moved that Bill C-212, an act to recognize hockey as the national sport, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood along with my colleague from Regina-Lumsden and many others who formally seconded this bill. I want to acknowledge my assistant, Bill Syrros, for all of the preparatory work he has done to make this a success today.
I will begin my short speech by quoting Bruce Kidd who said in the book Welcome Home by Stuart McLean: ``Hockey is the Canadian metaphor. The rink is a symbol of this country's vast stretches of water and wilderness, its extremes of climate, the player a symbol of our struggle to civilize such a land. Unsure as we are about who we are, we know at least this about ourselves: We are hockey players and we are hockey fans''.
Those words certainly ring very true these days considering what the national pastime is of Canadians from coast to coast to coast nightly.
I do not suppose there are many of us who do not recall that moment of excitement on a Saturday night when the Montreal Canadiens would take to the ice and that soft maritime chant would fill the room: "Good evening ladies and gentlemen and hockey fans from coast to coast. This is Danny Gallivan at the Forum in Montreal". Then Saturday night would be complete and life would be good.
Probably most of us in this House played hockey and skated even before we could tie our own skates. Many of us will remember those great moments when we first learned how to raise a puck, seeing that puck sailing through the air for the first time. Or maybe it was the first time we were able to complete a good slapshot and heard the sound of that puck bashing into the boards.
It is safe to say that hockey matters to all of us, in Quebec and the rest of Canada. It is part of our culture. It is key to the understanding of Canada. It is the perfect game on the perfect Canadian medium in the perfect Canadian season. We are a northern people and hockey is a northern sport. It is certainly fair to say it is much more than a game in our country.
There are few sportsmen in Canada today who on a wintery Saturday night are not seated waiting for those familiar words: "It's hockey night in Canada". The voice of the late Foster Hewitt was embedded in the minds of many Canadians from the inception of CBC radio and television. That voice united Canada from the Atlantic shores of Newfoundland to Vancouver Island and even northward to the Arctic missions.
It has been estimated that over 650,000 Canadians actually take part in some form of organized hockey.
To quote the late Foster Hewitt: "In our country while hockey is usually played for sheer enjoyment, its outdoor rinks and enclosed arenas are meeting places for youths of all origins where race, culture and creed are forgotten. Stewarts, Kellys, Smiths, Beliveaus, Delvecchios, Mahovlichs, the Ullmans and Howes combine for the glory of the team and in the process, Canada gains in unity and strength".
In this day, sport has become a means by which a nation attains international status and recognition. I believe that hockey is Canada's national game and is the main sports preoccupation of our young people.
It is ultimately woven in our Canadian self-image and our mythology. Paul Henderson set the tone for this image in 1972 with his dramatic goal over Russia. Indeed, hockey is more than a national game for its popularity has spread to at least 20 different countries.
It is time to recognize hockey for its impact on Canada. It is time to thank the volunteers and all the hockey teams in Canada for their contribution in a number of areas such as charity, education, competition and international co-operation.
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to congratulate Canada's championship women's hockey team for capturing its third consecutive world hockey championship in Lake Placid two weeks ago. It is no wonder that women's hockey is the fastest growing sport in Canada.
When we look at whether or not we should identify a certain sport as our national sport, it is important to look at the origin of the sport, its popularity in the country today, the reputation it has abroad and the value of a number of intangibles.
Many historians have tried to figure out where and when hockey was created in Canada. The cities of Halifax, Kingston and Montreal have all boasted that they are the true birthplace of hockey in Canada. I am sure more theories of hockey's birthplace will arise in the future.
I was interested to hear a comment last month by my hon. Liberal colleague representing the riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants who mentioned that his riding represents the birthplace of hockey.
One theory in support of Kingston mentions that an early historian by the name of Mr. Horsey wrote in his diary of 1847: "Most of the soldier boys were quite at home on skates. Shinny was their first delight where 50 or more players on each side would be in the game".
