After winning gold in 2002, the Canadian team finished seventh at the 2006 Games. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
It’s almost time for professional hockey’s unseemly of seasons to begin.
I’m not referring to the increasing hype surrounding this Friday’s NHL draft, nor of the rumor-rama that precedes the July 1 opening of the league’s unrestricted free agent period.
No, I’m talking about Olympic Games-related discussion and debate. Or, more specifically, Canadian Olympic Men’s Hockey Team-related discussion and debate.
Although there already has been assorted nitpickery and hair-splitting in regard to Canada’s team at the 2010 Vancouver Games, the process will commence fully with this week’s expected naming of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock as the True North Strong and Free’s entry, followed by an announcement next week revealing the names of players invited to the Canadian team’s orientation camp in August.
It’s not the news itself that bothers me. I always find the construction of any team and its ensuing triumphs and failures to be worthy of interest and examination.
It’s the underlying assumptions behind the news – the belief an Olympic hockey championship always starts out as Canada’s to lose, the notion Team Canada architect Steve Yzerman and his associates are devising a life-or-death protection plan for the closest thing my motherland has to a national crown of jewels – that drive me nuts.
As always, all I really give a whit about is watching a well-contested hockey game. Birth certificates and national anthems aren’t why I’ll be tuning in to the Vancouver Games, mainly because their inclusion in the debate is part and parcel of a process that leads to the scourge of hyper-nationalism.
Hyper-nationalism, in case you were unaware, is a fairly big problem when it comes to hockey in Canada. It makes Canadians arrogant to a degree they strive to avoid in almost every other facet of their existence – and it makes me think of what famous author George Orwell wrote in his 1945 essay Notes on Nationalism:
“All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts…Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage…which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side…The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
The Vancouver Olympics will drag a ton of that Canadian attitude out of the backwoods where it undoubtedly belongs.
Bite into that burger all you want, but leave me out of it.
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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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