In Canada, Hockey is Religion. And o’ how the memory is tugged back to the days. 5:30am practices. Trudging to the arena. Wiggling your toes in ice skates desperately trying to stay warm – - in a bitterly cold aluminum sided ice arena where gusts of Arctic air whistle in. And, whether it was sitting in front of the black and white watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night. Or the country standing still during the gut wrenching 1972 Canada Cup Series against the Russians. Or in the locker room during high school or collegiate play where as Penguins coach Kevin Constantine quoted: “We only speak two languages here: English and profanity.” Hockey is part of Canadians’ DNA. Hockey is part of who I am. Part of me. This article is written by Stephen Marche who had written Lucy Hardin’s Missing Period and three other books, including How Shakespeare Changed Everything. It’s LONG but worthy for those Canadians among us who will appreciate his unique perspective…and offers non-Canadians some insights into the game and into us. Several of my favorite excerpts.
“In Canada, even death waits on hockey.”
“Two features distinguish hockey from all other sports: its peculiar relationship to violence, and its pace, which is just beyond the organic capacities of human biology.”
“Despite its current dominance of our national space, hockey has always been a stolen game, a suppressed game, on the edge of society’s norms, dirty, lower class. There will always be an uncivilized edge to hockey, a wildness at its heart that disturbs proper society.”
“Hockey is the most popular expression of the Canadian dream. In the American dream, a man enters the wilderness to fashion a home for his family out of the abundant raw materials of the continent. The Canadian dream is much more lonely and rough. A man goes into the backcountry and becomes wild. The Canadian dream, a métis dream, is a distinct species of pastoral, unknown elsewhere in the world. To understand hockey, you need to understand the unique relationship to wilderness contained in its northernness.”
“Canadian socialists — from early realists like Tommy Douglas to contemporary nihilists like Naomi Klein — take strength from their insistence on struggle rather than in any dream of a beautiful future. It is the struggle that matters, always the struggle that is worthy of respect. And this emphasis can be crippling: You must struggle. Comfort with oneself and one’s surroundings are signs of corruption.”
“Skilled violence against speed, the little brother of war against the mechanics of modernity. The history of hockey is the working out of the fundamental contradictions inherent in amétis game. The greatest series of all time — Canada against Russia in 1972 — was so charged with meaning because of the stark separation of hockey’s two fundamental dimensions. The Russians had mastered speed and skating. The Canadians had mastered violence. ”
“This is one of the few sports in the world where you can punch an opponent in the face and continue playing.