What does hockey say about Canada’s national identity?
Hockey’s national identity wars are currently on display at the world championship in Slovakia. On Monday, Canada beat Sweden 3-2 in a game that featured a controversial body check by Canadian captain Rick Nash.
Nash ran over a Swedish opponent at centre ice, sparking outrage in the Swedish ranks and defiance in the Canadian dressing room. “Nash is playing a man’s game,” Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock said. “He is doing exactly what we need him to do.”
Parse the words and you find a subtext that speaks to our perception of what the stereotypical Canadian hockey player should be. He plays hard. He never quits after getting belted by a body check. Canadians dust themselves off. Canadians are men.
But are Canadian hockey players actually windows to the country’s cultural soul, or merely trifling sideshows clad in a Maple Leaf sweater? Do national teams, in any sport, in any country, say something about national character?