The representation of NHL in ice hockey movies, 1970–2005

In Swedish

Peter Dahlén
Department of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen

The aim of this article is to showcase trends and milestones in the development of ice hockey, focusing on NHL. A division has been made between films that glorify NHL on the one hand, and films that criticize NHL on the other. Although few films provide a clear positive or negative image of the NHL, everyone tends to lean on one side or another, with a positive depiction consequently taking place with certain reservations, while negative portrayals usually also capture something that is positive and hopeful.

The presentation is chronologically designed to expose the dialectic relationship between ice hockey film as a cinematic genre and the historical development of NHL and its position in the transnational sports goods market.

Theoretically, the article takes as its point of departure the media researcher Iri Cermak’s multifaceted analysis of ice hockey films, focusing on the analytical categories “nationalism”, “identity” and “masculinity” as well as a schematic division of the ice hockey films into three main types (English-Canadian, French-Canadian and American “Hollywood” films), each of which has its own specific history and socio-cultural base.

The discussion suggests that in Canadian ice hockey films there is an obvious desire to partly anchor ice hockey in a national cultural tradition and partly to mediate between French-Canadian and English-Canadian national identification projects. In addition, the author emphasizes that the ice hockey violence tends to be problematized by American films, especially during the 1970s, but from the 1980s, the image of ice hockey and NHL seems to be more affirmative, more adapted to a domestic customer base in the United States.

Get the full-text article in Swedish

PETER DAHLÉN is a Professor of Media Studies at the University of Bergen, with an overall interest in the history of popular culture, expressions and meanings in media. He has published numerous sports history texts in book and article form, not least about sports narratives in both feature and documentary films.

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