a step further and uncorks a specific term for what he had described, but not identified in the first book: “white privilege.”

He knows it will upset some of his fans. Even if he doesn’t think it should.

Like the first volume, which spent two months on The Globe and Mail’s bestseller list, most of Vol. II is written by former Sportsnet broadcaster Jim Lang. His subjects include Jack Jablonski, who suffered a terrible injury during a high-school hockey game and has become an advocate for paralysis recovery; Émilie Castonguay, a former player who is now one of the few female NHL agents (not to mention Alexis Lafrenière’s rep); and Rob Facca, an NHL scout who became an advocate and fundraiser after his son was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Jessica Platt of the PWHPA wrote her own chapter, in which she shares the struggles she faced as a transgender player.

In addition to the introduction, McKenzie contributes a chapter, writing about Terry Mercury and Lindbergh Gonsalves, two Black players from the Toronto suburb of Scarborough who enjoyed promising junior careers but never made it to the pros. McKenzie talks to them about their early talent, as well as the racism they faced: the physical and emotional abuse from other players and the broader community that slowly leached the joy from their playing.

On the one hand, McKenzie writes that, as a hockey analyst focused on data and given to skepticism, he might be inclined to point out that a couple of players failing to make it to the big leagues couldn’t necessarily be attributable to systemic issues. After all, “the road is littered with guys who coulda, woulda, shoulda played pro hockey if not for this or that.” But he also acknowledges that “for me, as a white man, it’s utterly incomprehensible to feel what it’s like to have your passion and love of the game stripped bare from you for no other reason than the colour of your skin.”

Over the phone this week, McKenzie elaborated. “If someone says you have white privilege, somebody might recoil and say, ‘Oh, I’m not privileged.’” In fact, as he’d written in the first volume, he grew up in a home where his father worked two jobs; his mother was in a wheelchair for many years until her death at 54; money was tight. Even so, “once you understand what white privilege is, you [realize you have it.] It’s real simple.

“I’m white and I’m male, in a sport that is dominated by white males. So I’ve had no impediments to getting a job in hockey media. I’ve had no impediments in carving out the career that I’ve had. Women would not have the same frame of reference. A Black person would not have the same frame of reference – or an Indigenous person, or a person of colour, or an LGBTQ [person]. Or a handicapped person. All that is, is saying, ‘Hey, you’re white, you’re male and you may have had things easier than other people.’”

He realizes, nevertheless, that some people will be offended by his comments – perhaps even, to use a noxious word, triggered.

“The hilarious thing about people who are triggered when they hear ‘white privilege’ is how sensitive they must be,” he says. “Because when you read the stories of how many women or LGBTQ, or Black or Indigenous [people], when you understand the difficulty of so many of the challenges they face in trying to move from the margins to the centre of the culture – somebody saying, ‘You’ve got white privilege,’ is, like, nothing.”

The original mission of the Everyday series was simply to tell good stories about trailblazers or those who’ve overcome adversity. But since the publication of the first volume, “there have been more stories and themes and conflicts, or whatever else you want to call it, in terms of hockey culture” – he mentions the ugly allegations made last year by Akim Aliu, which sparked the firing of his former coach, Bill Peters – “so I wanted to try and tackle that head-on.”

The writing itself, he admits, is a challenge. “That’s a time-consuming, painful process,” he said. “A lot of time when I’m writing a story, there’s breaking news, I’ve got to do social media, I’ve got to do this [TV] hit, then I’ve got to go do a radio hit, I’ve got a family commitment – you’re trying to squeeze it all in and you’re losing your mind.” The onset of the pandemic last spring, then, came as something of a mixed blessing because McKenzie had some rare down time in his schedule when he could write his contributions for Everyday.

In theory, he should have even more free time nowadays, because last August he announced he was stepping away from his full-time gig at TSN. Not that you’d know it: This week he recorded an NHL Draft Preview show and wrote a long accompanying piece for And on Saturday, after an early family Christmas celebration, he’s headed to Edmonton to cover the world junior hockey championships, which run until Jan. 6.

“The world juniors and draft rankings are two of the biggest things that I will continue to do for the next five years for TSN,” he said. “When I semi-retired, I was sure to use the word ‘semi’ because I knew I was still going to be quite busy at certain times of the year.”