The Walrus feature article this month is a review of the current state of hockey in Canada. David MacFarlane and Michael Adams take a look at how Americans are hijacking our game. It’s an up-dated review of an old lament as MacFarlane travels to arenas in Nashville, Florida and Phoenix.
What makes this article noteworthy is the public opinion polling that accompanied the authors’ reflections. Three-quarters of Canadians (76%) believe that hockey is a key part of what it means to be Canadian. Now, having said that, here are a few findings that challenge our view that hockey signifies Canada’s heart and soul.
One in two Canadians (54%) say hockey should remain Canada’s national sport.
Only 36% of Canadians say hockey is their favourite sport (football comes second at 10%).
Only 21% of Canadians say they love hockey. 31% of Canadian men say they love it, while only 12% of women say they love the sport.
Only 38% of Canadians think fighting is an acceptable part of hockey. 42% of all Canadians like what Don Cherry has to say about the game – and this admiration rises to 60% amongst huge hockey fans.
On the same subject, there is a recently published book from McGill-Queen’s Universities Press called Canada’s game – Hockey and Identity. This 2009 collection of learned essays focuses on the game of hockey and its impact on the psyche of Canadians.
In one essay, Bruce Kidd’s and John Macfarlane’s 1972 work “The Death of Hockey” was quoted:
… not very many Canadians play the game we call our national sport. Despite the soaring teenage registration of the CAHA there are just two kinds of hockey in this country: the hockey we play for a brief few years during adolescence, and the hockey a few hundred professionals provide as a televised spectacle. Left out are hundreds of thousands of Canadians who ski and curl, play golf and tennis, who love hockey as much they did when they were kids but who have been relegated to the sidelinbes as spectators. We play hockey to win, we play hockey to make money, but we have forgotten what it is to play hockey for fun. That, more than anything else, signals the death of hockey.
BTW – the subtitle for “The Death of Hockey” is “Hockey no longer a dream of the Canadian Everyman”