Why Hockey Is Like a Religion
Hockey is an essential part of many Canadians’ lives. At a young age, children are frequently taught to skate and are introduced to the game. A love of the sport often continues throughout life. Some fans even choose to be buried in the jerseys of their favorite players. Hockey is in the hearts and souls of millions of Canadians and can be considered its own unique religion.
Sense of Community
One of the positive aspects of many religions is they build a sense of community among their followers. The same can be said of hockey. It is everywhere, from TV and the Internet to schools and frozen ponds. The sport is something the vast majority of Canadians have in common, even if they don’t support the same team. A love of the game also unites many citizens in the same way that religion can. It does not matter your age, where you live, or your language; hockey binds the country together like spiritual beliefs often can.
Star Players Are Revered Like Gods
To say some of the country’s star players are considered gods may actually be an understatement. Wayne Gretzky is probably the most famous hockey player in history and is nicknamed “The Great One,” which has a certain religious connotation. The team members of the 2002, 2010 and 2014 Olympic gold medal-winning hockey teams will go down in history as some of the most venerated Canadians of all time. Another highly exalted team is the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. Many of the top players in the NHL hail from the Great White North, but the 1993 Canadiens are the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup.
Symbolism is integral to many religions, and hockey has its own examples. The Stanley Cup, which has been awarded to the NHL champion since 1893, is often called the Holy Grail. The actual Holy Grail is thought to be the cup Jesus drank from during the Last Supper (before he was crucified). Joseph is also believed to have collected Christ’s blood in it after he was crucified. Its whereabouts, and confirmation of whether it actually exists, are unknown. For centuries, the Holy Grail has probably been the most coveted Christian artifact of all time. Some Canadian hockey fans feel their team’s quest for the Stanley Cup is comparable to the search for the actual Holy Grail.
Hockey Arenas Are Cathedrals to the Faithful
For some hockey fans, their teams’ arenas are places of worship. Some of the stadiums are masterpieces of contemporary architecture and have every last amenity. A few of the country’s top hockey stadiums are:
- Air Canada Centre – Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs haven’t had a lot of winning seasons, but they have very loyal fans, which can add even more excitement to the games. Opened in 1999, the arena has all the modern conveniences, including plenty of activities for kids and a wide variety of concession options.
- Bell Centre – Montreal Canadiens
The Bell Centre is the home of the Montreal Canadiens, one of the most storied hockey franchises in the world. Some fans literally consider the arena to be a cathedral of hockey history because 24 Stanley Cup banners and countless retired numbers hang from the ceiling. It is also the largest arena in the National Hockey League and can hold over 21,000 people.
Hockey arenas can literally function as a cathedral at times; fans sometimes take their love of the sport a step further and opt to get married at their favorite arena. Referees have been known to perform the ceremonies and couples frequently incorporate team colors into their wedding attire, or even wear their favorite jerseys.
Hockey is part of the collective conscious of many Canadians, much like a shared religion can be.