I spent some time in Canada last week. En route, I was thrilled to see the Air Canada plane had seat-back TVs. I was looking forward to turning our flight delay into a productive binge of shows I had missed. Upon scanning the TV offerings and finding not a single show that we have here in the States, I realized I would not be able to do so.
A man across the aisle noticed my frustration and said it had to do with rights issues. I noticed he was watching, very closely and with great animation, an old hockey game. At least I think it was an old game, since it’s July. I, too, chose the hockey game, but I nodded off.
After the flight, I asked some friends, jokingly, whether hockey was a year-round sport in Canada. “For most, no…hold on let me show you” one answered, while pulling up YouTube and passing her laptop over to me. What she shared with me was a fantastic campaign for the Hockey Hall of Fame from a few years ago.
It is a sweeping generalization, but probably a fair one, that all boys – and some girls — in Canada dream of playing professional hockey. It is a hockey-mad nation, and one with a great sense of humor about it.
Pro hockey dreams begin early, often while the kids are toddlers, with impromptu games played in the basement using couch cushions or sometimes a young sibling as the goalie. As the kids grow up, they get into pee wee leagues, then travel teams, and some do have great success. But the odds are stacked against them, due to injury, distraction, and poor nutrition. More on that in a minute. The Hockey Hall of Fame delightfully captured this spirit in its campaign with the tagline: “Most hockey dreams die. Come see the ones that didn’t.”
A spot that uses a young boy named Oliver Renauld as the cautionary tale follows this arc. Oliver, a young goalie, is shown fighting off imaginary shots on goal in his house. Later, we see grainy footage of him in net on ice. “Oliver Renaud knew one day he would be a hockey goalie,” the spot begins. Years later he is shown, taller, in goal. The voiceover lets you know it was playoff game, and Oliver made a spectacular split save. But in the next frame, Oliver is a sprawled across a stretcher.
Like most Canadian kids, Bobby Bishop dreamed of being a hockey pro. But 1977, the year he was on a travel team, coincided with the introduction of flavored potato chips, and Bobby never made it back to the rink.
Robbie Turcotte had passion and drive and he too, believed that he would be a star. But Robbie lacked skill: Robbie could not shoot the puck!
Jimmie Cook’s family had him on skates before he could walk. Inspired by legend Bobby Orr, Jimmie was sure to become a pro. But when he turned his focus to dating, another hockey dream was dashed.
Most kids don’t have the skills. Many get distracted – some by junk food, some by dating – and many get injured. Indeed, most hockey dreams die. These spots touch on Canadians’ unending love of the game, which was also embodied by the man across the aisle from me, who booed the pilot when we landed before the game he was watching had ended.