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Chance the Rapper’s hilarious SNL sketch highlights the inaccessibility of hockey

We can laugh at ourselves, but there’s a serious issue behind the jokes.

Chance the Rapper hosted last night’s Saturday Night Live and one of his sketches has gone viral among hockey fans for poking fun at the sport. In it, Chance plays a Knicks reporter named Lazlo Holmes, who is thrust into covering the New York Rangers home game against the Edmonton Oilers when the usual Rangers on-ice reporter is on paternity leave. Naturally, he knows nothing about hockey, and his attempts to fake it are hilarious.

The cluelessness of Lazlo about an admittedly complicated sport struck a chord with any hockey fan who has ever tried to get someone to #PleaseLikeMySport. He makes fun of the impossible pronunciations of players’ names, the unnecessary violence of the game, the difficulties of explaining icing, and the overwhelming whiteness of the sport in general.

Hockey fans loved it. After all, we’re pretty good at making fun of ourselves.

If you’re just here to enjoy the skit, I don’t blame you. Go ahead and scroll down to the comment section. Have fun.

But the fact is that while this sketch is really good and funny and so well executed, having Chance in this role specifically is making a point in itself. The first version of this skit that floated around Twitter was restricted by Twitter’s video upload limits and cut off parts of the beginning and the end that drive home this point the most. In the full version, the play-by-play correspondent pulls up a play (from the actual Rangers game) and goes over the technicalities of the play. Chance then takes the opportunity to point out a single black hockey fan in the crowd (not from the actual Rangers game). At the beginning of the skit, he specifically mentions the guys on the ice all being white.

The bottom line is that hockey still remains largely inaccessible to nonwhite communities. Chance wasn’t just playing a clueless character who knows nothing about hockey — by specifically putting a black man into that role, they’re adding the depth to the character that he’s likely been told his whole life that hockey is not for him.

The jokes about being desperate to find someone who looks like you in the audience, about hockey fans’ willingness to learn the absurd pronunciations of white European names while simultaneously butchering nonwhite, non-American sounding names — these jokes ring true in a different way for minority fans. This isn’t just a tongue-in-cheek poke at how ridiculous hockey is by those of us who love it most. It’s a direct point about how the world of hockey has been, and still is, exclusionary and elitist.

While we can laugh at this skit — and frankly, we should be able to laugh at our own absurdities — it must be recognized that this is a culture we’ve created and perpetuated and it’s bad for the survival of the league. We can make fun of ourselves, but we need to know why someone like Chance the Rapper wouldn’t know about hockey and work toward changing the culture that purposefully makes that happen.

That being said, Chance is welcome to cover any Sharks game he wants for Fear the Fin. We might even teach him what “icing” means.