Toronto Maple Leafs, Mythology, Hockey
For the better part of a century, Canadians have gathered around television sets and radios on Saturday nights for Hockey Night in Canada. Each viewer connected to every other viewer during the game in a dense imagined community. In the new media era, Canadians at home and abroad gather around computers and tablets to partake in the same rituals of an even greater imagined community. Spurred by globalization however, the game of hockey, a vastly important component in Canada’s cultural identity, becomes increasingly commodified and exclusionary. Nowhere is this exclusion more problematic than in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs are now valued at almost 1.5 billion dollars. The team’s “local” paper, which is consumed nationally, promotes the team and beckons new fans to enter “Leafs Nation” each season.
This research examines 13 days of Toronto Star coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs 2017 playoff run. Through a hybrid method combining critical discourse and content analysis, the research seeks to identify themes and Maple Leaf myths that the Star promotes and perpetuates, and how those myths support a massive brand public. The analysis identifies four threads of myth within the sample: Winning Tradition, Be-Leaf, Inherent Violence, and Depoliticized Power. The brand public, unlike the imagined community, is shallow and transient, but its existence justifies the enormously high cost of participation, despite the franchise going 50 years without a Stanley Cup win. The Star has the highest circulation in the country and is the most liberal leaning mainstream newspaper in Canada, which raises questions about the Star’s social responsibilities: are they responsible for keeping the public accurately and fairly informed, or are they responsible for helping build up the brand of a billion dollar corporation?
Master of Arts
Communication and Social Justice
Major Research Paper