By Amy J. Ransom, Associate Professor of French at Central Michigan University
Hockey is arguably the most identifiably Canadian cultural marker. We can take its national significance as a given considering that even the Prime Minister has found time in his busy schedule to write a book about the sport!
My goal in Hockey, PQ: Canada's Game in Quebec's Popular Culture (University of Toronto Press) was to convey the meaning of hockey in Francophone Quebec to the Rest of Canada. It might be argued that the love of “la game” is the only thing uniting the two solitudes, as illustrated by the popularity of the Quebec film Bon cop, bad cop (2005) across Canada.
Although regional and linguistic rivalries are not absent from the sport—particularly when the stakes are high, as in the NHL draft or the choice of players for Canadian national teams—Franco-Quebeckers are just as concerned about the Americanization of the game, the problem of violence and the spectre of coach sexual abuse as Anglo-Canadians. It is my hope that readers of my book—Anglophone and francophone, hockey fans and non-hockey fans—will see this common ground that unites the nation.
More importantly is the point made here about the significance of everyday, popular culture in the creation of national identities. On the one hand, I want to celebrate and analyze texts and activities that give pleasure to large audiences; on the other, I want to underscore how hockey and other loyalties of taste are coming to replace more obvious, institutional and traditional forms of national and individual identity expression.
This has been one of the most fun academic projects I have ever undertaken! After completing my book, Science Fiction from Quebec: A Postcolonial Study (McFarland & Company), I was looking for a new project. A felicitous combination of events—a well-timed Sport Literature Association conference in London, Ontario, the centennial of the Montreal Canadiens, and the release of hockey-related songs by Mes Aïeux and Loco Locass (two quintessentially Quebecois pop groups)—got me interested in the academic study of hockey.
But it was the 2010 Vancouver Olympics that got me hooked on hockey as a fan. Attending a Red Wings-Canadiens match in historic Joe Louis Arena, it was hard to decide who to root for: my home team, or the Canadiens, whose history I now knew inside and out. Most exciting was the number of Quebecois fans in Detroit for the evening.
Working in academia doesn’t get better than this: when head and heart are both involved in a project!
Image: University of Toronto Press
In this series, we highlight books that have received funding from The Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP). ASPP is a competitive funding program run by the Federation that assists with the publication of scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences. Since 1941, the ASPP has funded more than 6,000 works, contributing directly to the creation of a distinctly Canadian body of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences. Read more about the ASPP here.