The spectre of assimilation, was even more pronounced in the native community. In the Hockey Game, Wes Fineday relates the memory of a game played on his reserve. Children were taken to boarding schools, where even the food was unfamiliar. Hockey was the one thing that Fineday could relate to and it brought him fond memories of home. The boarding school experience illustrates Canadas policies towards natives for most of the 20th century. This contempt towards native culture coloured the histories of hockey from that era. Thus, the history of hockey writing was coloured by racism that specifically excluded any special recognition of natives. Thus, even today it is mainly native people who are versed on the history of hockey among native Canadians.
Another contributing factor to the whitewashing of hockeys history is the fact that hockey is viewed as a national icon. Hockey is “an authentic and autonomous expression of Canadian culture” (Gruneau & Wilson). The very definition of Canadian culture, however, was largely shaped by whites. Whites controlled the media, and as we have seen discounted the role of native Canadians is the countrys culture and history. It can be reasonably argued that it was not until the recent years that native Canadians became recognized by the majority of Canadians as a distinct and integral component of Canadian culture. By then, hockeys history had already been written without them. Furthermore, the waves of immigration that would reshape Canadian demographics did not begin until the late 1960s. The forces of assimilation cannot be reasonably expected to have an impact of the demographics of the NHL in the first generation or two.
When comparing the different stories, one interesting aspect stands out. For both McKinley and Carrier, as for all immigrant communities, hockey represents assimilation into the dominant culture. Yet for Fineday, hockey represents an opportunity to escape from the dominant culture.
He relishes the memories of games on the reserve. Even when those memories are triggered by a white player, they hold deep meaning to him in the context of his own culture. Hockey is a place, unlike for Dronyk, where his own people and own language are points of reference.
The experience of Fineday exemplifies an issue worth of exploration with regards to the whiteness of hockey. Modern commentators fall into the trap of viewing hockeys history through todays lenses. The overwhelming whiteness of hockeys history strikes them as strange only in the context of Canadas contemporary demographics. Yet, when they consider historical demographics, they are perfectly willing to accept a history of hockey that was all white. Finedays story illustrates that history does not bear this out. Native communities have as strong a tie to the game as any other culture.
The exclusion of indigenous Canadians from the annals of hockey history does a tremendous disservice to both the indigenous peoples themselves but to the sport as a whole. Hockey historians need to embrace the fact that hockey is not a white mans game. It is a Canadian game, inclusive of all Canadians. Whatever role assimilation might play for immigrant cultures in hockey history, it does not play that role for native Canadians. This distinguishing feature of the relationship between native Canadian culture and hockey should be recognized in the discussion of hockeys history.
Brownell, Susan. (1995). “Training the Body for China” University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Gruneau, Richard & Whitson, David (1993). “Hockey Night in Canada” Garamond Press, Toronto
Bellegarde, a.J. (2005). “Aboriginal Hockey” Backcheck: A Hockey Retrospective. Retrieved November 17, 2008 at http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/hockey/e.html?PHPSESSID=jv70oso2osetmg1joist5t5o31
Beardsley, Doug. (2005). “Our Game: An All-Star Collection of Hockey Fiction” Raincoast Books, Vancouver..