In order to be a dynamic, sustainable national entity, a country’s people must have shared values, perspectives, and experiences. A country’s peoples must know and understand certain common things – whether they be moments in time, or iconic images that stir a common passion. In Canada our sense of national identity has become blurred through the past two to three decades largely because we are losing our national common identifiers. And we are losing our sense of being because we no longer collectively share special moments or recognize and appreciate meaningful symbols.
So, one needs to ask “What do we have in Canada to unite us? What will provide that sense of nationalism that can pull us together and have us share moments in time – that can become our peoples’ common memories and source of pride?”
By George offers that our national game of hockey is the glue that binds our nation.
Hockey is a shared experience that transcends pucks and ice surfaces. Hockey envelops everything from pre-dawn breakfasts and cold car rides to the smell of locker rooms and those smiles and arena exchanges with your children. There are tens of thousands of Canadian children who love the game and dream of being the next Gretzky or Crosby. There is a legend of parents who come together to converse and share moments in the rinks and the parking lots. And there is Saturday night. Imagine how many households have the HNIC ritual of cheering the opening face-off and needing to hear Don Cherry bark through another Coach’s Corner.
Hockey is the reference point for Canada. Quite simply, it is what defines us.
Hockey defines us in a way that other things do not – or can no longer. For example, Canada is beyond being defined by its two founding Nations. This has given way to multiculturalism and, today, we have our three most populous urban centres as, literally, cultural mosaics. What of bilingualism? A native heritage? Our historic memberships in the commonwealth or NATO? None of these strike a resounding chord with our current society.
Canadians no longer rally around historic icons like our founding father Sir John A, the Mounties, the mighty moose or maple syrup? Many Canadians have never seen a canoe or an inukshuk – so these symbols simply cannot provide a common reference point. Perhaps there is a case for the maple leaf icon and our ensign – but Canadians differ greatly on what our red-and-white flag represents and the maple leaf is less a shared symbol of national passion than it is a default icon representing the notion of our country.
So, the contention is hockey is the glue that binds…. and in the months ahead the By George Journal will celebrate hockey and explore the idea of this glorious game is “the defining element” of Canada – our peoples’ source of “being Canadian.”
(ed. – This column originally appeared in By George Journal in December 2009.)
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