Hockey is more than a game.
It's more than a way of life. In Canada, it's a portrait of who we are. It's a window into our very soul.
In The Meaning of Puck, best-selling author Bruce Dowbiggin takes a peek into that window and--frankly--it's not always such a pretty picture. Viewed through the prism of hockey, Canada is--Dowbiggin argues--a land of compelling and surprising...even ugly and embarassing contradictions.
In a series of essays that is a road trip across the nation's cultural landscape, he shows how the national passion of hockey reflects--or deflects--the issues of globalization, regionalism, anti-Americanism, militarism, violence, racism and greed.
Why are Canadians, for instance, such strenuous advocates of pacifism and non-militarism around the world while simultaneously embracing--and promoting--the world's most vicious and violent brand of hockey? As the legion of apologists for Todd Bertuzzi's thuggish play dramatize, it's not the Americans who popularize violence in hockey.
Dowbiggin tries to come to terms with the absurd hero worship of The Great One. Or why Canadians so smugly spoof American ignorance while making a cultural icon of Don Cherry. Is it because in a nation without rules or standards he still stands for something, however distasteful?
Dowbiggin conducts an autopsy on the essentially permanent futility of the Toronto Maple Leafs and shows how the team's declining fortunes mirror the shift in power and influence from Ontario to the West, particularly Alberta.
As fans outside Ontario chafe at the Toronto-centrism of Hockey Night in Canada, they seek a new locus of hockey influence. Dowbiggin explores questions such as: Why the Vancouver Canucks are the new frontier? What do you mean the Montreal Canadiens are owned by an American? Why is hockey such a safe place for characters such as Alan Eagleson, Graham James and David Frost to hide? And why is it so hard to get them out once they've attached themselves to power? Most of all: why does the sniff of the Canadian jock have such a hypnotic effect on our culture?
The Meaning of Puck is a funny, acidic, irreverent, argumentative and often infuriating but always thought-provoking look into the fabric of a nation straining to keep old traditions alive and incorporate new national myths.