‘The Product of the Town Itself’: Community Representation and the Stanley Cup Hockey Challenges of the Kenora Thistles, 1903–1907
This case study of community representation in Canadian hockey analyzes media accounts of four Stanley Cup hockey series played by the Kenora Thistles between 1903 and 1907. It examines newspaper coverage of the Thistles hockey club as it moved from an amateur team represented by players with roots in their home community to a professional aggregation that included paid imports from outside the town. The essay explores the relationship between sport and civic identity during a key time of change in top-level hockey. The dominant narrative surrounding the Thistles portrayed players as true ‘members’ of the town of Kenora. Even after the turn to professionalism, narratives of small-town, amateur purity and close connections to the community characterized coverage of the Thistles as they pursued the Stanley Cup. At the same time, however, a growing emphasis on securing the personnel that could ensure victory led to praise for the club’s efforts to please its supporters, or ‘customers’. As a result, this study of notions of civic representation in early hockey provides insight into the process by which sports teams came to be viewed as symbolic representatives of their communities.