Ice Hockey and the Cold War: Impacts on the Development of Canadian National Identity


  • Travis Moody Thompson Rivers University


Cold War, Canada, Soviet Union, Ice Hockey, Summit Series, National Identity


The Cold War era, beginning in the late 1940s and ending with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, created distinct divisions between nations depending on their associations with either communism or capitalism. Although Canada found itself closely linked with the United States in its Cold War policy, this conflict also presented the opportunity to create and strengthen a national identity at home. Athletic achievements emerged within this context as examples of national greatness. Through the use of both political and diplomatic means, the Canadian government was successful in utilising the sport of ice hockey to promote a national identity at home while also asserting its ideological superiority on the international stage. Representing their respective ideologies, the set of shared political and socioeconomic ideals, Canadian and Soviet ice hockey teams faced off against each other in a series of international events including the Summit Series, Winter Olympics, Canada Cup, and World Championships. These events were viewed as symbolic expressions of ideology that were reflected in the way that each nation played the game, enabling the attachment of national identity to the sport itself. Within the context of this, one of the key areas in which the Cold War between Canada and the Soviet Union was “fought,” was on the ice.