There are the obvious stupidities.
In an era where vintage is cool and big government is not, the new Winnipeg Jets logo foolishly discards a popular classic and chooses instead something that looks like it belongs on an Air Canada safety brochure.
While hockey teams in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal labour to give everything a retro, classic feel (all five teams regularly wear jerseys that date back to the 60s, 70s and 80s), the old/new Winnipeg franchise has elected to abandon a look that maintained its popularity throughout the club’s 15-year absence. Clever.
These would be minor offences, explained by the cynical desire to sell new merchandise, if the new logo were simply a cartoon duck or an abstract swath of colour. After all, no one knew what an Atlanta “Thrasher” meant, so the fact that the Jets predecessors played hockey in Jackson Pollack’s paint smock was harmless, if a bit boring.
But there can be no mistaking the inspiration for the new Jets logo.
If the CF-18 fighter draped in a red maple leaf wasn’t obvious enough, the team’s new owner made no secret of the fact that the logo was designed in consultation with the Department of National Defence. In fact, Mark Chipman’s comments in the unveiling of the new logo had more to do with the air force than the hockey team. He noted in the press conference that he only felt comfortable with the “Jets” name when he determined that he could re-brand the team around the RCAF.
In other words, my beloved Winnipeg Jets are being twisted into another cheap marketing ploy for the new Canadian militarism.
It wasn’t so long ago that Canadians proudly believed ourselves to be citizens of peace. True or false, we took seriously the mythologies around Lester B. Pearson and our international role in peacekeeping and conflict resolution. These made us different, we thought, from our neighbours in the United States. Different and better.
But it’s a new day for Harper’s Canada.
Today, we cut funding for schools, hospitals and parks in order to build bombs, bases and, well, fighter jets. We barely bother to maintain the pretence that we are peacekeepers in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. There is, as I said many years ago, no peace to keep when you ride up in a jeep and you blow the bleep out of a wedding party — which has happened more than once in Afghanistan alone. That country is more devastated, more dangerous and more impoverished than it has ever been — a gift of our decade-long occupation.
Our posturing as ‘humanitarian’ support in Haiti is an offensive lie; our military was an active participant in the overthrow of a democratic government eight years ago and there has been no semblance of justice or peace since. Our military’s involvement in savagery and torture is well-documented, with the Somalia affair being among the most shameful. Our engagements in Latin America involve hiring thugs to murder trade unionists who demand better pay in Canadian-owned mines.
And jets — now featured on the crest of the NHL’s newest member — are a cornerstone of Harper’s military project. The purchase of obscenely expensive CF-18s was partly justified by Canada’s demonstration of their utility in attacking Libya. After sitting quietly while people were slaughtered in dramatic revolutionary upheaval across the Arab world for months, Canada suddenly felt the urge to send fighter planes to Libya, where Suncor (Canada’s second-largest corporation) feared its assets might be nationalized by the Gadhafi regime. Yes, CF-18 fighter jets are very effective at killing people from a safe distance, and in the hands of the Harper government we will use them to ensure the prosperity of our wealthiest multinational corporations.
It all starts to feel pretty George W. Bush.
As Canadians, many of us once defined ourselves by the fact that we weren’t like that. But these days we are being taught to understand our Canadian-ness in a very different way. We’re taught that instead of harbouring quiet confidence in our being good global citizens, we should be fist-pumping nationalists. That we’re becoming one of the big boys in international affairs, and that we should be brimming with pride at all the good we do in the world, and that we should always, always, always ‘support our troops.’
And hockey, at the centre of our national consciousness, is the most fertile ground for sowing the seeds of this hyper-patriotic idiocy. What could be better than to have people associate the military with hockey — the game so many of us live and breath. As such, Don Cherry’s insipid weekly performances of ‘manly grief’ over deaths of Canadian soldiers never once stop to ask why so many Canadians — and so many more Afghans — are dying in our occupation. CBC’s hockey broadcasts relentlessly bombard us with images of the soldiers overseas cheering for their favourite team. Why do we never get scenes of Canadian aid workers or doctors watching hockey with sketchy antennas in a far-flung desert village where they are distributing medicine?
Because that doesn’t serve the new national interest. Meanwhile, most Canadian hockey teams sponsor special military nights, ranging in intensity from spectacles of soldiers rappelling down from the rafters (war is really neat, kids!) to sombre moments of silence for the fallen, insisting that we take their deaths as sacrifices for our freedom. No space is allowed to ask ‘how is torturing prisoners in Kandahar protecting me?’ or ‘if I’m so free, why do I get arrested for leading peaceful demonstrations in Canadian cities?’
So into that cauldron of ideological brainwashing storm my Winnipeg Jets. Before they’ve even dropped the first puck, this team that I once cherished with all of my heart is being used to sell war machines.
When I was less than a month old, I was given a Winnipeg Jets toque. When I was 11, I met Teemu Selanne at the Winnipeg Arena. I was 15 when the Jets were sold to Phoenix; at 30 years old I still wear my Jets toque to work all winter. The Jets are a piece of me, a piece of my childhood, a piece I have always been proud of. Mark Chipman’s desperate, pathetic pandering to a military that kills innocent people in my name will not sully those memories.
These are not my Winnipeg Jets.
Photo courtesy: NHL.com
Tyler Shipley is a writer and researcher who teaches at York University. He is originally from Winnipeg.