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Thursday, 3 June 2010

TBC: The Meaning Of Puck

Teebz's Book Club has been ramping up its reading over the last couple of weeks. Today, TBC is proud to bring to you a book that takes you inside the Canadian societal psyche using hockey as a microcosm of the larger picture of modern Canada. The Meaning of Puck: How Hockey Explains Modern Canada, written by Bruce Dowbiggin and published by Key Porter Books, takes some key events and personalities in hockey and links them to the larger picture in Canada to help illustrate how Canada has developed over the last century into what it is today. Personally, I thought this book might be a bit of a boring read, but Mr. Dowbiggin has done an excellent job in making the read light and fun while being extremely thorough in his examination of the subjects broached.

Bruce Dowbiggin, pictured to the left, "is a critically acclaimed sports journalist whose many award-winning works include Money Players: How Hockey's Greatest Stars Beat the NHL at Its Own Game, Of Ice and Men, and The Stick: A History, a Celebration, an Elegy. His work in radio and television has twice won him the Gemini Award for excellence in sports broadcasting". Mr. Dowbiggin currently works for The Globe and Mail as a sports columnist, and lives in Calgary with his wife and three children. And just for the record, Money Players will be featured in an upcoming TBC article.

So what is the meaning of puck? Well, it all depends on how you tackle that question when looking at the vast number of squares on the quilt that makes up Canada. For Mr. Dowbiggin, hockey defines Canada as a nation in terms of its sporting choices, so there should be some correlation between our chosen national winter sport and the events that play out in Canadian history. Some of the topics he relates to hockey are certainly interesting, if not debatable.

Since hockey has been a mainstay in Canadian culture since the start of the twentieth century, there are a lot of examples of how hockey has reflected Canadiana in Canada's modern history. While Mr. Dowbiggin could probably expand on this book with another volume or two of how hockey explains modern Canada, he does a fairly good job at taking things that we, as Canadians, value and relates them to one thing that we're known for - hockey.

Mr. Dowbiggin tackles some of the biggest stories in Canada: English Canada vs. French Canada, French Canada's changes in the 1970s and 1980s in their separatist movements, how Canadian society consistently attempts to humble its brightest stars, how Canadians switched roles from military force to peace-keeping, and many others. All of these topics seem to come up again and again in Canadian news and society over the course of time, and none are ever really resolved.

What Mr. Dowbiggin has done so well in The Meaning of Puck is to link various key events in Canadian hockey history to these stories. His explanations are thorough in linking events in Canadian history to hockey. For example, Mr. Dowbiggin explains how we tolerate violence and assualts in hockey by using Todd Bertuzzi's attack on Steve Moore, yet we claim to be a peace-keeping nation as then-Prime Minister Paul Martin declined George W. Bush's invitation to attack Iraq. How is it possible that Todd Bertuzzi receives nothing more than a slap on the wrist for breaking a man's neck and ending his livelihood from the Canadian judicial system, yet we are appalled by Americans invading the country of Iraq? Hockey is held to a different standard, it seems, in Canada. We're apologists when it comes to the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, but are pacifists when it comes to our military approach in the world. Seems a little odd, right? Mr. Dowbiggin examines why this is, and comes up with some very good examples as to why we hold hockey to a different standard as Canadians.

"Not only is this a very intelligent book, it has the potential to be a very important book of the future. I can see this book being used repeatedly for university papers about Canadian society and history." - Joe Pelletier, Hockey Book
Bruce Dowbiggin has written a very smart, very thorough book that helps to explain the Canadian psyche when it comes to hockey. Dowbiggin uses humour and very well-known events to Canadians, and I found myself reading chapters at a time. While some of his explanations seem a little monotonous in him making his point, he continually brings the reader back with his strong, intelligent writing. Because of this, The Meaning of Puck: How Hockey Explains Modern Canada was a very enjoyable read, and is certainly worthy of the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval! While Dowbiggin is known in some circles for being controversial, the information presented in his book will certainly be the cause for discussion about both hockey and Canadians.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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