Hooligans, Drummond Villains, and Canada's Largest Invasion of Europe since World War II: Ice Hockey Tourism in the 1960s–70s

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:20 AM
Stevens C-5 (Hilton Chicago)
John Soares, University of Notre Dame
This paper will consider hockey tourism by Canadians in Europe, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s. Relying primarily on the archives of Canada’s ministries of foreign affairs, and health and national welfare, it will look at the intersection of sport, politics and tourism that arose when Canadian hockey teams – local clubs as well as national teams – visited countries on both sides of the Cold War divide, and in neutral countries like Sweden and Finland. Because ice hockey was Canada’s national game, and one of the most visible ways for Canada to obtain publicity in hockey-playing nations, diplomats were frequently dealing with the fallout when touring Canadian teams played poorly and behaved badly both on and off the ice.

By 1970, Canada had withdrawn from Olympic and world championship hockey because of a dispute over amateurism, but the years afterward saw the dawn of new era of international competitions in which the best Canadian professionals had the opportunity to play against the Soviet national team, starting with the historic eight-game Summit Series in 1972. But this Series only heightened the complications hockey tourism posed for Canadian diplomats and officials in host countries: thousands of Canadians traveled to Moscow for the ’72 Summit Series – and were considered by Canadians as their country’s largest invasion of Europe since World War II - and a smaller but still significant number visited Moscow for a successor series in 1974. Canadian diplomats had to deal with sundry problems, including conflict of what Soviet hosts had promised official guests.

Rather than the good will all of these tours were supposed to promote, the result was often conflict. These episodes illuminate some of the hopes, and many of the perils, of tourism as a form of informal, cultural diplomacy.