Quebec Studies

Papas de la patinoire: Hockey Dads and Responsible Family Manhood in Twentieth-Century Québec1

Quebec Studies (2020), 69, (1), 131–154.


Recent research on the history of fatherhood shows how paternal roles were shifting in the twentieth century, with fathers becoming less distant and authoritarian and more involved in their children’s education and leisure pursuits. The place of sport in this transformation merits serious examination especially – in a Québec context – where hockey is concerned. There is little Québec literature on the Hockey Dad, that iconic figure, which in English Canada is readily associated with the much-admired Walter Gretzky. Yet the Québécois versions of this narrative date back to the interwar years and can be gleaned from the published life writing of celebrated athletes such as Maurice Richard, Jean Béliveau, Bernard Geoffrion, and others. This article analyzes a modest collection of hockey-themed memoirs and autobiographies to do three things. First, it argues that the figure of the Québec Hockey Dad – or papa de la patinoire, to coin a phrase – was most often constructed in such a way as to embody the most honored and respected masculine qualities associated with this particular time, place, and culture. Second, it presents a close, against-the-grain reading of these same sources, showing how variations from the common central narrative, as well as certain silences within it, are just as important and revealing as the conventional script. Third, it introduces some more recent narratives, written by and about hockey players born after 1960, to further unsettle and problematize the comfortable, mid-century narrative of the responsible family man as Hockey Dad.

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Author details

Gossage, Peter