I think I would be quite remiss if I spent an entire year blogging and did not talk about the quintessential Canadian game. The game most of us grew up playing on the community rink. A few talented players went onward to become the NHLers. Much has changed in this game over the decades but collectively as a nation we hang our hat on it.
Foster Hewitt and black-and-white television with The original six. No helmets no visors just playing their hearts out. Saturday night cheering on your favorite team. Hockey season that corresponded to winter. That was hockey when I was growing up playing on our dugout in my brother’s old skates. No razzle-dazzle just hard-hitting fast hockey.
Hockey in the 70s included the brand-new Canada Russia series. Any Canadian of a certain age can tell you where they were watching the game when Paul Henderson scored that goal. Vinny Ridge made us a nation but that series made us hockey superstars. And with it came a certain swagger like this is our game. The NHL expanded and more young men start living their dream life.
And then somehow it became more about the individual player than the team. The big superstar years of Wayne Gretzky and Mario lemou. All of a sudden it became about the million dollar salaries and player’s pensions and owners profits. There were so many teams in markets that had no concept of hockey. I believe many average Canadians lost their hockey hunger for a few years but still we hung around for the Stanley Cup.
With the advent of Olympic hockey and the world junior tournament there’s been renewed interest. It’s again become about national pride and teamwork. The coach and the players are handpicked to work well together quickly. The tournaments are short and high profile. The game feels like it’s returned to its roots as it is clean and fast hockey. Women’s hockey has become high profile and is of outstanding quality.
It could seem like a funny post for the end of May except, of course, the NHL playoffs are still underway. Favourite teams in this household are long gone, sadly, but still we watch. The season is so long that we don’t watch regularly. It’s hard to keep track of players as there are so many. They make so much money it seems ridiculous. There is always a scandal going on about something within the hockey world. They kept Don Cherry but added George Stroumboulopoulos (who’s your boyfriend? REALLY?). There is even a Punjab hockey panel although the number of minority players is still small.
But throughout it all the essence of our national game remains. He shots, he scores or she shoots, she scores. And the puck drops again because the game goes on. Our children and our grandchildren will lace up and grab a stick and I will join in because it’s in our blood.