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An excerpt from “Hockey: An Affectionate Look” broadcast on Camera Canada on 30 Apr 1962 helps show how Canadians became “the world’s most sophisticated hockey audience.” As Canadians, according to this clip, “we know the game. We played it. We were lectured on strategy. And like sparrows on a fence, we listened and cared.” (CBC Archives, The Spirit of Hockey | Instilling the Passion)
Toronto | First there was Hockey Night in Canada. Now there is Soccer Day in Canada, a Canadian Broadcasting Corp. production that aims to fill two hours on Jul 8 with reporting on the grassroots game, tied to the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup. The broadcast begins at 3 p.m. Eastern (also available online, although it is unclear if the stream will be available outside Canada).
As in the United States, football in Canada shows an international influence. The CBC, in addition to live segments from grassroots matches in Newfoundland and Labrador, Québec and Vancouver, plans pre-produced features on the influence of the Laurentians side in St. Lawrence (see 5 Nov 05), on a women’s team from Prince Edward Island, on the Canadian side competing in the Homeless World Cup in Copenhagen from 29 July–4 August, on diplomats’ football in Ottawa, on a soccer mom from Saskatchewan, on immigrants in Winnipeg and on a youth team from Nunavut, the province created from the Northwest Territories in 1999.
CBC has invested heavily in the U-20 event, enlisting 375 journalists and technicians—“numbers comparable to a network crew producing an Olympic broadcast,” writes William Houston in the Toronto Globe and Mail (“What if Canadians Don’t Care,” Jun 29). Houston writes of the U-20 tournament as “the flip side to the world junior hockey championship, which has enormous appeal here, but is largely ignored elsewhere.”
Yet Canadians have been paying attention, as they did during the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship in Canada in 2002. The U-20 event already has set a record for drawing more spectators, more than 1 million, than any single-sport event in Canadian history. Chris Irwin, executive producer of the CBC’s U-20 coverage, speaks of soccer as a “sport that does reach a greater variety of people than hockey. While hockey does touch all communities in Canada in some way, soccer does it in a different way.” CBC, according to the London Free Press of Ontario, with its programming is fulfilling a promise to FIFA that it would promote the tournament in a nation that provides turf for soccer’s expansion (Rob Brodie, “Soccer Gets Its Due from CBC,” Jul 6).
Canada’s U-20 team, however, is facing elimination in its match against Congo on Sunday. In two previous games against Austria and Chile it has yet to score.
CBC’s feature on the Laurentians illustrates the hidden history of soccer within Canada. The first recorded game in St. Lawrence took place in 1904, when seamen would contest matches while their ships were at anchorage. Workers in the fluorspar mine would play after their shifts, while a town of emigrants from Scotland, England and the Republic of Ireland organized themselves in church leagues. The town’s main pitch, Centennial Soccer Field, is listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places in recognition of an area “that thrives on its soccer, past and present.”
As of mid-July, much of the Soccer Day in Canada content remains embargoed online, but three features can be viewed on the CBC Sports video player: “Soccer in Nigadoo, New Brunswick,” about a new indoor-soccer facility; “Saputo Soccer Family,” about the popularity and legacy of Montreal Impact; and “Island Soccer,” about the Prince Edward Island women’s team. The island won the silver medal on Jul 5 at the NatWest Island Games in Rhodes, Greece. They lost 0–3 in the final to the Finnish archipelago of Aland.