In 1973, folk singer Tom Connors penned this ditty that was later adopted by NHL teams to have broadcast in their arenas during breaks in play. While the lyrics – especially the chorus – seem literate to the level of a children’s song – they are also easy to sing after games, in the pubs of Canada.
Politically, hockey is considered part of Canada’s national identity; when Canadians are asked to describe themselves, love of hockey would be one of their cited characteristics. When Canadian teams do not make the playoffs, and especially, when Canadian national teams do not bring home their expected gold medals, it is as if the country is in a period of national mourning and embarrassment.
Before you think it seems daft or inconsequential for a people to define themselves by a sport, let’s know that cultural activities like sports breed feelings of connections with others in a given place. And particularly for Canada, this is a country that struggled and struggles to nail down its its other national identity elements. After all, it took forty years to agree on a national flag, and Canada had no officially sanctioned national anthem (to sing at hockey games) until 1980! In this sense, hockey became the Crazy Glue of Canada’s otherwise underdeveloped and shaky national identity. For Canada, as a nation, these national identity parts include its gradually achieved sovereignty, northern geographic reality, lukewarm French-English relations and regionalism and anti-American sentiment. Looked at this way, cheering for Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby is just so much easier to deal with!
In 2013, Stompin’ Tom passed away. Rest In Peace.