Many hold steadfast that Windsor, Ontario was the birthplace of Canada’s beloved sport, while others claim it to be Halifax, Deline, or Kingston. And although natives of Montreal can rightfully point to the first official game being played in their fair community in 1875, the invention, creation, or whatever manifestation occurred when combining skates, a frozen sheet of ice, and a stick moving something – even a wine cork – along the ice is still in question except in the minds of Canadiens.
Some believe its early origins can be traced to Scotland – Canadians call them heathens – circa 1690, but even if hockey wasn’t technically born in Canada, it has undeniably been cultivated as the national game of the Great White North. There is no doubt that hockey, as we know it today, was at the very least, incubated here and has developed into the fastest team sport in the world.
Two of the Original Six NHL teams hail from Canada and still thrive to this day. The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have fans dating back generations and Les Habitants have 24 Stanley Cups to show for it.
Millions of fans throughout North America patiently wait for the arrival of the National Hockey League season to commence every October and rabidly follow the action until the playoffs end in June. Recreational and professional bettors also use hockey as a moneymaking tool and free NHL picks can be found at SBR for placing some action in the top betting sites.
Although professional ice hockey is now a global game spawning stars from nations all over the world, no other country has produced more prolific superstars than Canada. Luminaries throughout the ages like Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and many others too numerous to mention were all born and bred singing “O Canada” while skating on frozen ponds almost before they could walk.
“All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity.” — Gordie Howe
“I’m really no different than anybody else; except that sometimes I get my name in the paper.” – Bobby Orr
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky
“Every day is a great day for hockey.” – Mario Lemieux
Hockey is Canada’s national identity and in a country of approximately 37 million, it is the one common tie that binds. From St. John’s to Vancouver hockey remains a Canadian passion and Team Canada is a national treasure. John Macfarlane and Bruce Kidd wrote about Canada, “In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the dance of life, an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.”
Roy MacGregor, one of Canada’s most respected hockey writers and author of several books on the subject wrote, “Hockey means everything and it means way too much at the same time.
“It is something Canadians have seized upon that we like to think is the image the world has of us, as some industrious team…cooperative, strong, resilient, victorious, magnificent and most of all humble victors in hockey.
“It’s the image we have of ourselves and what we wish the world would see when they look upon boring old Canada. The only time I have seen Canadians absolutely swagger is when they are winning at hockey.”
Johnny Mosley, former Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Canadian Men’s National Team stated, “Pressure, there is pressure if you are competing in an under-17 tournament, there is the pressure at the Spengler Cup or the world juniors, there is pressure every time any team puts on the Maple Leaf because the goal is always the same — win gold.
“Canadians expect to win gold, they demand gold and anyone representing Canada grows up knowing that. Canadians feel pride and accomplishment through hockey.
“One thing that unifies our country is hockey. The pressure to succeed is not just on 23 men and women…it is on 33 million Canadians.”
And perhaps that sums it up best. Regardless of the political divisiveness and undercurrent of social unrest, Canadians are united in their love of hockey and that national passion is unmatched anywhere in the world. Americans may share the enthusiasm for the sport with their brothers and sisters up north, but the pure love of the game and what it has come to symbolize for Canada cannot be replicated.