Monday, 1 December 2008

Globally Loved Sports Britain Does Not Care About

Ice Hockey
The National Sport Of: Canada

Oh, cruel alphabetical order, which forces me to put the three biggest sporting nations (that aren’t in Britain) as the first three entries in this series. Cruel alphabetical order, indeed! First America, then Australia, and now Canada. By the time we’ve reached the end of the list, there won’t be any interesting countries left (Although having said that… Zimbabwe is last, right? No, wait, ‘crimes to humanity’ isn’t a sport, silly me. Forget I said anything.) In Canada, they play lacrosse a lot, but that barely qualifies as a sport at all. Only people in Enid Blyton novels ever play lacrosse. No, we’re going to focus on that other sport associated with Canada instead: Ice Hockey.

What Is It?

Remember that game that everyone used to have to play during P.E. lessons? Hockey? Yeah, well it’s that but done on ice. Because of this added challenge, all the players are kitted out not only with the traditional hockey sticks and shin-pads, but with almost-complete body armour that covers them up like mini-Juggernauts on a mission of vengeance. Not only is this helpful because ice-skating is difficult and tends to make you fall over every ten seconds, but also because the game appears to be only semi-based on the sport it takes it’s name from. Although we have two teams here competing against each other to score goals by hitting a solid, heavy, bricklike object into the rival goal (the goalkeepers are particularly shielded with their armour because of this, which begs the question – why not use a softer puck/brick?), the typical fan does not appear to have any interest in this aspect of the game. Instead, the biggest cheers are gained for the routine sight of players beating each other up, at carefully-staged intervals. In this respect, ice-hockey most resembles wrestling on ice.

I’m not lying. Breaking my long-standing policy regarding Wilftonville, I actually did research for this article. Research that included watching videos of ice hockey on Youtube. And nothing else. Once a game, without fail, one of the players will do something to annoy a member of the other team (or, on the most fun occasions, a teammate), and this will start a fight. As the two players are on ice, this fight usually takes the form of a couple of wild flaps followed by one or both players falling over. Not joking, this is actually one of the main reasons many people bother watching the sport at all. And I’m also not joking about the fights being largely made-up by the players, either – sometimes the players even go so far as to plan the fights before each match, and there is an unspoken code of rules for how the fights should all progress. It really is as choreographed as anything the WWE have ever put out, although with far less baby oil involved (one should hope). In movies, the fight always ends with one player being thrown through the glass, but I found this video much funnier:

Six players on each team, as you’d expect, and the goal-keeper is allowed to use their hands to block the brick... if they want to lose said hands. Matches are split into three 20-minute sections, and women are allowed to play (if they want to) for some bizarre reason. I’ve never met a female who plays ice-hockey, and I don’t think I’d ever want to. It’s fairly typical, and as most Brits know how hockey works out, there’s not much need to describe the game any further.

Why Doesn’t Britain Care?

Did you know there is a version of this which is called “Pond Hockey”? Not that this has anything to do with anything, mind. I just thought that was a funny name for a sport and had nowhere else to write about it. Anyway.

Y’know why we play sports? Because we don’t have an Empire anymore. Well that’s a lie, we have Gibraltar and the Falklands to hand – but this is hardly the army which will terrorise our foes, is it? We’re not even sure that the Falklands like us, for crying out loud! (Nobody has ever visited. We do know that they’re somewhere near Argentina, but it seems like too much of a hassle to try and get involved with them at this stage.) In light of not having an Empire anymore – blame those damned French if you’re going to blame anyone – we have turned our attention to sport instead. Rugby? A chance to beat up those Italians once a year. Cricket? Well, that was set up so we could beat those convicts in Australia, but they’ve recently started winning all the time so we don’t like it anymore. The common point in most sports that Britain enjoys is that they are loosely based on beating up the people we hold a grudge against. Being British as we are, however, this means we hold a grudge against everyone, including each other. This was why snooker was invented – to satiate out need to defeat those closest to us without resorting to physical violence.

The Canadians, however, aren’t a race we’re familiar with. We have vague recollections of them helping us burn parts of America (good times, man…), and they seem to accept that The Queen is the True Saviour of Mankind, but aside from that… nah. We don’t really care. We’ve got Germans to belittle in Athletics, after all. And the fact remains that ice hockey appears to have been designed by drunk people. Have you ever tried watching it? You can’t see the damn puck! Hasn’t anyone else noticed this, or is it just me? The players run all round the arena, skating like the professionals they are, but I’ll be damned if I ever have any idea where the puck is. In rugby, the ball is gigantic, brown, and oval-shaped – who wouldn’t notice that? Ice Hockey is ridiculous. Not to mention, it’s not exactly the kind of sport which lends itself to spur-of-the-moment play. Grab a tin can and put down two jumpers, you can have a rudimentary game of football almost anywhere (not in a nuclear reactor. Dear Lord, don’t do this in a nuclear reactor.) If you want to play ice hockey, on the other hand… well, do you have a frozen lake handy? Not practical, mate. Not happening.

Oh, also - if we ever want to see a decent fight, all we need do is stand outside the pub after closing time. Or go anywhere in Ireland.


  1. My neighbours live most of the year in the Falkland islands. They say it's shit.

  2. It is true indeed that Great Britain is the largest sporting nation in the world. But it has been a common thought that America is the largest sporting nation.


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  3. Finally, the entry I was waiting for. Did you know, however, that Great Britain won the Olympic gold medal for hockey in 1936? There was a time when you cared enough to do that (albeit with Canadian-trained players).

  4. We don't officially recognise the year '1936' as having ever happened. As far as Britain is concerned, the only year in that decade which ever happened was 1939.

  5. You says you've done your research but apparently not enough. Only the ignorant refer to hockey as "ice" hockey.

    As well, lacrosse is our second national sport.

    And you don't see me bashing cricket just because I don't understand it and think it looks silly.

    Ah yes 1936, the Berlin Olympics. Canada and Britain had a huge fight during a hockey game. As Peter Lynn mentioned, eight of eleven British hockey players actually lived in Canada (they were however all born in Britain).
    So really, we were only fighting ourselves. Silly naturalized Canadians.