HOCKEY AND OUR NATIONAL HEARTBEAT – Sportsnet.ca
As in ancient times, any discussion about hockey and Canada begins with the climate, which is why our forebears, in an effort to battle back against the winters in this ridiculously inhospitable land, took to strapping on skates. They found the nearest frozen pond or river or prairie slough, fashioned a stick, invented the puck and stayed out until darkness fell in mid-afternoon or their toes turned blue, whichever came first. Had Canada’s weather patterns been similar to those of, say, Tahiti, it wouldn’t have worked out quite that way. But given that mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver, etcetera, etcetera, it was that or sit by the fire for six or seven months a year. And so, we became a nation of hockey players rather than a nation of surfers.
The game was organized and professionalized in the early days of the 20th century, morphing into the NHL 100 years ago, and though the first Ottawa Senators came and went, the Hamilton Tigers and Montreal Maroons expired, and only two of the Original Six teams were based in Canada, our sense of ownership never wavered. Radio, then television, only enhanced that proprietary feeling, knitting the nation together from coast to coast to coast, adding Newfoundland even before it joined Confederation through Foster Hewitt’s famous “Hello, Canada…” invocation.