Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


Canada’s Cold War Identity…on Ice

With the conclusion of the World Cup of Hockey Canadian identity is as strong as ever, with team Canada taking a dominating 2 game series win over Team Europe. Team Europe might be a new opponent for Team Canada but they did not stop them from taking the title of World Cup Champions. Team Canada went through some older and familiar teams where the rivalry today is distinctly different than it was during the famous 8 game Summit Series with the former USSR.


Canada is still known across the world and especially within Canada’s diverse population as a hockey nation with dominating performances in the past several international events and tournaments. The chapter by Scherer, Duquette, and Mason (2007) in the book East plays West, Sport and the Cold War provides us with the “(re)articulation of the Canadian National Identity” through the 1972 Summit Series.[1] The chapter provides us with a unique perspective of the Summit Series by setting the stage. Most documentaries begin with game 1 of the series and conclude with the iconic Henderson goal. By providing the unique circumstances that established this event we can obtain a new perspective and appreciation for the significance of the series to the Canadian identity.

The 1960’s and 1970’s was a time that the USSR national team was dominating the international stage. Canada was unable to send professional athletes to international competitions and with the rise of other hockey programs in the world Canada lagged behind. Canada withdrew from international events previous to the 1972 series with the USSR. The series was established with the ability for Canada to send NHL professionals to represent the country. Canada’s identity would form through two different and distinct avenues. The first being Canada’s identity to the world as Canada was forming diplomatic ties with the USSR without major western allies. Canada would open up to the USSR forming a diplomatic tie that would share aspects of the two countries, which included hockey. The second would be through the fractured Canadian self identity with the debate of Anglophone vs. Francophone taking place in the country at this time. Through these two avenues Canada would (re)articulate its identity to the world but also to itself.

Today Canada is a unique Country with a wide range of demographics through the increased numbers of immigrants in many Canadian cities. With this shift in Canadian demographics the popularity of hockey has been threatened. Not many immigrants participate in hockey but instead play basketball and soccer. The participation rates of hockey are declining in many major metropolitan areas. What does this do to the Canadian identity, especially during international hockey events? It is interesting to know that many immigrants give hockey a try either through actually playing or watching with other Canadians. Immigrants see this as an essential way of entering into Canadian society and being a part of the Canadian identity.[2] The relevance of this was shown in the gold medal game of men’s hockey during the 2010 Vancouver winter games where nearly 80 percent of Canadians tuned in for some portion of the game, which comes out to nearly 26.5 million people.[3] Hockey in Canada is still seen as an essential part of its identity. Even with the changing demographics of Canada individuals new to the country still make an effort to enter into the Canadian hockey world to experience part of our identity as a nation. The social component of hockey among new immigrants to Canada is essential to a portion of their integration and inclusion.

The image of Canada to the world has shifted since the 1970’s but what has stayed constant is the identity Canada has through its hockey. Canada is once again on top of the world as 2016 World Cup Champions.

[1] Scherer, J., Duquette, G.H., & Mason, D. S. (2007). The Cold War and the (re)articulation of Canadian national identity, The 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. In S. Wagg & D.L. Andrews (Eds.), East plays West, Sport and the Cold War (pp. 163-186). London: Routledge.

[2] The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (2014). Playing together – new citizens, sports, and belonging.

[3] Dan O’Neill –

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Thumbs down, Grapes.

Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang.

Another take on the Hero-Villain binary exhibited by the notorious Don Cherry.

Over the past 35 years, Don Cherry has spent every Saturday night over the course of a National Hockey League (NHL) season on Coach’s Corner, co-hosting the 1st intermission segment of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC). At the end of segments, Don routinely gives a big thumbs up to the audience. However, after reading this article, I have to give Cherry a big thumbs down.


When the horn blows to signal the end of the 1st, the unmistakable trumpeted theme song of Coach’s Corner comes on.  If you’re like me, you stay seated on the couch, not eagerly awaiting to hear the outlandish comments Don will undoubtedly provide, but to simply get a laugh at his flamboyant fashion choices.  Aside from his attire, Cherry is also well-known for his rants, often offering his opinions on a range of sociopolitical issues that stray far from the on-ice content he is paid (handsomely) to comment on.  If we ignore the velvet blazers and fuchsia ties, and truly listen to his message, these boisterous critiques include targeting Europeans and French Canadians (focused on in this article particularly) and constructing a controversial version of Canadian national identity.

Don’s version of ‘Canadianism’ leaves millions of Canadians out of the picture.  It is the ‘good ol Saskatoon boys’ that grew up on the farm, rather than Francophones, who encompass his view of toughness and patriotism, he feels a ‘true’ Canadian should have. His exclusion of certain groups does not reflect the cultural diversity which is what SHOULD be one of the pillars of Canadian identity. This interpretation is interesting considering the Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s (CBC) Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition, is hosted by individuals who would not fit Don’s image. Don’s version of nationalism contradicts the multiculturalism that Canada prides itself on in a global context.

