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“On est Canayen ou ben on l’est pas”:1 Hockey, Nationalism, and Identity in Québec and Canada Tony Patoine Two nations: Québec and Canada. One national sport: hockey. In this chapter, we’ll attempt to pin down the key features of Québécois and Canadian nationalism through the lens of this shared passion. We’ll use sports to dissect national imaginations. No matter where you are in Canada, there’s no denying it. The Canadian media are incurably fixated on it, and the fever it gives us during the Winter Olympics proves the point further: more than almost any other part of our culture, hockey binds Canadians together a mari usque ad mare. Despite what some public opinion surveys say about the importance of certain symbols with respect to Canadian identity,2 hockey sparks our passion and unites us much more powerfully than the Queen, the RCMP, or universal health care. Only snow, ice, cold,3 and the Tim Hortons that dot our highways come close to competing with the sport. In a very 1. Meaning “Either you’re Canayen or you’re not.” This title is inspired by the song of the same title by Eugène Daignault (1930) that speaks of the way of life of the Francophones of the era, who were called “Canayens” (Canadiens) at the time. You can hear this song by Daignault accompanied by La Bolduc at the following address: -f.xml 2. For example, the Focus Canada 2012 survey (by the Environics Institute) ranks hockey as ninth after symbols such as multiculturalism, Aboriginal peoples, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 3. Note that a vast outreach campaign to unite Canadian athletes with the rest of the nation was conducted for the Sochi Olympics under the slogan “We Are Winter.” Hockey and Philosophy.indd 3 15-11-02 15:54 4 Hockey and Philosophy visceral way, hockey is linked to what it means to be “truly” Canadian. Molson Canadian beer commercials have been capitalizing on this for years. The same is true of many other companies that, in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, for example, opted to use nationalistic marketing tactics. Nike showed us that Canadian athletes, both men and women, will never be intimidated playing abroad because all Canadians are born with skates on their feet like the fabled Drew Doughty: “all ice is home ice.” Canadian Tire fed us images of Jonathan Toews asking Canadians (seated in a maple leaf configuration) to help him score a goal because “we all play for Canada.” And finally, the ubiquitous Tim Hortons invited Canadians to join Sidney Crosby on the ice because “nothing brings Canadians together like a good ol’ hockey game.” We’re also well aware that our politicians love to toss around hockey metaphors, especially during election campaigns.4 It’s good cred; it makes them easier to relate to. Prime Minister Stephen Harper took this a step further: he recently published a detailed academic-level book on an obscure bit of hockey history!5 So, to sum up, hockey is synonymous with Canadian identity. But this chapter is supposed to be about two nations. Where does Québec fit in all this? Can hockey be used to distinguish Québec from the rest of Canada, or does hockey instead assimilate the province into the Canadian monolith? Can hockey be used to serve Québec’s nationalism as much as it serves Canada’s? Could the sport be a key ingredient in building the national unity and identity needed for Québec’s sovereigntist ambitions to be realized ? And finally, could the Montréal Canadiens, the team widely seen as the province’s flagship identity marker, serve as the catalyst for such a project, or would the much-touted Team Québec be a more promising option instead? 4. For example, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe told Jack Layton the televised French debate in 2011 that “the NDP has never had as many players on the ice as we have.” You know the rest. 5. Stephen J. Harper. A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey (Toronto: Simon & Shuster, 2013), p. 352. Hockey and Philosophy.indd 4 15-11-02 15:54 Tony Patoine 5 In the pages ahead, these questions will allow us to see how hockey, beyond the sport itself, readily mixes with politics (for better or for...


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