Ice hockey - the national sport of Canada

The origins and importance of ice hockey in Canadian culture

A symbol of Canada, a national sport, and even a way of life - ice hockey. Perhaps it may seem ironic that a country renowned for being so peaceful is so deeply connected with a sport where fighting is not only accepted but even commended.

This fast paced sport consists of two teams on skates, players are armed with sticks where the objective is to shoot the rubber “puck” into the opposing team’s net. From frozen-over ponds and community rinks, to the top arenas, you will find Canadians playing hockey. Not only are Canadians practising everywhere, but you will find all ages and levels participating - from children who can barely walk to those in the National Hockey League (NHL).

This game is so entwined with the country, that the Canadian logo of the maple leaf is printed on many hockey shirts. The Canadian hockey identity goes as far as education! In the University of Saskatchewan there is a course offered on “Hockey in Canadian Literature”.

The exact origin of ice hockey is unknown, however the game was developed in 1875 by a Canadian, J.G.A Creighton. The first game played under these modern rules, formed by Creighton, took place in Montreal. Although an iconically male sport, it continues to evolve alongside Canada, whereby women have gradually become more and more involved in the national sport. In the 2002 Winter Olympics, over 6 million Canadians watched their women’s team take the gold medal; just three days later 10 million watched the men’s team achieve the gold medal as well.

In 2004 a poll was taken in Canada to find the 10 greatest Canadians of all time, millions of Canadians chose two hockey players within their list - Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry. Furthermore, having a hockey scene on the back of the Canadian five dollar note is just another example of how close to their hearts this sport really is.

Some Canadians who feel strongly about the sport, believe that hockey has huge impacts on Canada, so much so that it defines it. There have been books written on the influence and connection between hockey and Canada, such as Jim Prime’s book, How Hockey Explains Canada: The Sport That Defines a Country.

Needless to say that Canada created, embraced and continues to adore ice hockey. In a country which is divided by languages and political views, hockey is seen as a unifying force, forming a great part of Canadian cultural identity.

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