Canadian Nationalism and Hockey: The ‘Golden Goal’

On February 28th, 2010, during overtime of the Team Canada vs Team USA men’s gold medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal with seven minutes and forty seconds of game time left. This goal has since been referred to as the ‘Golden Goal’. Ten years later, on the anniversary of this achievement, many posts and articles have been made allowing Canadians to reflect on this historic moment. This brings to me to my topic of the relationship between Canadian Nationalism and our national winter sport of hockey.

Tweet from Team Canada on February 28, 2020 referencing the anniversary of the Golden Goal

In his 2017 paper Everyday nationalism and international hockey: contesting Canadian national identity, Scott Watson discusses the relationship between different “actors” such as the government, media, communities, literature, etc. which leads to an “‘internal-external dialectic'” and thus the formation of national identity. He also argues that, historically, this trend has “relied on three international others: the USA, Europe and Russia/USSR” (Watson, 2017). Relating Watsons’ findings to the historical ‘Golden Goal’, which occurred at the Olympics, an event that is found to “serve as a regular episode of national identity construction” (Watson, 2017), helps to make it clear why, ten years later it is still being recognized and celebrated due to its assocation with the Canadian identity.

The moment in which Crosby scored the winning goal was watched live by 16.7 million Canadians, with 26.4 million viewers tuned in at some point, making it the most-watched hockey game in Canada in almost 30 years at the time. With this level of viewership and the impact of the different “actors” (Watson, 2017) on discussions and advertisements related to the game, a strong relationship between the development of a Canadian national identity and hockey is formed, especially when an event such as the ‘Golden Goal’ are considered. This is not only because it is our national winter sport but, as discussed by Watson, it is also because of the way that the sport has been integrated into our society from sources including the government, media, audiences, literature, etc.

I have also personally experienced the relationship between hockey and Canadian nationalism. When this game occurred, they brought all the students at my school into the auditorium to watch it as so many teachers were streaming it to their classes. After Crosby scored the winning goal it was discussed for some time after and was considered a huge achievement for Canada. Not only this, but people associated the celebration of the ‘Golden Goal’ and the win over the USA team as a way to identify themselves as Canadians because it was so heavily celebrated and discussed. Overall, I believe that hockey does have a strong relationship with Canadian nationalism, due to the many “actors” (Watson, 2017) that support the association between the two and the widespread acknowledgement of this, especially when achievements such as the ‘Golden Goal’ are considered.

Gabrielle Steylen

Featured image: Sidney Crosby after scoring the ‘Golden Goal’ at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, in the gold medal game between Team Canada and Team USA (Source: Global News/Harry How/Getty Images)

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