Tag Archives: canada

My Un-Hosery Tendencies

By Jay Menard

Canada Day’s fast approaching and, like many Canucks, I’m looking forward to a celebration of living in the world’s greatest country.

Like most good Canadians, I can laugh at — and often embrace — certain cultural stereotypes. But perhaps my Hoser Designation will be called into question as there are certain Canadian sacred cows that I just can’t worship..

I am a proud Canadian, but… Continue reading

Fans Will Be Back Because the NHL is Home

By Jason Menard

Will NHL fans come flocking back to the league? Absolutely — it’s part of who we are and it’s part of what makes us a community.

I was asked this question yesterday by an old friend Scott Kitching on Blackburn Radio and I replied honestly: some fans may want to play hard ball, but once they start seeing the previous night’s highlights on TV, hearing the fans banter on sports talk radio, or overhearing the annual debates around the watercooler, they’ll want to be part of the action again.

Being an NHL fan isn’t just a choice — it’s a feeling.

And while I said and believed it yesterday; today I felt it for the first time in a long time. Continue reading

Condemn to Death? No. But There May Be Another Option

By Jason Menard

As we enter the sentencing (and, likely, the appeals) phase of the Tori Stafford murder trial, the flames of passion sparked by our collective disgust at the crime have ignited the debate over capital punishment in this country.

There are Facebook pages gathering supporters for the now-convicted murderer to be given the death penalty. Others who have previously never entertained the concept now question whether some people are just beyond any sort of rehabilitation. Continue reading

Williams Memories Should Be Burned – But Only Into Our Minds

By Jason Menard

By now most Canadians know the macabre story of Russell Williams, the former colonel who was in command of Canadian Forces Base Trenton and now finds himself in another federal establishment – Kingston Penitentiary.

Wednesday, they went to Williams’ former home in Tweed, ON to recover all military clothing, documentation, and equipment, in accordance with military rules. Yesterday, military personnel from CFB Trenton burned the aforementioned items. Today, I say they’ve made a horrible mistake. Continue reading

An Engaging Way to Shine a Light on a Forgettable Monarchy

By Jason Menard,

For many, yesterday’s announcement of an engagement between Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton was an unforgettable moment; for me, it was a reminder of just how forgettable the monarchy is in our modern Canadian lives.

You see, Canada’s a part of the Commonwealth, a group of independent member states (54 in all), most of whom were part of the British Empire. Queen Elizabeth is head of that organization and is also Canada’s Head of State. So the monarchy is a pretty big deal for many Canucks – and royal watching is a spectator sport.
Continue reading

The Fall of the USSR, the Fall of a Rivalry

By Jason Menard

For one day, on an ice rink outside Red Square, the embers of a faded rivalry will be stoked again, and memories of that passionate time will be rekindled.

As a hockey-loving Canadian youth, few things were more intense and more passionate than the Cold War-era U.S.S.R.-Canada hockey rivalry. One could argue that while the world in general may be a better and safer place since the fall of the Soviet Union, hockey itself is poorer for the loss of that rivalry.

So that’s why it is with fond appreciation that I look forward to the Dec. 9 th showdown between Russian hockey greats and retired NHLers. It will be a contest that features the reunification of the KLM line, Vladislav Tretiak in net, and Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov patrolling the blueline once again.

In general, I avoid old timer’s games like the plague, preferring to remember these greats as they were in their prime, not the lumbering, diminished versions that lace up the skates now. This event may be different. Of course, the memories of that time are different.

Growing up in the latter part of the Cold War, when nuclear proliferation was at its peak, the Soviet Union was an enigmatic country arousing both fear and interest. I was born a few months late for the Canada-Russia Summit Series in 1972, but its ramifications resonated in our family. In fact, to this day I possess an audio cassette recording of that final game, made for me by an uncle (and featuring a great-grandfather – unfamiliar with the concept of replays – getting extremely excited at the 7-0 blowout to start the game, instead of realizing it was just highlights from previous game action.)

I grew up knowing about names like Tretiak and learning about the greatness of Valery Kharlamov. When I was old enough to have memories of my own, the next wave of Soviet greats was dominating international competition: Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, and Sergei Makarov.

It was a different time. Now, the NHL is a veritable melting pot featuring the best from around the world. For my own children, the existence of Russians, Czechs, and Slovaks in the league is the norm. And, as such, international competitions, while exciting, aren’t infused with the same level of passion that those earlier series were.

In the 80s, it was different. We didn’t know the Russians. We weren’t allowed to see them as real people. To us – especially the youth – they were cold, calculating, perfect hockey-playing machines. We knew our own Canadian boys, faults and all. And we bought into the mystique that Canadian grit, heart, determination, and passion could conquer precision, deft passing, and discipline.

Often it did. And when it did, it wasn’t just a victory for a team. It was a victory for a way of life.

As youth, we were convinced that nuclear warheads were pointed at our cities. We engaged in now-bizarre drills that involved us sitting under our tables with our heads between our legs. We read about people who had created fallout shelters. We watched The Day After and Red Dawn (did I just voluntarily admit watching a Patrick Swayze film???). For us, “the button” was very real, and we grew up knowing that the end of the world was an event with the potential of happening in our lifetimes.

