Tuesday, January 6, 2015
"Our game" belongs to everyone
Even though it fell a goal short, Russia's near-miracle comeback at the World Junior Hockey Championship final in Toronto was useful from a Canadian perspective, because it brought some much-needed humility to the process. Humility would have been called for in any event, with Canada's juniors in the throes of a five year gold medal drought, but it's an unfortunate flaw in the Canadian character that we insist hockey is "our" game, even when we're getting our lunch handed to us. When we prevail, we can be insufferable. There's a fine line between pride and hubris, and Canadians don't toe it very well at international hockey competitions. The irony is that a nation with a reputation for being painfully polite and deferential is anything but whenever we assemble en masse in a hockey arena.
Whether they care to admit it or not, anyone who's old enough to remember the Canada-Russia Summit Series knows that the notion of hockey superiority being an exclusive Canadian domain hasn't carried any clout since 1972. While we're still symbolically the country to beat in international competition, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the US are right there with us, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Switzerland can beat anyone on any given day, and Germany, Denmark and Norway are among the growing number of countries icing credible teams at the elite level. That shared passion for excellence among hockey nations is something to be celebrated rather than denied or downplayed for reasons of national pride and ego.
Claiming proprietary rights to an abstract concept outside of a legal framework is a futile exercise based on a false premise. If hockey is truly "Canada's game", we would be better served in having a more truthful and generous spirit in how we own it.