Whether one loves hockey or loathes hockey, you will not find any Canadian deny the sport plays a very big role in our culture. Yet it is a fact that is very much taken for granted, and rarely studied.
Jason Blake offers a significant exploration of hockey and Canada's culture in his book Canadian Hockey Literature.
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Blake, an English professor at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), studied Canadian hockey literature, the first in-depth study of it's kind. By that we mean hockey fiction, not hockey-friendly biographies and histories and other such non-fiction.
Of course, there really isn't a great collection of hockey fiction. Up until about 25 years ago hockey fiction was almost non-existent, especially when compared to the wealth of literary gems in the baseball world. Things have really improved in recent times, thanks to the likes of Mark Jarman, Richard B. Wright, Paul Quarrington, David Adam Richards and Mordecai Richler. That being said, much of the fiction remains juvenile.
By studying Canadian hockey literature (the author also studies dramas, short stories and poetry), Adams challenges the popular perceptions of Canada's game. Specifically Blake studies five recurring themes:
- Hockey as a symbol of nationhood - a chapter that almost sets the stage for the reader, explaining how and why hockey became such a prominent role in Canadian culture.
- The hockey dream - explores the stereotypical Canadian childhood dream of hockey, and the contrasting harsh reality almost everyone faces.
- Violence - A lengthy investigation of the contradictory idea that peace-loving Canadians love their bloodsport.
- National Identity - a study of discrepancies in hockey culture in our country, especially concerning Canada's high immigrant population.
- Family - hockey's role in both family building and family division.