Don Cherry likes the new Winnipeg Jets logo, and so will other Conservatives and all boosters of a more aggressive and interventionist Canadian foreign policy.
The logo was designed in consultation with the Canadian Forces. The main image is very similar to the roundel of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)—a blue circle with a red maple leaf in the centre—except they have added a silver fighter jet over top the leaf and a thin silver outer circle. The Jets’ owners, True North Sports and Entertainment, will pay $1 million to military charities over the next 10 years.
The long-awaited return of NHL hockey to Manitoba will now double as priceless PR for the Canadian Forces—better than the biggest-budget recruiting ad campaign you could imagine.
NHL hockey, and especially CBC’s Saturday flagship Hockey Night in Canada, has in recent years increasingly become a key booster of Canada’s war in Afghanistan and militarism in general. The low point came on Christmas Day 2010, when Cherry visited a Canadian Forces base in Kandahar with Defense Minister Peter MacKay. Cherry actually launched a live artillery shell, joking, “Taliban, here I come.” MacKay cheered him on: “Don, this is a different type of ”˜He shoots, he scores.’”
The Coach was never reprimanded by the CBC, and he remained in his Corner after this slapshot in the face of Afghans. Partly in response to this episode, Hockey Fans for Peace was formed. As a hockey-fanatic-kid-turned-antiwar-activist, I took part in some of their activities earlier this year, which included leafleting outside of a Canucks game with a very simple message: “We urge the NHL and the mass media to stop using hockey games and broadcasts to promote support for the war.”
The “Winnipeg Fighter Jets” logo opens up new possibilities for this jingoistic mix. Cherry and MacKay will no doubt be reunited in some capacity on opening day in October, and it’s easy to imagine a military fly-over preceding the first puck drop at the MTS Centre.
Like with the 2010 Olympics gear, the new Jets logo also bears a pretty close resemblance to the logo of the Conservative Party of Canada. Pure coincidence, I’m sure.
The fighter jet over the maple leaf is a fitting symbol for the Stephen Harper era. Not only did he manage to win a majority government while promising to spend untold billions on a new generation of F-35 bombers, but he has also presided over a steadily creeping militarism throughout Canadian society.
Harper has kept pushing a mini “culture war” on this front in part due to weak opposition. Too many who know better are silenced by facile and transparent rhetoric about “not supporting the war, just supporting the troops”. (On cursory inspection, this is an empty cliché. Don Cherry, for instance, rarely devotes airtime to supporting U.S. war resisters, mourning Afghan civilians, or critiquing the government for its woeful neglect of veterans suffering PTSD).
The Conservatives’ militaristic drive can only succeed in the absence of oppositional political courage, since despite everything polls consistently show that Canadians are wary of overseas wars and dubious about military hardware spending that could be redirected to other uses.
Taking a longer historical view, the new logo can likewise be seen as symbolic of the new Conservatives’ ascendancy. The fighter jet depicted on the logo is a CF-18. Back in 1986—when Dale Hawerchuk was busy racking up 100-point seasons—then Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney awarded a lucrative 20-year CF-18 maintenance contract to a Quebec-based company instead of Bristol Aerospace in Manitoba.
The CF-18 snub fueled a surge in western alienation, and a young Preston Manning seized the moment to form the Reform Party of Canada.
Having emerged from that movement, Stephen Harper now holds government with a re-founded Conservative Party. The re-founding of the Winnipeg Jets means that there are now more NHL teams in the Canadian West than in the rest of Canada (although the Jets will, for now, keep the Atlanta Thrashers’ spot in the NHL Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division). Harper has a majority government despite being almost shutout in Quebec. He did not even feel compelled to offer federal money for a popular effort to bring back the Quebec Nordiques NHL franchise.
As a hockey logo, I’d give the Jets redesign a fail. It might have better luck passing as a symbol for Harper’s Canada in general. If that hockey book the media loves to tell us he’s writing ever goes to print, the prime minister can put the new Jets’ logo on the cover.
The fighter jet on top of the maple leaf: with Harper at the controls, that’s a pretty honest picture of this country’s priorities and of its role in world affairs.