- Coast to Coast: Hockey in Canada to the Second World War
When one thinks of ice hockey, one tends to think of Canada. When one thinks of Canada, one tends to think of ice hockey. Canadian culture and identity have been shaped by the sport, but the culture of the sport has also been shaped by the country. Although there are numerous books on the subject of hockey, Wong feels that far too few have been produced by academics who have analyzed the topic from cultural and historical perspectives. Coast to Coast is an attempt to fill this gap and to explore the evolution of Canadian identity with the sport.
In today’s world, many Canadians and foreigners believe that hockey has always been the dominant sport in the country and that this domination was equal across the country. At the heart of this book is the question whether “hockey served as a common denominator in the creation of a Canadian identity or if it allowed for expressions of difference” (p. ix). To answer this question, Wong selected historians who could explore how hockey was experienced by different subcultures and regions within Canada from the late nineteenth century to the time of the Second World War. [End Page 326]
As the title suggests, the individual chapters are organized from coast to coast starting in the east and working toward the western regions of Canada. Starting in the east, Daniel MacDonald begins with a review of class, community, and commercialism in the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia area where small communities struggled to establish amateur hockey teams made up of local industrial workers. The next chapter moves to Quebec where John Matthew Barlow focuses on the Shamrock Hockey Club of Montreal to explore the intersections of Irishness, manliness, class, and commercialization at the end of the nineteenth century. The Second World War is the backdrop for chapter three in which J. Andrew Ross examines the National Hockey League’s policies regarding Canadian and American players’ military participation as well as the role of hockey in generating national morale during wartime. In chapter four Carly Adams documents the struggles of the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association to organize a legitimate league for women from the 1920s to the 1940s. In chapter five Stacy Lorenz and Geraint Osborne analyze players’ and fans’ reactions to a series of violent games in 1907 between teams from Ottawa and Montreal in order to ascertain norms of behavior in the context of the sport during this time period. Robert Kossuth moves away from the urban areas of eastern Canada in chapter six and explores the emergence of hockey in small towns in the prairie region of southern Alberta where hockey was seen as a middle-class, male, urban sport. Because of this and the warm Chinook winds on the prairies, hockey did not dominate the sport scene while basketball and baseball were also quite popular. Finally, chapter seven takes the reader to the west coast as John Chi-Kit Wong describes the parallel growth of the city of Vancouver with the Patrick family’s efforts to establish a professional hockey league in British Columbia in the early twentieth century.
Overall the book does a fairly good job of fulfilling its purpose. It is clear that as Canada established its identity separate from that of England and France, hockey too was establishing itself. The game often brought a sense of pride to communities large and small across the nation, but hockey was experienced differently within various social and cultural contexts. One might conclude that hockey helped develop identities for each community or region such as a “Montreal-ness” or a “Vancouver-ness” more so than a broad sense of “Canadian-ness.”
However, as Wong admits in the preface, not all Canadians are represented in this work. The majority of the book is set within the provinces of Ontario and Quebec while Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, and...