“There is always someone trying to get your ice time”: Professional Ice Hockey Players’ Perspectives on the Social Conditions for Creativity


The development of creativity-nurturing training environments is important for sporting success. Creative actions and activities not only enrich and expand immediate sport experiences, but also support long-term participation, development, and performance. Research on creativity in sport is marked by study designs that place creative thinking as the primary unit of analysis. Accordingly, most applied research focus on determining the effects of microlevel changes of training activities (e.g., manipulating task-constraints) on creative thinking, rather than uncovering the social spawns of creative action. This study aimed to explore professional ice hockey players’ perspectives on social conditions shaping their possibilities for being creative during their sporting careers. Data generation comprised semi-structured online interviews with eight Danish ice hockey players, who had played an average of 458 games across NHL, SHL, and KHL. Joint construction of a timeline representing the participant’s developmental trajectory elicited stories about creativity in diverse play, practice, and performance contexts. Outlining the social conditions at play in these contexts, a ‘theoretical’ thematic analysis guided by the dynamic elements of the Personal Assets Framework (Côté et al., 2020) led to five themes: 1) Sport-Specific Play for Inventiveness (i.e., Personal Engagement in Activities), 2) Small Club and Country for Participative Safety (i.e., Appropriate Setting), 3) Camaraderie for Dedication, 4) Role and Hierarchical Position for Risk-taking, and 5) Culture for Freedom and Responsibility (i.e., Quality Social Dynamics). Exposing unequal possibilities to engage in creative action in elite sport, the study points towards a need for developing creativity-nurturing approaches that move beyond the playing field.