As noted, last night’s battle of teenage hockey players was very important and deeply meaningful. Indeed, it was nothing less than a profound window into our national soul, and the very hearts of our political leaders.
Stephen Taylor explains.
Hockey games usually provide photo-ops for Canadian politicians to awkwardly rub shoulders with “every day” Canadians and pretend to show interest in the game that the rest of us plebs know and love. However, Stephen Harper, a man with an interest that could be described as a genuine but fanatical love of the game (maintained by his trademark calm) was there not only for the gold medal game, but most – if not all – of team Canada’s games during the entire tournament. As for photo-ops, our country’s leader looked at ease with a shirt-less gold-painted-with-Canada-logo-on-chest superfan as he gave thumbs up for a fan photo. The Prime Minister also took the opportunity of hanging out with the team before games in the dressing room. One reporter explained to me that usually such a moment would have racked the nerves of a team. However, for a man at ease in this element, wearing a leather jacket and jeans, having laced skates, taped sticks and socks many times before, the PM was just another hockey dad.
Michael Ignatieff was also in attendence but only for the gold medal game. The Liberal leader and grandson of a Russian tsar took a break from writing a book on his family history long enough to recognize the tournament and descend to mingle with the masses. Ignatieff had a rare chance of witnessing a Canadian hockey victory while living in Canada – the distinguished academic has been largely abroad since the late 60s. A friend joked that Ignatieff told TSN, “I am a fan of the game of hockey, but not necessarily a hockey fan.” For the two men, Harper and Ignatieff, hockey underscores a vital political strength and a vital political weakness. For the Prime Minister, voters select someone they see in themselves and they pick someone who understands and shares their concerns. For Ignatieff, voters will sever him if he cannot genuinely tie himself with the threads that line our hearts.
We’re a nation bound by our love of hockey.
In fairness, Mr. Ignatieff’s been Liberal leader for nearly a month. It’s really about time his Canadianness was questioned. His predecessor had the job for mere days before doubt was cast on his.