Not Giving A Puck About The Fall Of ‘Hockey Night In Canada’

by Douglas Haddow | I like to consider myself a ‘Blue Liberal’ in the most classic sense. It makes me feel like a grown-up. As such, I tend to hold a less reactionary position on the Harper government and its crude approach to politics in comparison to my more orange-tinted friends.

For instance, take Harper’s dogmatic obsession with the expansion of Canada’s oil sands. The pragmatist in me understands that oil means money, which means jobs, which means tax revenue, at least in theory. As for his cyril-sneering at all things green, such as hobbling our capacity for environmental stewardship, gutting vital research facilities or muzzling any scientist who doesn’t goose step to the development drum, I get that too. The conservative base clearly has more use for money than they do the natural world, and political parties are beholden to their base. That’s how democracy works, folks, if you don’t like it, you’re free to build a time machine and piss off back to when the Soviet Union still existed.

The senate scandal, while clear proof that the Harper inner circle is party to a culture of deception, corruption and brazen criminality, is to be expected. After nearly a decade in office, even the most stalwart ethicist is bound to accidentally break a law or three. If anything, they should be congratulated for not slipping up sooner.

And although Harper’s positively heinous treatment of veterans should leave any red-blooded Canadian choking in contempt, cutting the pensions of wounded soldiers does save money, as per his mandate.

But there is one issue that I cannot rationalize away, no matter how hard I try, and that is the impending destruction of our most persistent and beloved cultural artifact – Hockey Night in Canada.

If you’re not up to date on the $5.2 billion NHL rights deal that went down last week, here’s the gist: Rogers owns and controls everything related to the NHL in Canada. All the programming, all the time, on all platforms. Outside of a few local broadcasts, they have a complete monopoly.

While TSN got completely shellacked, the CBC crept out of the coup with a bitter conciliation prize: Hockey Night in Canada will have rights to selected games for four more years, but Rogers will have complete editorial control over its content and will reap all ad revenue. After that, the future of hockey on the CBC is uncertain.

Forgoing all arguments related to the CBC’s viability in a post-NHL reality or whether or not this loss will help the mother corp reinvent itself, there remains a very unsettling detail that calls into question the very nature of the Harper persona.

From its outset, the CBC was a nation-building project and the best chance it had at uniting the two solitudes of French and English Canada was through a national hockey broadcast. And it worked. It delivered a simple, yet profound promise of cultural continuity – no matter where you lived or who you were, on Saturday night you could watch a hockey game, free of charge.

For the past seventy years, Hockey Night in Canada has delivered on that promise, and it now looks as if only Rogers subscribers will be afforded that which we perilously mistook for a right.

Putting politics aside for a moment, If Harper truly is an honest to goodness hockey fan, how could he not be stirred by this turn of events? How could a self-styled scholar of the sport, a man who spent years writing a book about its history, sit idly by as its greatest institution fell to ruin?

This, I believe, will be the truly enduring, universal shame of Harper’s tenure as Prime Minister. Perhaps I have too much faith in the healing power of hockey, but I believe even the most vitriolic CBC critic can’t help but feel some sense of loss from HNIC’s impending demise. And If Harper truly is the man he purports to be, a part of him will rightfully die along with it.

There are 5 comments

  1. “this is how democracy works folks” ? really?

    i stopped reading after that. your more pissed about hockey night in canada than the most environmentally destructive project on the planet, the oil sands? do you know how many first nations villages have been destroyed by cancer and other illnesses since that project first started?

    we can change things if we give a shit enough to do so you know? vancouverites are some of the most apathetic people on the planet. we’ll just keep eating shit no matter who shovels it.

    can at we at least try to give a shit that these asshole are killing us?

  2. Chris, how pissed off are you that that’s how democracy works? Apathy isn’t in the rules (but who gives a damn, right?).

  3. Reminds me of the the Emma Goldman view on voting “if voting worked it would be illegal.”

    Also it is just a little bit ironic that the indigenous people of Canada are standing as the last line of defence for protecting the environment while our culture rationalizes short term profits. If there was only a way for us to take away native peoples integrity and destroy their culture….