(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
It’s been 30 years since a Canadian NHL group has received the Stanley Cup. The final group to convey dwelling the trophy was the Montréal Canadiens in 1993, however the lengthy drought may lastly be over with two Canadian groups within the second spherical of the NHL playoffs: the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Canadian hockey followers are left with the acquainted, but fascinating, resolution relating to whether or not or to not briefly droop their common season allegiances and help certainly one of these two franchises, strictly on the idea of their nationwide residency.
It’s a well-recognized debate amongst many Canadian hockey followers: if one’s group is now not in competition for the Stanley Cup, does their allegiance swap to any remaining Canadian group — even one they often hate? A sizeable sector of Canadians yearn for a Stanley Cup parade in a rustic with postal, and never zip, codes.
The sentiment to help a Canadian group, or extra precisely any Canadian group, doesn’t look like a latest creation.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
It’s believable that followers of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montréal Maroons had been relieved when the 1930 Stanley Cup was received by the Montréal Canadiens over the heavily-favoured Boston Bruins.
In truth, W.A. Hewitt, Sporting Editor of the Toronto Daily Star famous in 1930: “Montréal’s Canadiens at present returned the Stanley Cup to Canada, birthplace of hockey … the Stanley Cup is returned dwelling after a two-year sojourn within the United States.”
So whereas it might sound pure for Canadian followers to hunt an oasis in a time of drought by rooting for any Canadian group, the query stays: Why do many Canadian hockey followers really feel the urge to help groups they might ordinarily enjoyment of rooting in opposition to?
Perhaps the reply lies throughout the connection between Canadian nationwide id and the National Hockey League itself.
Hockey and nationhood
While hockey is undoubtedly certainly one of Canada’s nationwide pastimes and passions, the NHL occupies an outsized presence in our collective cultural creativeness.
Although the league is a enterprise that straddles the Canadian-American boarder and attracts from a global expertise pool, the NHL’s seven Canadian groups loom giant over the panorama of Canadian tradition, dwarfing virtually another establishment.
Canada just isn’t the one nation with a eager curiosity in its groups, however our shared funding within the efficiency of our groups all through Canadian historical past — regardless of the existence of different leagues, sports activities and different cultural touchstones that symbolize us on the nationwide and world levels — units us aside.
This uncommon dynamic led creator Ryan Edwardson to argue the next in his ebook Canadian Content: Culture and the Quest for Nationhood:
“Canada gives an interesting case examine through which to discover how nationhood has been outlined and pursued by way of tradition.”
While sport performs a task in many countries’ cultural identities, Canada’s symbolic identification with hockey tradition, and mainly the efficiency and status of our NHL representatives, leaves our sense of nationhood weak.
When our self-conception turns into too carefully tied to the destiny of our NHL groups, their efficiency is a direct reflection of our personal nationwide high quality and character.
Americanization of hockey
As the NHL has expanded past six, 12, 14, 16, 18, 22 and finally 32 groups, a brand new encroachment emerged within the minds of some Canadian hockey followers: Americanization.
Throughout the mid- to late-Twentieth century, an inflow of American fashionable tradition into Canada triggered real concern about hockey being subsumed by the voracious financial urge for food of America after the Second World War.
For many Canadians, nationwide id was discovered by clinging to our NHL groups.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Sports administration professors Craig Hyatt and Julie Stevens be aware: “Canadian hockey followers view Americans as villains whose aggressive modifications to ‘our’ sport present that they care little for the significance and which means of hockey inside Canadian tradition.”
This undoubtedly contributed to Canadian sensitivity across the absence of the Stanley Cup through the twenty first century and has been exacerbated by the latest drought of Canadian groups failing to win the Stanley Cup.
With aggressive and repeated American enlargement, hockey itself has modified with it. Rules, taking part in types and tools all modified because the variety of NHL franchises expanded. With it grew the sense that the sport was changing into much less and fewer Canadian.
Regardless of this perceived American encroachment into hockey, there are nonetheless Canadian followers unwilling to let go of their rivalries — even when it means rooting for an additional Canadian group.
Canadian nationwide hockey contains many historic, geographic and even linguistic rivalries in opposition to different Canadian groups. An instance of that is seen in
Roch Carrier’s famend story The Hockey Sweater.
The story recounts an incident from Carrier’s childhood the place a division retailer mistakenly despatched him a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey as a substitute of a Montréal Canadiens jersey. The residents of his city don’t react effectively to him carrying the sweater of the Canadien’s greatest rival, and the expertise almost ruined hockey for him.
The story doesn’t finish with the protagonist accepting his Toronto Maple Leafs sweater and fearlessly adopting Leafs fandom within the coronary heart of French Canada. It ends with a determined prayer for bugs to devour his sweater.
The sentiment expressed by The Hockey Sweater’s principal character is acquainted to many segments of Canadian hockey followers as effectively. For each determined fan trying to align themselves with neighbouring Canadian groups, there are nonetheless those that would like that the moths win as a substitute.
Taylor McKee receives funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.