Thursday, May 3, 2007

Hockey in the Halls of Canadian Power

In my last post, I answered a question about whether hockey was a genetic part of being Canadian with a simple "yes".

Let me expand on that.

For the last two days, the news in Canada has been dominated - and I do mean dominated - by the naming of a Canadian player as captain of a Canadian team to an international squad in a tournament that no one in Canada really watches or cares about.

The World Hockey Championship is held in the middle of the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs and the only players who attend are those on teams so lousy they didn't make the playoffs. It's held in Europe. The games take place at hours most Canadians are sleeping or working and I don't even think the preliminary matches are televised.

The captain of this year's Canadian squad is Shane Doan. Doan is a good player, not a great one, but he is a leader and he was a popular choice with the players to wear the "C" as we in Canada call it.

But, his role has become a political and media hot potato the likes of which you rarely see in this country.

About 16 months ago - that's right SIXTEEN MONTHS - in a game against the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal, Doan was accused of calling a referee a "fucking frog." He didn't. There is no video or audio evidence of him doing so and Doan is one of the few players in the league who doesn't use the word "fuck" on any occasion. He is a strict Christian with an unblemished record. Everyone who has ever played with him or against him has attested to the fact he is one of the most gentlemanly players to ever lace up the skates.

Most hockey players use "fuck" as a verb, adverb, noun, pronoun, adjective and anything else they can think of. Not Doan; he says "fudge" and his comment that night to a teammate, misheard in a crowded, noisy arena by a Francophone linesman whose command of English is not perfect, was that there were "four French referees", the implication being that perhaps his Phoenix-based team, with the game in Montreal, might not get a 100 per cent fair shake. Hardly the stuff of controversy at a professional sporting match.

A short time later, he was named to Canada's Olympic Team and the Bloc Quebecois protested.

Then, the situation died down, for more than a year. Even the referee has said the incident was long ago laid to rest.

The one outstanding issue is an unresolved defamation suit Doan has launched against against a Member of Parliament, saying that you could call him "the worst player in the league" but you could not impugn his reputation as being honest and a gentleman.

But, after he was named captain last week, the issue rose its head again. This time, the Blocheads charged that Doan was not a proper person to represent Canada, which is pretty rich coming from a party whose ONLY platform is to rip the country apart and whose leader, Gilles Duceppe, has demanded a separate Quebec team be sent to world events such as Olympic games. And, even more bizarrely, this time, the Bloc is supported by the New Dumbocraps (socialist morons) and the Liberals (slightly less socialist morons).

The issue has been dominating the House of Commons, the media, the airwaves, the office watercooler and every other avenue and outlet of conversation in the country.

Most Canadians view this as political gamesmanship at its very worst, and it will come as no surprise to anyone that I agree. The political fallout could well be tremendous; that's how much Canadians love and respect hockey and its players.

And, the ruling Conservatives? Well, they're headed by Stephen Harper who is pretty much a hockey historian. His party is more or less lending their support to Doan and, no doubt, hoping the issue remains front and centre because, in the end, they stand to reap the windfall.

As does Doan. He's gone from captain of a footnote of a hockey squad to a man Canadians are now rallying behind. Far from sullying his reputation, the three-headed political monster has turned him into a hero.

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