Innis On Ice

“Innis on Ice: Examining NHL Hockey as a Space-Binding Medium”

(Presented at The Toronto School: Then, Now, Next  International Conference, University of Toronto, October 13-16, 2016.)


Hockey is arguably Canada’s most popular sport and plays a crucial role in our national consciousness and branding to the world. Although the game is played and viewed at numerous levels, the National Hockey League receives the most exposure due to frequent nationwide broadcasts. Since the late 1800s, hockey has grown from a loosely organized activity played on frozen ponds to a multi-billion dollar industry and emblem of Canadian identity.

Harold Innis recognized how print, the telegraph, and radio, in addition to waterways, and railroads, worked to collapse space and create a worldview that emphasized the administration of vast territories, and the commodification of time. Furthermore, as Edward Comor noted, Innis also “recognized, organizations, institutions, and technologies as ‘communication media’ in that they constitute core structures through which people interact and history unfolds” (2001, 280). Therefore, by using the criteria above, NHL hockey is arguably a space-binding medium insofar as it plays a central role in the creation, proliferation, and maintenance of a recognizable Canadian identity.

This paper analyzes the multiple levels that NHL hockey operates as a space-biased medium and questions the implications of a possible conflation between sport, nationalism, and militarism.

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