The paper argues that the Canadian media’s representations of National Hockey League (NHL) player Alexander Ovechkin work to locate Canadian national identity through its contrasts with the hockey superstar. Even though the press celebrates Ovechkin as a challenge to Cold War understandings of Soviet hockey players as lacking passion and heart as well as physical play, they also present Ovechkin as a ‘dirty’ hockey player who is wild and out of control. By assessing reports from two Canadian national newspapers, the Globe and Mail and the National Post, from 2009 to 2012, and comparing these documents to reports on two Cold War hockey contests, the 1972 Summit Series and the 1987 World Junior Hockey Championships, this article demonstrates how the Canadian media’s paradoxical representations of Ovechkin break with and rearticulate Cold War understandings of Russian/Soviet athletes. Furthermore, when the press characterizes Ovechkin and other Russian hockey players as wild, unpredictable and out-of-control, they produce Canadian players as polite, disciplined and well-mannered. Through these opposing representations, the media helps to locate Canadian national hockey identity within a frame of appropriate masculine expression.
The author is with the Department of Sociology, St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.