With winter around the corner and me sitting in my kitchen on the Central Coast of California, hundreds of miles away from snow, an ice rink, or a professional team, it is hard not to feel envious of my family up north as my favorite season (hockey season) begins.
In many parts of the United States, especially the west coast, we miss out on this culture because of the climate.
“You come down to Phoenix and baseball [is] the deal, because you play that year round. You go up to Canada and [there are] no opportunities,” said John Danko, a Canadian and former hockey player who is in the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame. “The odd baseball player comes out of Canada but they don’t have the feeder teams and the minor programs, and it’s because of climate. In Canada we have winter eight months out of the year so it’s curling or hockey.”
“Joe Canadian” said it best when he called Canada the “first nation of hockey” in the 2000 Molson beer commercial during their “I Am Canadian” campaign.
The sport of hockey has been around as long as the pyramids. It started as a simple stick and ball game in Egypt. This causes people to deny that Canada claims ownership over the sport. However the version that we see today, ice hockey, finds its roots around 1800 in Nova Scotia, Canada.
King’s College School in Windsor, Nova Scotia is said to be the birthplace of modern ice
hockey or “Ice Hurley” as they called it.
In reality, the sport has been a part of Canada’s culture since before it became an independent country. Canada declared its independence on July 1, 1867, over half a century after some boys in Nova Scotia started passing around a ball with sticks on ice.
The passion for and devotion to the sport hasn’t changed over the years; if anything they have increased. Kids are beginning to skate earlier and earlier, to the point where they are learning how to walk and skate concurrently.
“I think hockey is important to Canada because it brings a sense of togetherness. If you’ve ever been to a game in Canada (it’s usually packed) and there’s a feeling of camaraderie and a feeling of pride. Most Canadians grew up on a pair of skates.”
-Tessa Campbell, Canadian hockey fan
If Canadians aren’t playing hockey, they are watching it. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics Gold Medal Game between Team Canada and Team USA averaged 27.6 million viewers.
Canada accounted for an average of 16.6 million of those viewers. When you take in to account Canada’s population of 34 million at the time, it means that nearly HALF of all Canadians watched the game. Even more impressive is that 26.5 million Canadians tuned in at some point of the game—that’s 80 percent of the nation’s population.
Some consider hockey to be the national pastime, some say it builds the community, while others say it is a religion. One thing they all agree on is that hockey is more than just a sport, and none will deny that it is deeply woven into the fabric of what makes Canada, Canada.