Quebec Studies

The Montréal Canadiens: A Hockey Metaphor

Quebec Studies (1983), 1, (1), 96–108.


The Montrkal Canadiens: A Hockey Metaphor James J . Herlan Although professional hockey is primarily a business operated for the profit of the team owners, it has a broad cultural impact that reaches far beyond the corporate balance sheet. In Canada, where it is the national sport, ice hockey generates attachments and passions that often reflect the nature of society itself. In the eyes of Canada’s hockey fans, their favorite teams and players seem to act out, symbolically at least, conflicts and feelings that trouble the collective psyche: Team Canada defends the nation’s honor in international tournaments, the Montreal Canadiens carry the banner of French Canada, while the Toronto Maple Leafs traditionally represent the values cherished by English Canada; and more recently teams in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver have become symbols of western pride. Another new team, the Qukbec Nordiques, wear blue uniforms decorated with fleur-de-lys, an emblem that speaks for itself. All of this is hardly surprising if one remembers that since the founding of the National Hockey League in 1917 an entire mythology of hockey has steadily evolved in Canada. Indeed, the sport has permeated the national consciousness and should not be dismissed as a trivial element in the culture. Playwright Rick Salutin has gone so far as to assert that hockey is “probably our only universal cultural symbol.”’ While that assertion may seem exaggerated, one can certainly cite a number of prominent writers, both anglophone and francophone, who have written about hockey as an important facet of Canadian life: Hugh MacLennan, Roch Carrier, Hugh Hood, Mordecai Richler, Salutin and others. In this study, 1 will examine the legend that has grown up around the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful team in the

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Author details

Herlan, James