To piggyback on Don’s controversial interpretation of Canadian identity, is his interpretation of masculinity. This concept is not explored in the article, however, I find it interesting to contrast Don’s own portrayal of masculinity (his outfit choices ) with his conservative notions of toughness and aggression when commenting on players; often referring to French Canadians, and Russians as “cowards” for wearing a visor, or shying away from a fight.

The militarization of sport and hockey in particular, is not a recent phenomenon. For example, players have gone to ‘battle’ in the corners and ‘snipers’ have been scoring goals for years.  Don has long been known as one of the military’s greatest supporters, the sincerity and respect Don has for the Canadian Armed Forces is unquestioned. No one can critique the emotional memoirs he often gives to fallen soldiers and their families. However, at times his conservative views of the military begin to become political tirades. Foreign policy should not be up for discussion, as Don gives only a one-sided biased take on war and military engagements.

CBC has done relatively little to stop Don from vocalizing his brash and uncontested opinions (the seven second time delay is far from the game misconduct he deserves). Like him or not, Cherry’s notoriety has made him a staple in households across the country every Saturday night.

Is Coaches Corner the appropriate platform to be vocalizing such controversial ideology? Probably not. However, this rhetoric is what makes the man behind the fuchsia suit who he is, and viewers cannot wait to see what he wears and says next.


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Don Cherry’s Nationalism: The Loss of Rationale Thought?


In the book written by L.A. Wenner(2013), “Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture ” a chapter by Jay Scherer & Lisa McDermott delve into the cultural significance CBC’s Don Cherry holds in regards to Canadian Nationalism. The article begins by stating that through the television career of Don Cherry, he has demonstrated a unique binary that sets him up to be a polarizing figure. Specifically, the Hero-Villain phenomena, as you can see in this clip. The authors go on to note that through his persona and comments, he displays a form of cultural identity that a collective of the population state as being biased towards conservative views. The Authors highlight this stance through the lenses of: his relations to the French-Canadians, and his stance on the Canadian military. The Authors bring light to cherry’s views towards the Francophone community on many separate occasions including: his anti-Quebecois rhetoric in the belief that they are “whiners”, as well as his favors for English (both language and people). On the opposite end of the Cherry Spectra, his support for the troops counters his disdain for the francophone, as elaborated by the Authors. They go on to note the countless times Don has expressed in favor of pro -war mentality, including an infamous coach’s corner segment where he and Ron Maclean debated on the topic.

See here

The authors also highlight his express for supporting the efforts by the Unites States and how we as Canadians should be supporting them, as well as his interpretation of what being Canadian is; specifically, being a warrior nation. The Authors’ make a final note of significant importance on the complicity that the CBC is demonstrating by not taking appropriate action to Cherry’s remarks and displays and that they too are in deep fault for shaping ideals and an identity for Canada. Thus, the authors demonstrate that their is more to the color commentator then simply hockey, but a brand of nationalism that not everyone would identify with.

This Chapter does bring warranted concern to the table, in addressing topics that can have damaging effects within the sporting realm from Mr. Cherry: exclusion via race, conceptualization of what being a ‘Canadian’ is, and overt support of hegemonic masculinity. These views can have serious repercussions on the enrollment and retention of future hockey players, which is an even bigger concern now for the sport as noted in recent demographic data. Global News report

However, these viewpoints are essential for the betterment of the sport. Within the realms of Kinesiology, thought is structured to enhance inclusive aspects of sport and recreation, in a holistic perspective. This particular stream of thought by Don Cherry, often gets ignored from an educational perspective as it is essentially deemed outlandish given that it doesn’t fit our criteria.  So in engaging in a “cosmopolitanism” way of thinking (bringing contrasting ideas together and communicating them in a way to come to a consensus for the betterment of society), programs can define the structure on what their sport offers in an effort to adhere to what both sides mention or what identity they wish to bring forth. By engaging with various rationales and understanding stance, only then can sport and recreation develop for the better. In the sport of hockey a huge dilemma is the recruitment and retention of players (as noted from the global report above), some can argue that they may not enroll in the sport because it can be too aggressive and people like Don Cherry push forward a mentality of what hockey should be. On the other hand, some may argue that the culture of hockey has changed to much and has become a sport that has lost it’s significance (the game is too soft).So despite the flaws that the Authors make note of, we should be slow to dismiss the Don Cherry’s of the world as they create pivotal moments for opportunities to become better, especially in the context of developing and enhancing programs. For that is what the pursuit of education is all about.