Our ignorance and fear of another group of people – fuelled by the fact that we were kids and didn’t take the time to learn any better – added to the mystique of our Soviet counterparts. We suspected them of conducting nefarious scientific experiments to improve performance in their athletes (à la Ivan Drago in Rocky IV). We watched in anger as Soviet Bloc referees showed blatant preferential treatment to the other guys. And we bought into the whole us versus them concept of sporting competitions (also fuelled by various Olympic boycotts.)

In the end, the games were far better simply because of the passion surrounding the game. When was the last time we were truly invested in the outcome of a hockey game like that? Sure, the recent Olympic and World Junior Championship victories have been fun, but they’re hardly memorable. Instead of a celebration of a defeat of an ideological opposite, it’s just a victory of our jocks against their jocks – who we now realize aren’t all that different.

Now 33 years old with a little more worldly knowledge, I know that people are people – and they always have been. I know that, in general, people everywhere want the same things out of life and that they shouldn’t be tainted by the colour of their political system. But back then – back when I was a gullible youth willing to believe what the world around me was telling me – I believed that the Soviets were different, mysterious, and dangerous.

That’s why watching this game will be so enjoyable. It’s a different time. The players will probably laugh and joke, embracing each other and the game they share. And it will be all the more poignant considering how different things were just two decades ago when many of these players were in their prime.

The on-ice camaraderie will show how much better and more tolerant the world is – at least as it relates to Canadian-former Soviet relations. And while we will celebrate a better world, I’ll also pause to remember how much greater the rivalry used to be.

After all, in the case of world relations as they relate to on-ice conflict, ignorance truly was bliss.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Ignorance Not Just an American Trait

By Jason Menard

Har-dee-har! A recent survey reported on by the Associated Press shows that Americans are geographically challenged. And while it’s certainly tempting to sit on our high horse and chuckle over our dunderheaded friends to the south, in many ways, we’re no better.

The survey of 510 people interviewed in December 2005 and January 2006 showed that one-third of the respondents couldn’t find Louisiana on a map – despite the recent blanket coverage of Hurricane Katrina. On top of that, only 14 per cent believe speaking another language is a necessary skill, 60 per cent couldn’t find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, and almost half couldn’t find the Indian subcontinent on a map of Asia.

Time to guffaw right? Hey, what about that episode of Oprah recently that cast its supercilious eye on the education system in the U.S. and juxtaposed American students and their counterparts in the Far East reciting the first five American Presidents. Guess which group fared well.

But, as President Bush once so aptly put, “Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”

Are we truly any better? We like to think that we are, but is it really true. While we love to show how enlightened we are by displaying our understanding and knowledge of American history and politics, how well do we know our own country?

Quick, name the first five Canadian Prime Ministers. Can you do it? Chances are you could name off Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe before you could ever nail Canada’s first five. OK, Sir. John A. is a given. And you’ll get double points for noting that he served twice. But really, did you honestly get Mackenzie, Abbott, Thompson, and Bowell? If you did you’re a better Canadian than I, because I had to look them up. Hell, I’m proud that I know who Charles Tupper is, but don’t ask me when he served.

We grow up learning an overview of Canadian history. We go over the three Cs of Canadiana: Cabot, Cartier, and Champlain. We cruise through the War of 1812, we learn about the British North America Act and Confederation. But does the average Canadian know any more about his or her own country than our neighbours to the south?

As Canadians, we often mock Americans as being almost xenophobic in their analysis of history. If it ain’t red, white, and blue, it doesn’t matter to you appears to be the model. But in a classic example of what it is to be a Canadian, we focus more on the history south of the 49 th than we ever do our own history. We complain when we’re ignored on the global stage, but we ignore the stories we’ve penned in our own back yard.

We externalize. We validate ourselves by what others think about us, as opposed to how we feel. That’s why we take such an active interest in the world around us – we’re desperate to make sure we’re a player on the global stage. Our ability to find other countries on the map reeks more of desperation than a commitment to intellectual pursuits.

Whether it’s Canadian TV, music, film, history, or even — to an extent – politics, we need outsiders to validate our experience. Say what you want about what the Americans don’t know about the world. There’s certainly a lot we can learn from them about appreciating what you have on your own.

That’s not to say the American model is ideal. There should be a balance between national pride and global awareness. Ignorance in any form should not be tolerated. We should strive to learn more – more about the people around us, their languages, their cultures, and their history, in addition to all the things that have made our country great.

However, the high horse that we’re sitting on rocks violently. Our glee in reveling in American ignorance only masks the lack of introspection we’ve undertaken in examining our own faults. We’re no better, no worse – in fact, we’re the same in a different way. If the Americans are the noisy neighbours who come and go as they please, party all night, and generally disrespect even the existence of those who live around them, we Canadians are no better in being the neighbour that runs around to everyone’s home, snootily making comments, while our own home and family is neglected.

As the old adage states, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones – especially when we don’t even know who built the house we live in.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved