on collective sorrow for a well known unknown

This week marked tragedy for the family of Bob Gainey, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team. Gainey’s daughter Laura was swept to see on board a sailing vessel off Cape Cod in the Atlantic. Despite massive search efforts, her body has not been found.

The simple tragedy of such a death touches everyone. For Canadians, there is something more. The tragedy speaks to the failure of our collective religion, hockey. Hockey is a religion in Canada, there is no doubt about it. Our people worship at her shrine, hold up its players as icons, live and die with their teams, and are rewarded by rushes of emotion both high and low.

Bob Gainey is an emblem of the hopes and dreams of ordinary Canadians. A hard working, rugged player, he starred for the Canadiens in his playing days. He was a lesser star on a team filled with a galaxy of stars, dominating the hockey world for some time.

Gainey’s daughter was an ‘experienced amateur sailor’ according to news reports. She was swept to sea in a storm that saw waves of 30′ or more. The family is understandably devastated and is mourning in private. Our sympathies go with them.

Last night at a hockey game in Montreal, between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins, a moment of silence was observed before the game. Surely it was the right thing to do, as those who support the game express their sympathy to a man who has lost his daughter – a man who just happens to be a prominent name in the hockey universe. In an article found here, journalist Jack Todd said this:

There is no doubt the loss of this energetic young woman has touched us all. Somehow, the capricious wave that swept her away has, because of her father’s fame and the fact that hockey is our secular religion, come in its way to stand for all the things we dread: Fate and dark night, death by drowning, the inscrutable future, the death of those we love most.

It is that comment, ‘secular religion’, that caught my attention. That is why the story of this unknown woman has captured so much attention in Canada. One of our gods has experienced tragedy, we vicariously suffer with him.

The hollowness of sport as religion comes in this comment about the game that was played last night:

For the record, once the puck was dropped, the Canadiens defeated the Bruins 4-3 with Sergei Samsonov scoring twice against his former team in a game that should not have been that close, and that seemed, when it was over, about as important as the game of shinny played by two groups of cute kids after the first period.

Hockey can only give so much. People give their lives to it, body and soul. They spend their treasure on it. They follow it avidly, let it dominate their free thoughts, every waking moment, especially during the playoffs, and even more especially if MY team is in the final. But in the end, all that hockey gives is a hollow artificial experience that cannot give an answer to the issues of life.

Canadians, for the most part, are affected by this. I am affected by this. I grew up playing the game [some would of course allege that what I did was NOT playing the game…] Hockey is part of our national psyche, even for those who never played the game. We are all caught up in it.

Christians must at least hold this ‘secular religion’ in balance, if not in check. Perhaps we should eschew it altogether.

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