Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Olympic hockey thoughts from Karla and Kendra, 2014

In light of the upcoming Canadian men's hockey game tomorrow I have been feeling a certain nervoustime about what it means to cheer for a country....thanks to my amazing sister Karla for her insight and helpfulness on the subject:


Hey so ya my biggest discussion topic was what you think about the Olympics based on your thesis. In yoga, we are taught that the root chakra connects us to belonging but sometimes that is totally false like we are encouraged to look at what our parents may have told us that may not be true (sidenote - have you heard the song 'The Mother we Share' by CHVRCHES ? so good.)

As it relates to Canada I can support the team for sure but I don't think I would be devastated if the Czechs won it or even Sweden or even even well with Patrick Kane's sweet interview about his grandfather dying maybe the us....and this is partially due to my own attachment to the players or the places and maybe that is why its easier to cheer for the Canadian team so much more passionately in the juniors because you don't have the back story on any one. 

But as soon as I have a story I would cheer for anyone and I guess that's the difficulty. What do you think?


I agree with all this, and love the song The Mother We share. I've been hitting that whole cd pretty hard since I got back from my last Winnipeg jaunt, and it's playing again now, actually. 

The Olympics are so interesting, because intellectually, I can believe that the Canadian nationstate is colonial and illegitimate, not just because of its history, but its ongoing unjust and white supremacist practices, but there's an undeniable emotional pull that comes from growing up in a place that takes certain sports, like hockey or even curling, as "ours," and it's easy to get caught up in the competitive spirit for people like me, and you too, maybe. Certain rivalries, like hating Russia from growing up watching them beat Canada for WJrs, or the typical Canadian desire to beat the Americans at something/ANYTHING, can still get to me, because that's really embedded, socially and culturally. This morning, for example, when I turned on the women's hockey game, I automatically found myself wanting the Americans to lose and the Canadians to win, even though I don't know the stories of any of those women on the team and am not rooting for individual players like I am with the men's team. I like to think my support for team Canada on the men's side is due to a loyalty to Winnipeg and the menno connection with Toews, not Canada as a nation, but Winnipeg sits on stolen ground as well. There's a gendered dynamic there too, of course, the differences between the lives, fame, and wealth of most of the male players, and the financial struggle and lack of regular recognition the women hockey players face, and how hard it is for them to continue to play the way they do and have other jobs along the way. 

In addition to preferring the sports being played, the winter Olympics are of more interest to me politically than the summer one's, especially in terms of how Canada markets itself during them - the "we are winter" slogan does lots of things at once. It claims ownership over a season, which is strange/questionable enough, but it also calls subtly (or maybe not so subtly) on what is sometimes called environmental determinism, or what has been called "icy white nationalism" in the Canadian case - the idea that cold temperatures actually contribute to morally better, more hard working and hearty people. This can be contrasted with "lazy, soft" (nonwhite) southern people, who are coded as inferior in these geographical/environmental terms, which are racialized, but not always explicitly so. Criteria like that, environmental factors ones standing in for race, used to help explicitly shape Canada's immigration policy, for example, and many of our national myths are about the hearty settlers coming and conquering the cold and the 'emptiness' of the land. So all this comes up in a narrative about Canada's rightful place at the top of the winter Olympic podium, and needs to be critically deconstructed.  

There's also the other issues of any Olympics, the cost to the local people, the displacement of local people at times, the sex trafficking, the other risks to women, and then, in this Russian case, we obviously have the issue of LGBTQ* rights as well. 

and YET, all that aside, again, it's all very easy to get caught up in, and in essence, that's how the emotional pull of nationalism works, the often irrational, gut power of an anthem, or even a Tim Hortons commercial spanning across the provinces, showing us proud, familiar images and national icons. 

But like you said, the power of a story can do that same kind of thing, and that can blur national loyalties and previous expectations. I think that's a good thing, a reminder that our common humanity can hopefully trump borders and be what connects us, and what ultimately matters most. 


I never thought about the women making less, even when Phil Kessel's sister did really well earlier in the year and Ron McLean was like 'best Kessel in the family' obviously regardless of how poorly Phil had been doing he would certainly had the money to drown his sorrows in whatever way. 

But I guess I kind of like the idea that winter breeds better people. Remember our 'winter only' hockey league where we would ditch teams that never had snow? I am not even sure if it's even cold in Sochi right now, the high today (I just checked) is 17 degrees -the exact same high as Barcelona, Spain - not a location you'd expect for a Winter Olympics. 

Already today though I was so excited checking the scores for the Czech Sweden game and felt personally offended that Pavelec wasn't in goal....and then I remembered all my faves from the Sweden team, Landeskog, Lundqvuist obvs and then suddenly it's a new story, like this new goalie if he can be on par with Lundqvist (despite the loss) is that the feel good story of the day. And that's why I like the Olympics and sports generally, is that there is always a chance for a complete turnaround. Or there should be. I am wondering I can try to really not cheer for Canada and what it would be like, not in a terrible way to cheer against them but to see how emotionally I will feel when watching a game itself.

Tim Horton's commercials are the worst though - haha. And any Scotiabank commercial involving a child waking up early gets me everytime.


 I know how you feel - I can be critical of it, on one level, but I am susceptible to the idea of cold weather breeding better people, too, even though I know it's caught up in very problematic racist narratives. It can be such a big part of our provincial identity in particular, and our winter only hockey league was a great idea, I still say.  

I love sports for the potential unexpected triumphs and feel good stories, too, and for me, there are so many Blackhawks on different teams that I feel like I could be happy with a lot of different outcomes, but at the end of the day, I just want Jonathan Toews to mercilessly crush his enemies and win all the things. 


  1. I'm waiting for Rebecca's heated reply before I say anything.

    1. Ya everyone should reply. This was meant to be a jump off by no means the final word.