A committee appointed by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to determine the Canadian origin of hockey concluded: "The first hockey was played by the Royal Canadian Rifles, an imperial unit stationed in Halifax and Kingston in 1855. It is quite possible that English troops stationed in Kingston from 1783 to 1855 played hockey, as there was evidence in old papers, letters and legends".
In Montreal authorities emphatically declared their city is the original home of ice hockey. They felt that the first pure hockey game was played in Montreal at Victoria Skating Rink on March 3, 1875.
Perhaps the true cradle of hockey could have been Acropolis Hill in Greece, as there are remnants of a goal, men with hockey sticks in hand, a ball on the ground between curved blades, and an official about to give the starting signal.
Hockey remains the sport of first choice for the majority of Canadian households. It is already looked upon by Canadians as Canada's national sport. This has been proven in the past but most recently by the great outpouring of support and encouragement for Canada's gold medal national junior hockey team, five medals over the last seven years, and the silver medal efforts of our Olympic team in each of the last two Winter Olympic Games. In a recent newspaper article by the Ottawa Citizen it was mentioned that Canadian fans vastly outnumbered Americans as a sea of red aided the Canadian women's hockey team to a third consecutive world championship in Lake Placid, New York.
A national sport would promote national interest in times of national competition. Hockey is governed by a national organization and millions of fans follow it. National radio and television spend a great deal of money to broadcast hockey games. There is an organized hockey event in virtually every Canadian community, be it a large city or a humble village.
I received a letter of support for this motion from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. Its membership includes an active volunteer force in excess of 100,000 Canadians and upward of 500,000 on-ice participants.
Canada is recognized worldwide as the nation where the great sport originated. It is unquestionably looked upon as the foremost leader playing a vital role in the evolution of hockey worldwide. By the most recent estimates it extends now to not 20 but actually 51 countries that make up the membership of the International Ice Hockey Federation.
There is nothing more identifiably Canadian to the rest of the world than our game of hockey. Canadian Amateur Hockey Association teams at all levels of play compete regularly and successfully in international tournaments and championships around the world.
In each season the Canadian Hockey Association transfers almost 600 accomplished Canadian players to hockey-playing countries where they assist in the growth of this sport overseas in various emerging federations. All of these players are outstanding ambassadors for our country and our game. They help to sell Canada, its wholesome values and its healthy lifestyles.
In discussing hockey we can never forget the economic impact it has on Canada. A cursory glance indicates that tens of thousands of Canadians are employed directly or indirectly as a result of the game of hockey.
In 1992 Statistics Canada completed a family expenditure survey which concluded that Canadians spent approximately $400 million annually on hockey. This does not include club dues, ice time, travelling expenses or other numerous expenses relating to participation in hockey competition.
Again I cannot mention enough the appreciation for the millions of hours that volunteers contribute to ensure the success of tournaments and the education of youth in this sport.
Women's hockey is the fastest growing women's sport played in Canada today. In the past few years the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association has estimated the number of women participating in minor hockey at approximately 13,000 and that is being very modest. This has grown from the 6,000 recorded in the 1991-92 season. This upsurge has a lot to do with the success of officially sanctioned world championship events.
Women are actively challenging for positions on professional teams throughout Canada and the United States. The success of Canadian Manon Rhéaume, the first woman to play hockey in the National Hockey League, also has a lot to do with the surge of female participation in hockey.
Brampton, Ontario hosts a women's hockey tournament every year that attracts over 250 teams, including international teams from countries such as Russia and Finland.
I could go on about how hockey supports charity organizations of all sorts throughout our country. I could talk about the impact of the international Hockey Hall of Fame located in the great city of Toronto. I could talk about the impact hockey has on my hometown of Kamloops where we enthusiastically support the Kamloops Blazers. I wish them well in their competition with our friends from Saskatoon. I could go on but I want to step down to allow ample time for a number of members who have indicated an interest in participating in this debate.
I simply want to say the time has come and the timing is perfect. We are right in the middle of hockey enthusiasm and excitement in this country. It would be a great gesture of this Parliament to agree to declare hockey our national sport. I think Canadians would welcome and applaud that from coast to coast to coast.