Repository logo

The Rocket, the riot, and the revolution: hockey in French Canada

Faculty Advisor




hockey, French Canadians, French Canadian identity, Montreal Canadiens, Rocket Richard

Abstract (summary)

Hockey has historically occupied an important place in the lives of many Canadians, and this interest is particularly strong in French Canada. The Montreal Canadiens team aligned itself closely with the francophone community by utilizing primarily French-Canadian players and featuring a team name that reflected French-Canadian culture. The team, and the sport, were used to challenge the history of humiliation French Canadians had experienced at the hands of the English. During the Second World War, the team signed a new French-Canadian star. In his first full season, Maurice Richard led the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup championship. In his next season, he broke the goalscoring record. Richard quickly became an icon and political symbol representing French-Canadian nationalism. League commissioner Clarence Campbell, an Oxford-educated, English Canadian, often disciplined the fiery Quebecer. To many French Quebecers, these interactions with Campbell represented another example of English Canada’s dominance over French Canada. Despite their majority status, francophones in Quebec had higher levels of poverty and unemployment, and fewer management positions. In 1955, after an altercation with a referee, Richard was suspended by Commissioner Campbell. Riots erupted in the streets of Montreal, and Quebec society was changed forever. The focus of this research is on hockey in Quebec from its earliest days until the 1960s when Rocket Richard had retired and the number of Quebec-born players on the Montreal Canadiens started to decline (Whitehouse 2010). The importance of hockey in Quebec will be viewed through the lens of English colonization, but we will also focus on Quebec in the 1960s and the societal shifts that resulted in the Quiet Revolution and the separatist movement. While the relationship Quebec had with both hockey and the Montreal Canadiens changed after the 1960s, the passion Quebecers display for the game continued. However, hockey was no longer necessary to provide empowerment to a disempowered people.

Publication Information

Valentine, J., & Toal, B. (2021). The Rocket, the Riot, and the Revolution: Hockey in French Canada. Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, 53(3), 241-260.


Item Type

Article Post-Print



All Rights Reserved