The Canadian Hockey Player Problem: Cultural Reckoning and National Identities in American Collegiate Sport, 1947-80

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This article is a study in the social history of Canadian-American relations and it performs two functions. First, it traces the increasing presence of Canadian student athletes in American collegiate hockey, 1947-80, and the efforts of coaches, recruiters, administrators, and alumni to draw Canadians to US hockey programs. By the end of the 1950s Canadian student athletes dominated the American collegiate game—a pattern that abated only in the late 1970s. Second, this essay analyzes the heated debates that emerged in these years about the threats that these students posed to American collegiate athletics and to Canadian amateur hockey. The Canadianization of US college hockey from 1947 to 1980 was hardly universally welcomed in the United States or in Canada and it produced no small amount of rancour among American and Canadian commentators. Canadian hockey players in American schools personified the commercialization of amateur collegiate sport, according to some in the United States. In Canada, expatriate collegians were seen alternately as victims of American 'talent raiders' and disloyal to the communities that raised, invested in, and trained them. This essay demonstrates how hockey generated concerns about national identity in Canada and the United States in the sixties and seventies, and asserts, more generally, that the study of sport - hockey in particular - provides an important window on the historical and quotidian construction of national identities.

Original Citation

Holman, Andrew C. "The Canadian Hockey Player Problem: Cultural Reckoning And National Identities In American Collegiate Sport, 1947-80." Canadian Historical Review 88.3 (2007): 439-468. https://doi.org/10.3138/chr.88.3.439