“Nación en el hielo: Hockey, History and the Troubled Construction of Identity in Canada, 1875-2010”

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Summer 2011

Project Description/Abstract

My CART 2011 Summer Grant tenure will be used to complete the research and writing of a c.25-page scholarly journal article entitled “Nación en el hielo: Hockey, History and the Troubled Construction of Identity in Canada, 1875-2010.” In December 2010, I was invited to contribute a new essay on ice hockey’s history and meaning in Canada, for a special Canadian history issue of the scholarly Mexican journal of international history, ISTOR, which is published by CIDE (History Division of the Center for Economic Research and Teaching), one of Mexico’s most respected academic institutes. The sport of ice hockey has been variously dubbed Canada’s “national religion,” its “common coin” and its “soul on ice.” The sport is widely enjoyed in Canada, and has been since its birth as a modern game among McGill University students in Montreal in the winter of 1875. As early as the 1890s, hockey had spread across the country’s geographical breadth, though not evenly or without controversy over who got to play. By the end of the twentieth century’s first decade, hockey had become a symbol of Canada, a site of unique cultural achievement in a nation desperately seeking an identity apart from its British parent and its larger, North American sibling. Today, ice hockey retains the power to unite Canadians even as it divides them by race, region and gender. “Canada’s Game” is as enigmatic as it is emblematic. Still, until quite recently, scholarly historians of Canada virtually ignored hockey, despairing, perhaps, that for much of their history many Canadians found identity in a hopelessly plebian pursuit. With the publication of Richard Gruneau and David Whitson’s 1993 volume, Hockey Night in Canada: Sport, Identities and Cultural Politics, scholars in Canada began to read hockey seriously; to problematize it and mine it for what it can tell us about Canadian society, economy and politics. I count myself among these scholars and have contributed to a burgeoning scholarly literature on the subject. This project is a significant one for me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it will provide me access to an audience to whom I normally would never have a chance to speak: Spanish-speaking, Latin American academics who rarely consider Canada and know perhaps very little about ice hockey and its meanings. I expect that readers of ISTOR will find that Canada’s conundrum – as nation that wrestles with a colonial past and the omnipresence of Americanization – has much in common with Mexico.

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