Ottawa unites to embrace Senators

Ottawa fans

Ottawa fans

5/29/2007 2:50:57 PM

OTTAWA - There's something to be said about a city willing to shed its differences and embrace what could be the opportunity of a lifetime.

With the Ottawa Senators making their first modern-day appearance in the Stanley Cup Final it seems only fitting that young and old, male and female of all nationalities would be willing to celebrate the Senators success.

While Senators mania may have started out slowly the city has now jumped in with both feet.

Retail stores are scrambling to keep up with the demand for merchandise, neighbours are outdoing one another with various displays of support and kids are pleading with their parents for later bedtimes in order to catch a glimpse of history.

But perhaps most remarkable is seeing people put aside their cultural differences to celebrate the Senators achievements.


There's something special about seeing people strike up conversations with complete strangers to discuss the Senators latest exploits. It seems everyone has an opinion and they want to share it with anyone willing to listen.

During a visit to a local shopping centre the other day I couldn't help but take notice of the patience and exuberance shoppers displayed while standing in a very long line to buy Senators merchandise.

The lineup could have been the perfect ad campaign for the Senators as the lineup featured a multicultural display of Sens fans.

There were fans of all races willing to share a prediction or anecdote. As they made their way to the cash registers people exchanged good wishes as if they were old friends.

So why are so many willing to shed their differences for the sake of hockey?

It seems there are a number of factors.

Jim Clark, a professor of psychology with the University of Winnipeg, says there is something called dual-identity.

"Individuals see themselves not only as members of a particular ethnic group but also as part of something larger that spans diverse groups, for example, members of a particular school," said Clark.  "In your case, it may be that people come to see themselves as "fans", an identity that is shared with people of all ethnicities."

Michael Robidoux, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa's School of Human Kinetics, takes a similar view.

"Being a fan is a really interesting phenomenon," said Robidoux. "There's a sense of ownership and identity to the team itself. People feel very attached to the team and it becomes like a personal success story for the city and not just the team.
"It's an opportunity for people to come together."

And come together they have, judging by the thousands of people turning up at public venues in celebration of the Senators Stanley Cup run.

Hockey is also proving to bridge the cultural gap for a number of elementary school students in English as a Second Language class.

The students have caught Sens fever and are using various articles and pictures to help them learn the language.

Robidoux believes the Senators Stanley Cup run is a great way for new immigrants to identify themselves with fellow Canadians and to embrace the country's greatest pastime.

"Hockey really is a special phenomenon in this country."

Lisa Wallace is an Ottawa reporter who has written features for TSN.ca, the Ottawa Citizen and the Canadian Press. Her features will appear regularly on TSN.ca throughout the Stanley Cup Final.

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