Jack and Gilles (and Stephane) on the Hill

Hockey players are not the most sophisticated breed of human animal out there, but among the lot Shane Doan is one of the classier ones. So it is a bit much to hear Doan being called out on the legislative mat – in the House of Commons of all places – for being Team Canada’s captain, all over some passing remark Doan may or may not have made, seventeen months ago in the heat of a hockey game. There is no video replay on this one. It’s not like the guy called a press conference and openly denounced Quebec.

I can see why Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc are riding this flimsy excuse to play the Quebec humiliation card. But Jack Layton (who said Doan “cast a shadow” over the team) and Stephane Dion ought to know better. By siding with the separatists on this issue, they allows PM Harper to be captain Canada. That’s dangerous, as there are few things that tie Canada together more than hockey does. In fact, the times when we are most united as a country are when our national team is playing in the Olympics. Perhaps it is a bit sad that national unity it takes winning one of the few sports we are really good at, but so it goes. We are a country born out of legislative degree from England not revolution.

This time of year they hold the “world championships” of hockey in Europe. This has always been derided as it comes right during the Stanley Cup playoffs when many of the best Canadian players are otherwise occupied. Nonetheless, with a bigger NHL, it does end up being a high level consolation tournament. The players who go to play for Canada do not go for money; if anything, a major injury at the tournament could cost them the megabucks they earn back home. They go because they love the country and it is an honour to wear the jersey.

Talk about losing the hockey vote. Grandstanding in the House of Commons with cheap shots like this will only help assure a Harper victory the next election. It is guaranteed that Don Cherry will spend countless Coach’s Corners reminding the hockey public. At a time when the NDP and Liberals should be defining a positive progressive vision for the country, they are chasing a phony issue to get some media time. It worked: now everyone who loves hockey thinks they are idiots.

Of course, these things can work in strange ways. Right after the incident, Canada played its best game yet, besting the Slovaks 5-4. Like the 2002 Olympics when Gretzky got all emotional about attacks on Canada, spurring the team to Olympic gold, perhaps this is just the shot in the arm the boys need.

OK, my rant has little to do with economics, so as an epilogue here’s an economic tidbit related to hockey: the socialistic redistribution of income, and caps on player and team salaries, that emerged out of the lockout, has been great for the game. There is such parity in the NHL right now that it is anyone’s guess who will win the Stanley Cup. Teams now have to develop from within their organizations rather than buy a team full of high-priced free agents. Compare that to baseball where teams with buckets of money (like the Yankees) can buy the team they need to win a championship.

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