et cet article dans le National Post d'aujourd'hui
.Chris Selley: Debunking Canadian hockey myths
Canada's team reacts after losing the gold medal game to Russia.
.The world is a better place when international hockey is at its best, and international hockey is at its best when Russia — winners of this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships, in stunning fashion — is firing on all cylinders. The burgeoning Canada-U.S.A. rivalry is all well and good, but I’ve never sensed that defeat weighs all that heavily on American shoulder pads — certainly not like the Russians, for whom every key loss (to Canada, anyway) seems to represent a historic humiliation. The screeching, taunting, overtly nationalist swagger with which they greet victory — “Russia better than your puny weakling country!” — always brings with it the hope of a fantastic grudge match the next time around.
Don’t get me wrong: I cheer as enthusiastically as anyone for Canadian hockey, including this year’s under-20 squad, but I also cheer when Canadian myths explode in people’s faces. And there are few Canadian myths so obnoxiously overblown as that of our mighty junior hockey player: He is interested only in winning, he contemplates ritual suicide in the face of a loss and, most crucially, he will do things no other player of lesser nationality will do to win.
I’m no fan of the converse myth, either — that of the unfailingly modest Canadian who is uncomfortable with conspicuous displays of nationalism or patriotism. (How this myth survives sporting events like the Olympics and the World Juniors, to say nothing of generations of Canadian backpackers, is beyond me.) But at least that myth doesn’t insult the entire rest of the hockey world — just the U.S.
On Wednesday night in Buffalo, N.Y., a more realistic image of Canadian junior hockey players emerged: As demonstrated by the 3-0 score after the first 40 minutes, they are phenomenally skilled, hardworking teenagers; as demonstrated by the 0-5 tally in the last 20 minutes, the Russians are all of those things as well, and Canadians are deathly afraid of losing. How could they not be? Lead broadcaster TSN’s unbelievably po-faced and jingoistic coverage treats each of these tournaments like the Battle of 1812 combined with Game 8 of the Summit Series.
The Post’s Thursday-morning headline read, simply, “MELTDOWN.” And it was, most certainly, a historic collapse by Canada. But if the teams had been reversed, I suspect terms like “meltdown,” “collapse” and — my favourite so far, courtesy of the shell-shocked TSN panel — “atrocity” would have been significantly less prevalent. Instead, I suspect we would have heard all about Canada’s historic comeback — about how our players simply wanted it more, cared more about winning, would do things no Russian player would ever do to win.
Neither playing sports nor watching sports is supposed to be a rational exercise. But concepts of civility, sportsmanship and respect toward other nations are very tightly wound into our national psyche, and we often use sports as a proxy for that. In Wednesday’s Globe and Mail, Roy MacGregor very aptly recalled our revulsion at a Nike ad prominently displayed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta: “You don’t win silver, you lose gold.” How gauche can the Yankees get? Yet in junior hockey, we’ve adopted it as a national credo.
Indeed, the junior tournament seems to be the perfect intersection of our inferiority and superiority complexes. When Canada seems to be cruising toward gold, the inferiority complex kicks in: Nobody else cares about the tournament, we complain. Isn’t it stupid that we get so wrapped up about it? And when we lose, the superiority complex kicks in and we instantly start passing judgment on the winning team’s comportment — whether it’s taunting the Canadian fans after the final whistle (“Never let your kid behave that way,” a Toronto columnist sniffed); hitting the streets of Halifax in showy celebration, as the Russians did in 2003 in Halifax; or, on Wednesday night, getting so hammered that Delta wouldn’t let them on their flight the next morning.
Thursday morning on CBC’s morning show, the sports guy conceded the players “shouldn’t have been drinking” and the host clutched her chest and declared, “Stop right there!” Intern, fetch the smelling salts! A bunch of 19-year-olds (and one 18-year-old) disregarded the absurdly high American drinking age, of which they probably weren’t even aware, and got hammered in celebration! This is not a scandal. It’s a funny story, a welcome contribution to hockey lore.
If Canadians didn’t have a strong tendency to behave as the world’s hypocritical, hectoring nannies in the non-sporting arena, this sort of thing wouldn’t really be a problem. But we do, and it is. From our overblown tradition of peacekeeping to our tendency to sign forward-thinking international accords and not do anything about them, we need fewer myths about our identity — not more.
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