Saturday, May 08, 2004

MORE MISPLACED HOCKEY NATIONALISM

I opened to the Sports section of the Toronto Star this morning to find a large headline reading 'Carrying Canada's Hopes.' I thought to myself that the Canadian National Hockey team that was playing Sovlakia in the World Hockey Championships today was finally getting some media coverage. Of course I was wrong. The story, obviously, was about a professional sports team from Calgary.

Paul Hunter's article opens with this line:

The star goalie is from Finland. The pest is too. And the enforcer is Polish. But you'd have a tough time these days finding a better Canadian hockey story than the one unfolding in Calgary.

I don't think Hunter realized the irony of his statement.

How about this story? A team of all Canadian players, coached and staffed by Canadians, travels to the Czech Republic to represent the entire nation playing hockey against other national teams. In the quarter finals they hammer out a tense 5-4 overtime victory against Finland and are on their way to the semi-finals against Slovakia.

I've lamented before and will ask again: why do Canadians insist on extending nationalist tendencies towards professional hockey? The hockey teams of the NHL are not representing nations. They are franchises, buisinesses, based in particular cities. They are staffed by professionals from a variety of countries, who are paid (large sums) of American money, and, most of the time, don't care whether they're playing in Edmonton or Anahiem as long as they are winning and being paid well. Yet, Calgary is 'carrying Canada's hopes' simply because they play home games in Calgary.

Canadians make such a big deal about hockey being 'our game' but most of us (myself included) only care about professional hockey. As already mentioned the national team is currently in a foreign country actually representing, you know, the nation, but the lack of interest doesn't stop there. How many Canadians noticed the Inter-University hockey championships? St. Francis-Xavier beat the University of Northern British Columbia. If we want real Canadian hockey content why don't we cast our gaze to the ongoing QMJHL playoffs in which Gatineau is ahead of Moncton three games to none in the championship series?

It makes no sense to express nationalism towards NHL hockey nor is it the best representation of Canadian hockey content. Yet Canadians act as if national pride depends on the Flames winning. Across this country tens of thousands of Canadians are playing hockey at various levels, but if it's not the NHL, not too many other Canadians care.

If you're interested Canada beat Slovakia 2-1.

Posted by Matthew @ 1:26 PM