Recently, I read “Klondikers: Dawson City’s Stanley Cup Challenge and How a Nation Fell in Love with Hockey” by Tim Falconer. It’s a hockey history book about the 1905 Stanley Cup challengers from Dawson City, the small, gold rush outpost-turned-capital city of Canada’s Yukon Province. After traveling for nearly a month across Canada, the Nuggets got absolutely obliterated by the defending champions in Ottawa.
While it’s a great hockey book about the early days of organized hockey, it also provides perspective on that period of Canadian history. Through the turn of the 20th century, the British colony of Canada was transitioning out of the Victorian era. This was an era when many held tightly to Victorian ideals regarding amateurism in sport. Getting paid in any sense got you labelled as a professional; an affront to the prevailing ethics of sport itself. This debate continued for many decades after in Olympic sports, and still plays out today with college athletes here in North America.
And what constituted being labelled a professional back then? Simply getting paid to play. Sometimes it didn’t matter if you got paid in a different sport. Hockey, and especially the Stanley Cup, were quickly gaining coverage and prominence. The desire to claim the trophy by any means necessary, and more importantly enjoying greater profits from growing audiences, brought money into the equation. Shouldn’t the players, often battling through grueling, bloody matches, get a cut of the action too?
Klondikers was a wonderful, well-researched book. Within it, I heard some amazing phrases from that era, including Shamateurism. In the context of this history, it described arrangements for players where they weren’t outright and obvious about getting paid to play. Instead, they might receive benefits for joining a particular team on the sly. This might be expensive gold baubles, or cushy jobs with employers with a financial stake in the teams and/or rinks.
But this term shamateurism got me thinking: What are the modern differences between amateurs and professionals? How have these perceptions changed over the past century? How has modern technology changed the definitions and attainment of professionalism? On today’s episode, I share my thoughts stemming from this curiously fun phrase.Episode Notes (PDF Download)