Canada and Russia: Stereotypes Inverted

April 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Growing up in Canada in the 1980s, the Cold War was kind of an abstract concept.  Sure, we had the occasional drill to learn what to do in case of nuclear attack, but the larger context of the Cold War was missing.  Except when it came to hockey.  That was the Cold War here.  It began in 1972, Canada and the Soviets played an 8-game Summit Series of hockey, 4 games in Canada, then 4 games in Russia.  Canadians thought it would be a cakewalk.  After Game 4 in Vancouver, Canada was booed off the ice after losing 5-3.  Heading to the USSR, Canada was trailing 2 games to 1 in the series (the 4th game had been a tie).  Team Canada’s Phil Esposito reacted to the booing in Vancouver in a post-game interview:

Canada came back to win the series, scoring at the last minute in Moscow.  Legends were built around this series, and, in part, around Esposito’s rant.  As Canada and the Soviet Union met up in international play throughout the 70s and 80s, a stereotype emerged of both nations, based on their hockey players.  Canada, we were the good guys, the passionate hockey players, who’d do anything to win.  The Soviets, they were the heartless commies, mechanistic and humourless.  The international series went back and forth.  Even club teams got into it.  Apparently the greatest hockey game of all-time was played on New Year’s Eve, 1975, at the Montréal Forum, as the Montréal Canadiens played Central Red Army to a 3-3 draw.

So, given these stereotypes, I had to laugh this afternoon reading the local Montréal English-language newspaper, The Gazette.  Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, is in the Arctic this week, having just touched down in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, to inspect the activities of Canadians working on proving Canada’s claims to the Arctic Archipelago before the 2013 deadline.  Cannon was impressed with their work, but not so impressed with the actions of the Russians.

The Russians are planning a few maneouvres in the Arctic, including dropping two paratroopers onto the North Pole to belatedly commemorate the 60th anniversary of a similar exercise in 1949.  Said Cannon:

It was interesting . . . to see our Canadians working extremely hard to collect the data, to be able to make sure that we do submit to the commission by 2013 the extended mapping and our scientific data.  On the other hand, we have the Russians playing games as to who can plant a flag or who can send paratroopers there. I thought the contrast was striking. We take our job seriously, and it seemed to me that the Russians were just pulling stunts.

[Cross-posted at Current Intelligence].

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