Monday, March 21, 2011

Hockey is Lame as Puck

I like soccer. I don’t like hockey. Let’s go over why.

So, as you can gather from a few posts ago, hockey was never culturally significant in my life—soccer yes, hockey, nada. However, my hatred for hockey has been continuing to grow over the last few years, and I think that might be due to the media overload of hockey’s link to “Canadiananess.”

I’m still mulling this argument over in my head, but I think I am going to share a few of the concepts I am batting around. In order to do this, let us examine some videos (I am the world’s laziest blogger) and feel free to give me your feedback.

Now, before we begin, I get it: hockey is a big deal in Canada. If you want to think it holds the country together or if you use it as a source of pride, great, go for it. I am not being condescending (yes I am) and that’s not the parts about hockey that I want to discuss. What I do want to look at is the modern media model of Canada + hockey = nationalism. But not so much what is done, but rather, how it’s done. 

Let me explain. Which I have tried to do vocally to several people at several different times, but it usually just ends up with my flailing and calling them names and leaving the room and losing friends. Anyway, what I want to talk about are all those feel good images of plaid and happy faces, all those connections to products.

First, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not talking about people’s feelings, I am talking about the reinforced images that we repeatedly see. I don’t care how people feel about hockey for the purpose of this post, I care how the media has decided to portray those feelings. Whether it be in Molson beer commercials or Tim Horton’s ads, those feels seem to be middle class whiteness.

Let’s start with Joe. Maybe not the first video to show this, but certainly the first big viral video to shows this. I Am Joe was a link everyone clicked in the late 90s (early 2000s?) Everyone saw the ad on tv, through emails and posted on poorly made websites (unlike this one). Everyone saw, or read, spoofs or parodies (I Am Italian, I Am Torontonian, hell, even an Ich Bin Schweizer!) and everyone forwarded them on to their friends. At one point, it did seem like Canada was connected over one small ad.

Well, the Canada on the proper half of the digital divide.

Regardless, you talk to anyone of a certain age and they will give a quick smile when you remind them of our hero, Joe. He even has his own wiki page. He represented us, Canadians: fighting against stereotypes, promoting uniqueness, and all while being snidey Anti-American. For those of you who don’t remember (probably because you’re forgein…) here it is:
Right. So who is Joe:

  • ·         Likeable, “Average Joe” (see what they did there?!)
  • ·         Plaid shirt.
  • ·         Levi jeans (assuming).
  • ·         Shy, but polite, beginning.
  • ·         Strong middle.
  • ·         Shy, but polite, finish.

In other words, we Canadians are a polite, but strong, bunch who would like you to recognize not only our uniquesses, but our differentness, from Americans; we’re Canadian based on not being American.

And this is where my problem starts. Well, maybe “problem” is too strong of a word. I am not actually offended, or bothered by any of this, in fact, just the opposite: I am fascinated! It is because of this outside fascination—as in, it is something I cannot relate to—that makes me feel so outside of this idea of Canadiana, and in turn, yes, also hockey. As a first generation of mixed race, I am not Joe. No one in my family is Joe. In fact, Joe isn’t even the intangible fabrication of Canada we’re meant to believe!

Did I lose you? Okay, look at it this way: We believe in diversity (it says so right in the commercial!), but we have average white guy on the podium. Would the commercial still work if it was My Name Is Arjit and I Am Canadian or My Name Is Jiao-Long And I Am Canadian? Or even, My Name Is Amy and I Am Canadian? No. Because Canadianism, despite our promotion of the multi cultural mosaic, where every race, culture, and religion is represented, is still best—and most easily—represented as white, mid-20s, male.

I bet he also owns a cottage in Muskoka.  

The point is, as much as we make ourselves believe we are a quilt of many colours, we’re not (well, I am). We still need a white guy who wore braces in his youth up in front. And not just a white guy, but images of cottaging and the great outdoors, hockey and beavers in the wild, backpacking and (at the time, liberal) Prime Ministers.

Except, I am not convinced that is what most Canadians have.

In this blogger’s mind, Muskoka cottages and camping outdoors is something that white, waspy Canadians do. This is by no means a negative thing, all I am trying to say is that I don’t see me in Joe. And if Joe is what “Canadian” is, well then Joe’s Canada is something complete foreign to me.

The bit that I think is the most interesting is: “I don’t live in an igloo, or eat blubber, or own a dog sled.” So, wait. In order to talk about Canada, you have to exclude part of Canadian tradition, culture, and heritage that you don’t experience firsthand? What?!

And this is why I can’t identify with being Canadian. Every media message sent out completely excludes me from being Canadian.

So what does this have to do with hocket? Well I am glad you asked! (Let’s face it, you stopped reading ages ago, now you’re just scrolling for videos). Our Canadian Joe Hero is replaced by our Canadian Sidney Hero:

Again, I am not attacking Sid, or kids playing hockey, or having a dream, or Tim Horton’s (even though I am 13 – 1 with those bastards). What I am attacking at the idea of how this is every Canadian dream. That kids playing on an outdoor rink and practicing real hard will get them into the NHL. This commercial completely ignores the fact that a good portion of Canadian kids can’t afford to play hockey (registration fees, equipment costs) and/or they don’t have a parent or a caregiver with the leisure time to drive them to and from practices, games, championships.

Now, I was lucky, I was allowed to do any sport I wanted (or didn’t want…) and 99% of the time, I had a parent in the stands watching, or, in the very least, doing a crossword. But not all kids are that lucky, and this myth that if you’re real good and practice real hard you’ll be good enough to play in the big leagues without the time, money, and support system that is actually needed, is rather insulting.

Editors Note: Please visit if you’re interested in supporting kids who need a little extra help getting those support systems.

Leaving financial/emotional parts aside, it boils down to this:

I don’t like hockey because through the media, hockey has become a representation of “Canadian” that does not represent me. The two go hand in hand, and because of the now inevitable media portrays, cannot be divorced. Because I am not Joe, I cannot find the same understand of Canada as I am told to understand. And because I cannot understand Canada, I cannot understand hockey.

You know what I do understand? This:

Click the Screenshot.

IN CONCLUSION: Soccer is clearly superior and I am still going to complain about your hockey tweets.



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