Les Russes et Nous: The 1972 Summit Series and the Birth of Hockey Sovereignty in Quebec

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Summer 2013

Project Description/Abstract

The 1972 Summit Series between the Canadian national ice hockey team and the U.S.S.R. has long been lauded as an event that bridged the divide between mere sport and the headier discourse of national politics. in English Canada, Canadians have come to see it as a moment when their sense of themselves became crystallized in positive fellow feeling. The dramatic come-from-behind finish in Moscow to that eight-game series confirmed for much of the country that national unity was possible and that, in their sport, Canada was still best. But in the largely French-Canadian province of Quebec, where a "Quiet Revolution" toward modernity had achieved full momentum, the meaning of the series was (and is) more complex. The Série du Siècle (as it is called in Quebec) took place in a charged political environment, happening, as it did, on the heels of the formation of the separatist Parti Québécois (PQ) in 1968, the terrorist acts of the October Crisis of 1970, the failed constitutional amendment process involving the Victoria Charter (1971) and a provincial election (1970) that saw the PQ established as a permanent force. Moreover, the Series happened in the heat and midst of a federal election campaign in which incumbent Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was pushed in Quebec to paint his vision of binational federalism against the backdrop of national alternatives: the deux nations concept of federalism and outright separatism. Across Canada, Team Canada’s fortunes on the ice spurred larger questions about Canadian character. But in Quebec it drew into high relief ongoing discussions about Québécois identities and the national future.

The Quebec aspect of the Summit Series offers an important and missing chapter to this national sport story, one that arguably is still taking shape. This chapter traces the historical context of the Série du Siècle and examines its resonance in Quebec during September 1972. Most importantly, it speculates about the effects that the Summit Series had on hockey as national expression in that province. The Série du Siècle in Quebec is an event best assessed in the longue durée. The 1972 Summit Series helped grow the seed of sport sovereignty and the ongoing pursuit of a Quebec national team, separate from and potential rivals to, Team Canada. What's in a Game? In this instance, much more than what happens on the ice or on the scoreboard.

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