Disconnected thoughts concerning Hockey Day in Canada
Hockey, we are told, is who we are. To be a Canadian is to know how to tape a stick, or how to lace up skates with frozen fingers, or the name and GAA of the second-string goalie for the ‘93 Memorial Cup winning Soo Greyhounds.
Walking around the Hockey Day in Canada festivities here in Peterborough over the weekend, it certainly felt as though all that were true. Kids in helmets and pads, thick-middled men in Leafs jerseys, mothers whose faces bore the creases of 5:00am practices and 11:00pm games.
But what if it isn’t true?
The hockey uniform is the most shapeless uniform there is. Did the NHL invent the “women’s fit” souvenir jersey for this reason?
I don’t want my children to play hockey. There, I’ve said it. Of course, I want them to learn to skate, and if they come to me in the years ahead, and plead with me to let them play, I’ll sign them up and fork over the money and attend practice at whatever ungodly hour is required.
But if I have my way, we’ll avoid that. Their hockey experience will be limited to community rink shinny and road hockey, not because I don’t want to wake early to ferry them to cold rinks where I’m forced to stand with a double-double and make small talk with the other parents, though we’d all rather be elsewhere. It’s because of the culture of violence and backwards morality that is yet marrow-deep in the game. The crap that Don Cherry spews. The indecipherable logic that endorses fighting in the middle of a contest. In all, the uncomfortable orthodoxy that exists around “our game.” I don’t particularly want these things to be among the ingredients we’re stirring into our kids’ characters. I just don’t.
Our sitting Prime Minister has written a book on the history of the game, and nobody is saying, “Hey, our First Nations population lives in third world conditions, climate change is a real thing, and we have crumbling infrastructure — shouldn’t he be tackling that stuff before he waxes poetic on the origins of hockey?”
Hockey pools divide workplaces, cause undue interpersonal tension, drive down productivity.
The “Hockey is in our DNA” message dovetails nicely with Stephen Harper’s conservative agenda. It’s an assimilatory narrative, a too-tidy summation, a simplistic message. It’s an effort to tamp out pluralistic accounts of what Canada means, in favour of a pretty narrow definition. Admittedly, there are some positives to take from the story as written — implications of community, sacrifice, teamwork — but could it just be that Canada is far too complex to be condensed into merely a nation of hockey fans?
I do not want Darcy Tucker’s autograph.
The children of Peterborough are more than happy to endure long lines in order to have their photo taken with the Stanley Cup. Unless they’re my children, in which case they’re only there for the free poutine and hot chocolate.
The free poutine was very small.
Outdoor hockey is a glorious thing.