Develop “physical culture” instead of hockey

The person talking to you here is the average hockey fan. My three sons played with enthusiasm – and with much more success than their father. And whatever bad things can be said about the atmosphere in the arena, it’s a great team sport.

Posted at 5:00 am

But if strong government intervention is needed, it is not to straighten out our national sport. It is developing a culture of physical activity in general.

I would even go so far as to say that the political fixation on hockey is part of the problem. A sport I love, I insist, but quickly abandoned by the masses after adolescence.

Recall that the Premier of Quebec himself announced the creation of a commission on the future of hockey in Quebec, as if a crisis required state intervention.

The committee, consisting of several stars from the hockey world, has just submitted its report. It’s full of sensible findings and recommendations – we specialize in too young children, there’s a lack of tech support, arenas, structures for girls, it costs too much, we don’t focus enough on fun, and so on.

But what really motivated François Legault to get involved is the constant thinning of the Quebec elite in professional hockey. While the Finns, Swedes and others are making progress, the Quebecers are going backwards.

What annoys him is the dilution of the national symbol.

This is undoubtedly food for thought and reform for hockey people. And even for the Minister of Education and responsible for Sport, Isabelle Charest.

But what the government, Health and Education must mobilize first is not the decline of hockey. It is a sedentary lifestyle in general.

It is striking to see the attention the Denis report has received compared to that reserved for the same minister’s 2020 report entitled “For a Physically Active Population of Quebec”. This paper evaluated the ‘healthy lifestyle’ research and made a series of recommendations for getting people moving, as recommended by the World Health Organization – and thousands of studies. All this to reduce the incidence of disease, improve mental health and reduce morbidity.

You’ll tell me: a report released in a pandemic year is really no luck. It’s true.

Nevertheless, what is in this document is much more urgent to communicate and implement. But there were no stars as spokesmen…

“No sport has received as much attention from the Quebec government as ice hockey,” Denis’ report read on Thursday. This is the result of a very specific context, ie in particular the number of followers and the place this sport occupies in the media and in the culture of Quebec. †

We couldn’t say it better.

This is exactly why we must tirelessly draw attention to the general importance of physical activity and the development of a culture of sports participation.

You could say that there is no contradiction between the development of elite hockey and other top sports and the promotion of physical activity in general.

No doubt.

But resources are not limitless, let’s ask ourselves: should we invest hundreds of millions to build arenas (Quebec has 395, compared to 450 for Alberta, which has 45% fewer inhabitants) or for gymnasiums? paths? Cross-country trails? For hockey technical advisors, or physical education teachers?

Yes, I want both too. But we’re not going to do both. And I know that a new arena funded by a “national” program (because it’s suggested to “bring hockey to the level of Quebec’s national sport”) sells better than a running track and equipment for the schools.

The Denis report does everything in its power not to damage our ‘professional’ model of junior hockey too much, but advocates a rapprochement between school and hockey. Nothing radical, but that’s all. And all the better if the hockey people eventually start collaborating with the cities that run the arenas.

In addition, there is so much to do to combat a sedentary lifestyle, and so little political energy.

It is this contrast that is mind-boggling. So much noise for our beloved national spectator sport. So little determination to fight a sedentary lifestyle. We have enough hockey stars available to spread the word about their sport – our sport.

We miss Pierre Lavoie.

If government at the highest level is to get involved in a “sports problem”, it seems to me that we should start by letting people walk, run, roll as much as possible, from the CPE to the CHSLD.

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