Hockey, played in the cold, and featuring androgenous sweat-soaked armour and generations of gap-toothed, ugly players, seems to defy all possibility for sexual arousal.
Bringing a new meaning to the term high-sticking is the challenge behind Five Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica, written by author and Rheostatics rhythm guitarist Dave Bidini.
Hockey drips with a latent – and mostly homosexual – eroticism, says Bidini.
For starters, the hockey fight – where two players strip each other down to their sweaty undershirts – is a homoerotic passion play.
Don Cherry, for all his lamentations of the “pansification” of hockey, has a flamboyance that puts Freddie Mercury to shame.
And, of course, there’s the five hole itself, the curiously named space between the goalie’s legs.
(Thinkin’ Bout Your) Five Hole, one of the play’s opening songs, is laced with hockey-themed innuendo.
“I’m bone dry, and you’re liquid, I’ll slide it through your crease,” sings the sultry-voiced Selina Martin.
Five Hole Story is Bidini’s slam poetry ode to the soft underbelly of the goalkeeper.
“My five hole has made many players hard, but even more players shrivel-dicked after squeezing the game’s dark prize between my legs.”
The bizarre marriage of sex and hockey was instantly Hoovered by the “rock ‘n’ roll” sensibilities of Calgary’s Yellow Rabbit Theatre, after a brief, off-the-cuff pitch by Bidini.
A selection of skits interspersed with original music by the Rheostatics, Five Hole has an admittedly higher purpose than inspiring titillation in new realms.
By showing hockey players as sexual beings, Bidini hopes to capture their humanity, releasing them from the “cardboard-cutout” imagery of the modern NHL player.
“There are very few players in the game that are not vulnerable, and don’t go through incredible anxiety and fear and regret and self doubt every day,” said Bidini.
In researching Tropic of Hockey and The Best Game You Can Name, Bidini’s two literary quests to discover the spirit of hockey, he was able to breach the game’s closely guarded social underworld, where he found a level of humanness generally frowned upon by the traditionalist, uber-macho Don Cherrys of the world.
Several key players have drinking problems, at least one NHL coach is on steroids and a Calgary Flames player refuses to sleep with less than two women at a time, he said.
Even Wayne Gretzky, Canada’s G-rated national icon, consummated his relationship with eventual wife Janet Jones within hours of first meeting her at an LA Lakers game.
Through the camera lens, these athletes are often known only by their statistics and slate of corporate endorsements.
“If fans could see them as a whole, they would find that they have a lot more in common with them,” said Bidini.
One segment of Five Hole follows the fictional Bobby Wolf, a Bobby Hullesque character who desperately turns to a mystical testicular salve to save his fading career.
Beyond Hull’s legendary “Golden Jet” mythology, Bidini always perceived the player as a “complicated and vulnerable guy.”
“You could see him going to a hooker,” said Bidini.
Regarded as one of hockey’s greats, Hull held the Stanley Cup aloft only once, in 1961. By 1972, he had signed onto the fledgling World Hockey Association, “playing in shitty towns in America with a bunch of bucketheads,” said Bidini.
Bidini once bumped into Hull at a Toronto cafe. They chatted for about 90 minutes.
“It was like he had nothing better to do, really, and you almost wanted to say, ‘you’re Bobby Hull, man!’” said Bidini.
Bidini is a late convert to the world of sports.
In his teenage years, he associated it with the “dull-witted, chick-baiting dickheads” who were known to mock his now-trademark porkpie hat and “mod clothes” at Toronto Argonauts games.
“I do think it represents the worst aspects of the Canadian male in a lot of ways,” he said.
Hockey has often lacked for any serious literary depiction, existing only within the dry play-by-play memoirs of former referees and players.
The Fight, Norman Mailer’s 1975 account of the World Heavyweight bout between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, formally brought boxing into the intellectual psyche.
American writer George Plimpton, in his point-of-view accounts of baseball and football, elevated the personalities of players and coaches to an as-yet unseen level.
Literarily, hockey deserved something a bit better, thought Bidini, when he began penning 2001’s Tropic of Hockey, an attempt to capture the purity of the game by seeking it out in the world’s most far-flung locales, including the eighth floor of a Hong Kong shopping mall and the dark-forested Romanian region of Transylvania.
For all the strangeness accruing from a melding of hockey, theatre and rock ‘n’ roll, the Five Hole audience has often represented the strangest hybrid, said Bidini.
“A lot of hosers,” he said.
Contact Tristin Hopper at