Hockey History - a jaunt into pop culture

It's been awhile since I continued my hockey history stuff. For those of you that are new, or don't remember, I took a course on perspectives on hockey, it was focused primarily about Canada, so my focus will be shifted towards that as well. The thing with hockey is that is truly shapes the way that the Canadian nation views itself.

Now, this one is actually focused on pop culture, hockey is no longer "just a sport". It's a way of life for many people.

Today's hockey history focuses on hockey and popular culture. Hockey transcends beyond just a sport, it has become a part of life for many people.

When I go overseas, and people find out I'm Canadian I get asked two things:

a) Do you live in an igloo?

b) So, are you married to a hockey player? / Do you play hockey?


Just for the record, I answer yes to the igloo question, and say that we can't have regular electricity so it's all powered by polar bears in big exercise wheels. Yes, I've actually had someone believe that. As for the hockey questions, I can't rightly say yes to either of them either.

I love hockey, I have since I was a child. I grew up cheering the Nordiques, booing the Montreal Canadiens, listening to the radio and begging to have access to the television on Saturday nights to watch Hockey Night in Canada.

What seems like minor mentions here and there, are things that enable hockey to transcend the "just another sport" mentality. Which is rather impressive seeing as how it wasn't even deemed Canada's national sport until 1994, even now it is only Canada's winter national sport.

The reason there are so many references to hockey in pop culture is simply that hockey has become a subculture. It is a distinct social group within the national culture. It has distinctive beliefs and behaviors. There are even subcultures within the sport of hockey.Here are some examples: the AHL, the NHL, the KHL, and number of Junior or Minor leagues , beer leagues, women's leagues and because they are in a class on their own goalies.

Hockey in pop culture can be seen in many places: music, art, television, movies, radio, games, fashion, toys, trading cards, playing cards, language, books, advertising so on and so forth. In fact, as I look in my room, I see about 20 references to hockey. Hockey has even made it onto the Canadian five dollar bill, with a quote from the popular short story "The Hockey Sweater" (more on that next time).

You can see hockey in pop culture all around, from music like Tom Cochrane's Big League to movies like Slapshot but also on TV. In Quebec there is a TV show, Les Boys, that started from a movie series. It's such a big thing in Quebec that they actually have many NHL players on the show like Marc- Andre Fleury & Max Talbot.The movies have included Martin Brodeur, Jose Theodore, and a few other NHL stars. While the rest of the world was clamoring to watch The Titanic, the good ol' people in Quebec were lining up to watch a money about hockey. It's the one of the very few places in the world that Titanic did not own the box office. In a random twist, one of the stars of "Les Boys" was actually a French hockey player in Slapshot! Some other movies are Happy Gilmore, Mystery Alaska, The Rocket, The Mighty Ducks trilogy, Miracle, Goon, and Score: A Hockey musical. Yes, really, a musical that revolves around hockey. As for television shows there have been a number in Canada, most notable Hockey: A People's History, which is really worth a watch. There are many songs, my favorite being OH... Canada by Classified (might have some NSFW language), and Fifty Mission Cap - by the Tragically Hip and ads that focus on the Canadian national pride. These all involve hockey in some way.

Let's look at the Mighty Ducks for a moment, the first movie was released in 1992. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim became part of the NHL in 1993 as part of the expansion. They also released a cartoon, reminiscent of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and numerous action figures, lunch boxes etc, to go along with the cartoon.This movie actually caused a large spike in the amount of hockey registration in American minor leagues.

Perhaps one of the most notoriously "Canadian" hockey guys is Don Cherry. Let's think about this? The typical stereotypical Canadian is often too polite, quiet, friendly, likes hockey and maybe even something about an addiction , oh and there is always the fact that they like beer. Most people don't think brash, harsh, rude, confrontational. Which is what, in large part, Don Cherry is. For the Canadians that like him, he is the guy that they wish they could be seen as. It should be noted that media, particularly Hockey Night in Canada, is what made hockey grow in the first place. The first games were being broadcasted on the radio in 1933, in the fall of 1952 hockey made it to the silver screen, in the form of Leaf and Canadien games. The Hockey Night in Canada broadcast as it is now - across Canada- wasn't introduced until 1958. Although, there was one major difference between the 1958 televised event and the one of today. They originally didn't start airing the show until the beginning of the second period.

So I ask you: how has hockey in pop culture affected you? Do you find yourself drawn to it?



Next up: Hockey and Quebec Nationalism

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