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Hockey adds to Canada's melting pot

There's been a lot of stories in the news lately about immigration, again. Really, having a lot of stories about immigration in Canada means it's a day that ends in a Y. Also common on days that end in Y? Stories about hockey.

There's been a lot of stories in the news lately about immigration, again. Really, having a lot of stories about immigration in Canada means it's a day that ends in a Y. Also common on days that end in Y? Stories about hockey.

A conversation with a friend of mine a few weeks back got me thinking about that.

He's a rabid hockey fan. I. am aware that hockey exists. Ice is involved, right? And pucks?

I just don't get hockey. I never played it, I can't skate and I'm not interested in the game at any level, from NHL down to those wee little kids who skate around on bent ankles.

I know, I know, I'm a terrible Canadian. Send your letters to the editor. But there are a couple of things about hockey that I admire.

I will admit it's a tough sport. It requires a lot of skill and athleticism to try and slap a frozen piece of rubber into a net while huge dudes in plastic armour slam into you.

But lots of sports are tough. If you'd like to hear my canned speech about how tough long-distance cycling is, send me a selfaddressed stamped envelope.

No, what I like most about hockey is the fans, and how they reflect how Canada is changing.

If you watched any of the coverage of fans during the run-up to the Canucks try for the Stanley Cup in the spring, you saw faces of people from all around the world.

Their parents and grandparents were from Scotland and Ireland and England, and also from the Punjab and Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and the Philippines, the Caribbean and Latin America.

In other words, it was the same faces you see when you walk down any street in Metro Vancouver. We're from all over.

Increasingly, we're a mish-mash of ethnicities and cultures. It would have been easy for hockey, an institution that dates back to when Canada was still a white-dominated nation, to exclude newcomers. Fans could have turned up their noses at "outsiders."

Instead, hockey culture has largely embraced new citizens. I think this shows up one of the best aspects of Canada itself.

The big difference between Canada and the United States when it comes to immigration is allegedly the mosaic versus the melting pot.

Supposedly, Canadian multiculturalism means people can come and work and live and become citizens, but keep their unique cultural traditions.

Whereas everyone who comes to the U.S. is supposed to assimilate.

But I don't see that happening. In fact, if anything it's Canada that is the true melting pot and the U.S. that keeps people separated.

Canada guarantees that newcomers can keep their own religions and customs, as long as those customs don't harm others.

But you can't live in a vibrant, urban society like ours without exchanging things with those around you.

So every community brings its ideas and its culture, and they don't stay part of one community for long.

Canada, at its best, is not a mosaic, with the pieces close to, but not quite touching, one another. It's a big, hearty stew, constantly simmering.

Sure, you can haul out an ingredient and figure out where it comes from. But it's much better all mixed together.

One of those common ingredients is hockey. It doesn't belong to any one group, it's for everyone to try. You still see Americans joking about hockey as the last sport dominated by Caucasians.

But here in Canada, peewee and junior hockey teams are increasingly looking like, well, like Canada. Not European, or Asian, or African. Just Canadian.

Matthew Claxton is a reporter for the Langley Advance.

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