Monday, March 22, 2004

NATIONALISM IN THE PLAYOFFS

The hockey playoffs are almost upon us and there is talk that all six Canadian based NHL franchises may qualify for the postseason tournament. Now I recognize that the possibility of this occurence is a legitimage topic of discussion amongst Canadian news media.

What I never understand, however, is why so many Canadians attach some kind of collective nationalist allegiance to the Canadian based hockey franchises as a bloc. Throughout the playoffs I will hear people say they are cheering for Toronto over Philadelphia because they're the 'Canadian' team. And of course everyone will lament that inevitable moment when there are no 'Canadian' teams left in the playoffs. Why is this?

Professional sports teams are not representing a nation; they are representing a polis. International competitions are the time to cheer for Canada, for that is when Canada is actaully playing. Cheering for the 'Canadian' teams in the playoffs seems to me another attempt by Canadians to create a means of comparison with the Americans so as to maintain some kind of false identity and assuage a latent inferiority complex. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but it just doesn't seem appropriate or necessary to me.

I am an ardent Montreal Canadiens fan. I was raised in the GTA but being a Habs fan is a long tradition in my family. As such, the only thing that makes me more happy than the Habs winning is the Leafs losing. I like the city of Toronto and I generally like Torontonians, but when it comes to hockey I would rather see the Leafs lose the Cup to Nashville or Florida than have to suffer through the celebrating of Leafs fans (if they could even remember how to celebrate a Cup win). I don't have much of an attachment to the cities of Ottawa, Vancouver or Edmonton and I don't much care if they lose to Philadelphia, Detroit or Dalas. As for Calgary, frankly I'm still a little bitter at them for the 1989 cup final.

The Habs are one point away from clinching the playoffs for the first time in far too long. The only thing that has kept me going these past hockey seasons is watching the inevitable failure of the Leafs, whose fans, despite the record of history, continue to believe that this year will somehow be different.

When the Olympics or the World Cup comes around I'll be cheering for Canada like everyone else. When it comes to the NHL, nationalism isn't a factor. Six corporate franchises staffed by international professionals don't somehow become a representation of the nation.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:56 AM