Hockey and Politics

At the substance level,  hockey and politics have become the same.  They should not have done so.

The Stanley Cup finals ended 13 June this year, (that is insane too) one day after the Ontario general election.  The juxtaposition made something impressively clear.  A Liberal fan or a Conservative fan or an NDP fan are not different from a Leaf fan or a Canadiens fan or a Bruins fan.

The game is the same for each party or team.  One group plays hockey, the other plays politics.  Only the uniforms and equipment differ.

I would like to think that government matters more than hockey, but most voters know more about hockey.  There should be a five question test before you get a ballot, but that is not likely to happen.  Uninformed voters are dangerous because they rely on impressions of the candidates rather than on qualifications, skills or character.  Impressions are politically useful.  The others are useful for governing.

Hockey fans exhibit religious fervor.  So do political fans.  Ask a political fan to outline how modern liberalism has changed from classical liberalism.  No one in my experience can do it readily.  Or maybe have them put John Kennedy and John McCain on the line from very liberal to very conservative.  Kennedy is likely more conservative.

People should know more. Being a fan is too little.

If the Leafs traded every single player on their team for every single player on the Canadiens, the fanatics, the word where fan comes from, would still be Leaf fans.  Does that make sense?

It is the wrapper not the substance that matters both in hockey and in politics.

Hockey players are mercenaries just as politicians and their political staff are mercenaries.  The politicos will play the political game pretty much in the same way, regardless of the colors.  They are in it for their own reasons and not necessarily for the betterment of the public.

The shift is not new.

Margaret Thatcher once said that when she was young people went into politics to do something, whereas now they go into politics to be something.  How sad is that?

I think it is time people demanded competence rather than charisma and emotional incitement.  The governing game is too important to be left to voters who rely on the uniform rather than the substance of what the uniform wearer may do. 

With hockey, there are a few who watch to enjoy the game and have no special allegiance to a particular team.  They expect and recognize excellence. They are the real hockey fans.

To reform our system, a good first step would be to stop playing politics and begin to play governing. Hockey may continue as before.


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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact:

One Comment on “Hockey and Politics

  1. I would add to Margaret Thatcher’s quote, “most people go into hockey and politics to GET something.” Their choice of venues depends largely on a comparison of their abilities to talk or skate.

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