Pulse of Canada: Is hockey still Canada’s national pastime?

Thomas Bink
Pulse of Canada

Each Friday, Yahoo! Canada News asks Canadians where they stand on the important issues of the day, and our panel of experts tackle the same question.

This week we asked:

The NHL is locked out for the second time in seven years. Do you think hockey is still Canada's national pastime?

Thomas Bink: I'm as happy as anyone to jump off the hockey bandwagon with this lockout farce, but let's face it — there really aren't many alternatives, are there? Canada has one professional basketball team and one professional baseball team, and those sports are really the domain of our American neighbours. So that leaves what, lacrosse? Curling? As long as there are minor-league hockey teams across the country and we experience long, cold winters, hockey will always be the most important sport for Canadians.

Andy Radia: It sucks that a bunch of billionaire owners and spoiled millionaire players can't figure out a way to make a deal. But hockey is still our game. It's ingrained in us. I'm still at the rink once a week playing in my beer league and still make it out to see the odd Western Hockey League Vancouver Giants and the B.C. junior hockey league Coquitlam Express. I'm like a lot of other Canadians I think — I've become apathetic towards the NHL dispute, but still getting my hockey fix.

[ Last week's Pulse of Canada: Should politicians fly first class? ]

Matthew Coutts: Call me contrarian, but hockey needs a time out. And not just to force Don Cherry off the air. It doesn't have the stranglehold on Canada it once did. Based on participation, soccer is our national pastime. But we need a sport that is distinctly ours. Hockey is not it anymore, and it doesn't deserve to be. But curling, that's a sport on the upswing. It's received a lot of television exposure lately thanks to the NHL lockout. Clubs in Toronto are packed full, and it remains popular out East and in the Prairies. I'm not saying hockey isn't still Canada's game. I'm just saying it shouldn't be. Let's choose a new sport until the NHL stops ruining that one. I nominate curling.

Bink: Yeah, I'm not sure curling is ready for prime time quite yet. First of all, it's painfully boring. Second, there's no hitting or fighting. Third, it's not something kids can play in their driveways. Personally, I have trouble calling curling a sport at all. Like Andy said, even if there's no NHL, there still is hockey in the rinks and streets all across Canada, and for that reason it's still our national pastime.

Radia: Believe me when I say I'm all for a 'sport' like curling that has absolutely no physical fitness requirement. And it's great that other sports are getting attention while the hockey lockout continues, but inevitably we're all going to come back to hockey. And Matt, there's no need to knock Don Cherry — who, incidentally, was voted as the seventh-greatest Canadian of all time in that poll CBC did a few years back. Gretzky was number 10. I don't remember seeing curling sensation Don Duguid on that list.

[ Yahoo! Awards - Don Cherry named Canada's top Media Mogul ]

Coutts: Hey! If I gave you a three-game day of curling, which is common in big bonspiels, you'd beg for mercy. But I digress. Curling rinks are available everywhere in Canada. And while anyone can play, few can master the sport. It's the perfect Canadian game. Here are three traits you need to be a great curler: focus, a strategic mind and a love of post-game drinking. Here is hockey: bloodlust, expensive equipment and a mullet. If I had to choose one of those to represent our country, I'll take curling.

Bink: Well, I'm still not ready to embrace curling, but at this point I'll take whatever I can get. Until the lockout's over, I think a lot of us are looking for any excuse to go to a rink.

What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments area below.

Pulse of Canada appears each Wednesday and Friday
on Yahoo! Canada News.