- The Same but Different: Hockey in Quebec ed. by Jason Blake, Andrew Holman
Once an underexplored bond, academics have devoted great energy in recent years to assessing the connection between hockey and Canada. The Same but Different narrows the scope further still and focuses on Quebec’s relationship with hockey. Blake and Holman’s edited work follows on the heels of Amy Ransom’s Hockey, PQ: Canada’s Game in Quebec’s Popular Culture published in 2014. Ransom’s scholarship is also present in The Same but Different as Blake and Holman enlisted her to pen a chapter in their collection.
Quebec, an overwhelmingly francophone province, has a complicated history within the Canadian Confederation. Its status as a “distinct society” has been at the core of several key, but failed, constitutional amendments like the Meech Lake (1987) and Charlottetown (1992) Accords that were designed by federalists to diminish francophone allegiance in the separatist movement in Quebec. Stephen Harper, while prime minister in 2006, attempted to strike a compromise and declared that Quebecers formed a nation within a nation. Although the ample political strife was not an element of the hockey-focused The Same but Different, Quebec’s place within the Confederation is analogous with the book’s title.
The Same but Different contains no thematic or chronological sections: each essay is a stand-alone chapter. This approach has both positive and negative consequences. There is no demand on the reader to proceed through the book in any particular order, so there [End Page 355] is more freedom of choice with this work than with most. The lack of structure, however, reduces any flow that would have been achieved through purposeful organization.
On balance, the scholarship in The Same but Different is solid, and careful readers will appreciate the thoroughly cited research. Most of the essays are highly readable and provide the audience with digestible analysis. The Same but Different includes a diverse set of topics that range from the historical foundations of hockey in Montreal to an exploration of the Montreal Canadiens philanthropic legacy to a literary comparison of the French and English versions of George Laraque’s autobiography. The reader is also exposed to a range of scholarly styles because The Same but Different draws on the expertise of authors from a range of academic backgrounds. The editors and authors clearly understand the terrain created by the secondary literature and how to situate the book’s research within that context.
The most significant limitation to The Same but Different is content-related as there is considerable imbalance in the ten essays. The emphasis on the urban and elite/professional hockey is apparent, with particular attention paid to the Canadiens. While the city of Montreal and the Canadiens are unquestionably important to the discussion of hockey in the province, there is substantially more to the story than one city and one team. Quebec’s vast and culturally rich rural areas are essentially ignored to the collection’s detriment. Beyond that, there is no meaningful discussion of females beyond an analysis of a French-language primetime soap opera, Lance et Compte, nor any exploration of racial, ethnic, or lingual minorities within Quebec and how they conform to or resist dominant culture—which hockey has become. The editors demonstrate some awareness of the omissions in the introduction, but an acknowledgment is not a substitute for a correction. While no collection of ten essays can be everything to everyone, the material covered in The Same but Different appears quite thin in some key areas, and the reviewer wonders why the book was not simply expanded from its relatively modest 235-page frame (excluding endnotes and index) to push the work toward a more comprehensive product.
As well, the book’s title is somewhat misleading, as The Same but Different promises some sort of comparison through juxtaposition. The reader expects an attempt at meaningful differentiation analysis that validates Quebec’s distinctive relationship with hockey. That promise goes largely unfulfilled...