Quebec’s new premier has a message for the world: Hockey is no longer a common game.
Denis Legault, a former minister and current president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, wrote in the Calgary Herald that sport can no longer be defined by its culture. He argues that its “heart and soul” must be transferred to a more modern, international sport that is based on participants rather than spectators.
“What defines our game, and its sense of belonging to us, is the community spirit that we’re starting to lose,” Legault wrote. “Hockey isn’t made by our arenas and arenas and hockey players don’t make hockey.”
Canada has perhaps the most successful hockey league in the world, but it is also the first to show its willingness to change. Hockey in Canada has drawn its core fans — men, who play game in the sports bars throughout the night, perhaps leaving their families at home. It is professional, which makes the games accessible, and, like the rest of professional sports in Canada, it is now a multilingual sport (regardless of language).
But where Canada’s game differs is in how it comes together. Hockey in Canada is a game that revolves around a period of eight-plus minutes of acute competitiveness. In short, the game is about who wins and loses. It is played by many others, but it is one game among many that begins and ends with the outcome being up to a team.
Legault does not believe the fans and players in hockey clubs have the same stake in the outcome of the game as the next-door neighbor.
“Hockey fans, those who play in their own rink, those who gather at home, the families and friends of players, are at the ends of the spectrum when it comes to understanding the true hockey spirit,” he wrote. “It’s the professionals who really, in the purest sense, understand our game.”
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted earlier this year, Canada is preparing to send its first team to the 2022 Olympics, and everyone around the world is focused on how an “island nation” can land itself in the Winter Games. But rather than focusing on those fears, Legault says we should all find the Canadian qualities that are changing the culture of hockey.
“We’re going to be ready to challenge the vision of the country based on being an island nation,” he said. “As a nation, we are a nation of immigrants, and that is going to be a central driving force for the next generation of sport in our country.”