Joe - One thing I love about international hockey is comparing the contrasting styles each country seems to have. Why does each country have their own distinct style of hockey? Canada and USA are stereotyped for their aggression and toughness. The Russians for their grace and speed. The Swedes for their craftiness, etc, etc. Why are there different types of hockey in each country?Thanks for the question Tom. It is actually a fairly straight-forward answer, and it has everything to do with politics and pride.- Tom
As countries began competing against each other in hockey, soccer, basketball, and other sports early in the 20th century, sports quickly became as much about national identity as it was about athletic achievement.
Here's what John Soares wrote in an essay submitted for the spectacular book Now Is The Winter:
"...on both sides of the Iron Curtain sport often appeared as a venue for Cold War rivalry. The Soviets explicitly considered their hockey players "at the leading edge of ideological struggle . . . in the role of ideological warriors." Even Canada's Lester B. Pearson . . . noted that "international sport is the means of attaining triumphs over another nation."
Canadian and Russian/European hockey used to be very different, but as the teams clashed more and more and as the political world changed, we have seen a convergence of hockey ideologies make for a greater game everywhere. Call it the globalization of hockey, and parity results. But there will always be regional differences a long as there is regional pride.
It was very similar to regional differences throughout Canada in the sport's earliest years. In the 19th century there were vast differences in style of play and rules in the hockey played in Nova Scotia, Montreal and the rough and tumble Ontario mining towns, with the Montreal game winning out. As the west was settled the game followed, hockey transformed into the modern game we now know. Our game never really further evolved until the European influence came along.
You see similar differences in soccer throughout Europe and even more noticeably compared to South American countries. Basketball also has distinct continental differences.