Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Don Morrow


This dissertation analyzes the discourses produced by the selected newspaper coverage of the Montréal Canadiens and Québec Nordiques, two professional hockey clubs based in the province of Québec, from 1979 to 1984. Sport has long provided a medium for national identification, and constitutes one the most effective institutions through which the nation is imagined. This is especially true of Canada, where ice hockey has been celebrated as the country’s national game and a window into the Canadian soul. However, sport is a malleable institution; in Québec, hockey has long served as a symbol, speaking to French Canadian national identity, imbued with its own significance independent of any pan-Canadian context.

The Montréal Canadiens, founded in 1909, were the sporting institution most intimately associated with French Canadian identity. However, following two decades of unprecedented social, political, and economic changes in Québec, newspaper journalists in the early 1980s questioned the Canadiens’ monopoly over Québécois affections. As a result, the newspaper coverage of the rivalry between the Canadiens and the newly-formed Nordiques was anchored in Québec’s neo-nationalist politics, and the teams became channels for debates about language, social change, the shape of Québec society, and the nature of Québec identity.

Through a critical discourse analysis of the newspaper coverage of the Canadiens and Nordiques in both French and English newspapers, I determined that the Nordiques were celebrated as an institution that both reflected and advanced the neo-nationalist project, while the Canadiens were depicted as having fallen out of step with the pace of Québec’s social and political change. The neo-nationalist identity constructed through this newspaper coverage normalized the French language as the foundation of Québécois identity, but, contrary to the claims of neo-nationalists themselves, also constructed ethnicity and biology as central to the neo-nationalist sense of self. The identity represented through this hockey coverage excluded and even demonized Québec residents, such as Anglophones, who deviated from these norms. These discourses exposed the deep schisms that existed in Québec society in the early 1980s.