Thompson Rivers University

Hockey and homelessness at the frontlines of Edmonton’s arena district

Jordan Koch, PhD, Dept. of Kinesiology & Physical Education, McGill University, presents Street Hockey? Dispatches from the Frontlines of Canada’s New Urban Sporting Environment as part of the Environmental Sciences Seminar Series.


This presentation explores how a group of homeless men collectively produced an economy of moral worth through a weekly sport-for-development program in the distinct settler-colonial context of Edmonton, Alberta.

As a result of Edmonton’s growth and repositioning in the national political economy and beyond, various corporate and civic elites have aspired to re-image the city and, crucially, its downtown core by providing the types of cultural and entertainment amenities that are now commonly on offer in other world-class cities.

One of the most significant developments associated with this promotional agenda has been the construction of a publicly-financed $613.7 million arena and entertainment district to house the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.

The new arena district was intended to revitalize one of city’s poorest areas and to entice white-collar workers to relocate to Edmonton and work for the city’s major corporate players.

However, in this presentation, I will emphasize an alternative narrative that stands in complication to this agenda.

Drawing upon five-years of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with homeless men aged 25-42 years, I will shed light on an array of creative, entrepreneurial and moral networks displayed by Edmonton’s homeless in the wake of this urban revitalization project—a community of individuals who continues to be expelled from the city’s downtown core.