Issue related to Sport & Recreation (& Kinesiology) is: Sport being used as a means to suffice needs beyond its intended purpose, specifically in terms of national Identity and Inclusivity. The Effect of contrasting perceptions and how Kinesiology must learn to adapt with these notions for the betterment of the sport.


Scherer J., & McDermott L. (2013). Don Cherry and the Cultural Politics of Rock’em    Sock’em Nationalism: Complicating The Hero-Villain Binary in Canada . In Wenner, L. A.  (Ed.), Fallen Sports Hero’s, Media, and Celebrity Culture (pp. 330-345). P. Lang

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Did your vote affect Canadian Elite sport? A look at the funding and Administration of Sport in Canada into 2016-

The primary issues in the readings entitled “How Canada Funds amateur athletes” and “Canadian high-performance sport faces uncertain future” are clear and evident even without reading a word from the article.  Funding is the Canadian system is similar to the British system in the sense that the sports and athletes that have had, and are projected to have the most success will be granted a higher piece of the proverbial pie than athletes in less successful or relatively subordinate sports.

It is my opinion that the real issue in the reading on how Canada funds amateur athletes should be the definition the reader gives to “success” as it relates to Sport Canada and our Olympic funding.  Stinson asks the question whether our current sport funding model accomplishes the larger goal of a more active society, and to that I ask Stinson why it is the problem of our Elite Sport organizations to make our society more active?  Is it clearly stated that the purpose of high level sport in to activate a nation of lazy and underachieving people?  I question that statement that the more active society bit is the larger goal of any elite sport organization.  I have no problem paying my tax dollars to see our Canadian athletes have success on the podium, I draw great strength and patriotism from seeing our athletes do well, but I think it is silly to expect us to become some fit and healthy nation by piggybacking on elite athlete’s successes.

A key issue is that in the face of so many drastic changes in the past months, where is steady ground for athletes sports managers and what can be expected moving forward?  We know the support that Harper and the conservative government gave to Olympic athletes, but are yet unsure where the new Liberal majority finds value and how the change in government may re-allocate funds, possibly away from high-performance sport.  The issue is uncertainty, and the by-product is a sport system is limbo; waiting for policies to be made that may affect an athlete’s hopes and dreams and years of hard work.

Both of these articles are super important to us a sport and recreation professionals because in one way or another we will all look to make improvements and innovate in our specific fields and that inevitably requires funding.  It may not be funding directly from the government or elite sports organizations, but to have an understanding of the landscape of the industry and what the issues are is very pertinent.  When we are dealing with public funds it is so important to be transparent and lay all the issues on the table.  The Canadian society has the right to know what the implications of the new government are and how that may or may not affect athletes on the podium in upcoming games.  As a student interested in identification and development of elite talent these articles provide me with a base of knowledge to build upon and form my own opinions and conclusions.  I want to know that Canada as a government and as a society are behind my efforts to develop strong Canadian talent and find value in our international successes, so without critical articles like these I am left without a sense of the Canadian heartbeat on the issues.

It is my strong, and somewhat stubborn, opinion that we need to keep investing in our athletes, and I would hope that the new government will continue to do so.  In my view sport and rec management is too complicated an issue for people in the media to jump all over based solely on the dollars figures associated with it.  We know that so many people get so much more out of sport than just entertainment, as Foster and Hyatt (2008) touched on in ‘Inventing Team Tradition.’ Sports has the powerful influence of bringing people together in a real way and creating life long bonds.  I know I have found common ground with people I for any other reason would never associate with based on our shared love for sport, especially elite Canadian national sport.

Even though I find myself wanting to defend the Elite sports side of things and say that we should never re-allocate money away from elite sport, it can be critically argued that without grassroots sport and investments in development, hundreds of potential participants and possible elite athletes would never be exposed to sport, or maybe the sport they are best suited to excel in.  As an example of the broader focus, from the in class article on Sport Funding Accountability Frameworks (SFAF) by Havaris and Danylchuk (2007) we learn that previously the government has allocated over 70% of funds to elite sport, there has been a shift towards a 60/40 split between high performance and sport development.  I find this to be a healthy and stable union of the two and hope to see Sport Canada maintain our level of excellence while increasing our participation number and seeing more kids enter the stream towards high level competition.

To think critically about these issues with which the vast majority of us have no real pertinent knowledge or experience is burdensome at best.  It is easy to draw firm conclusions based on pre-conceived assumption and even harder to accept data when is goes against what we thought to be true.  I am guilty of this.  I have found myself very against the “inclusion” and “participation” models of sport and rec solely because of my competitive upbringing and general bias towards what I feel is most important.  But as I take time to criticize my criticisms of “participation” initiatives and the funding thereof, I find it easier to step back and see what will benefit the greater good and bring us as a society benefit, as much as it pains “the competitor” in me.