Tag Archives: Michigan

“What’s Your Background:” Cultural Differences Between Canada and the US

Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, it was fairly common to meet people of different ethnicities and cultures. As a kid, when you’re first meeting someone — at least when I was growing up — one of the first questions (after learning someone’s name) was probably some iteration of: “What’s Your Background?”

Until I moved to mid-Michigan for university after high school, I didn’t realize that asking this question may have been a norm where I grew up and not anywhere else. I still remember when I first asked someone about their “background” when I arrived at university. They looked at me funny and so then I rattled off some possible answers, Irish, Italian, English, etc. The response I received was a stern: “I’m American.” I responded by saying I assumed that, but that I was also curious to know about their cultural heritage. The person reaffirmed that they were American.

And thus was the eye-opening experience for me — ingrained in a Canadian’s identity is that they aren’t necessarily from Canada or that they didn’t necessarily start in Canada. Canadians know that there was something before Canada.

At this point, I should clarify that it’s really not fair to make sweeping generalizations about all Americans or all Canadians. It’s probably not even fair to make generalizations about Americans from mid-Michigan or Canadians from the Greater Toronto Area. While I might hypothesize that something along the lines of what I just said in the above paragraph, my point in sharing this today is to highlight to you that there may be some “blind spots” that you’re unaware of, if you remain nestled in your own culture.

In fact, you may not even have to leave the country to notice your “blind spots.” Simply by taking up a new activity or popping into a different community, you may find that the way you think about something is vastly different from the way someone else thinks about that same thing. You may also find that your group’s “norms” are borderline blasphemous to another group (sidenote: while asking about someone’s background as a kid was normal, I learned that continuing to do this after moving to mid-Michigan was seen as ‘rude.’)

Day 60 of the NHL Lockout: Learning From the Past

Previously, I’ve written about my interest in history and how I think it’s important for us to have some semblance of an understanding of the past, so that we can make more informed decisions about the future. That is, the past can certainly help in forecasting the future (to some extent). This is part of the reason one of the categories I write about is “history,” and it’s also one of the reasons why I was so keen to watch John Green’s Crash Course in World History.

One thing that has baffled me recently is the inability of the NHL and the Labour Union to come to some agreement. No, that’s not true. The thing that has baffled me is that this is not new. This has happened before. There was a lockout in 2004/2005. There was a lockout in 1994/1995. There was also a strike in 1992. All things being equal, one would think that these two sides would have learned something from the first lockout that could have helped prevent the second lockout. And then one would think that these two sides would have learned something from the first two lockouts to have prevented the third lockout. I guess not because as you can see from the title, we’re into Day 60 of the lockout.

I should say that part of my bafflement with this situation may be a bit colored by my disappointment in the cancellation of the 2013 Winter Classic, which was to feature the Toronto Maple Leafs (!) and the Detroit Red Wings. I grew up watching the Leafs and the Red Wings duke it out in the Western Conference Playoffs, so I was pretty excited (and strongly considering traveling to) see them play at the Big House in Michigan.

Getting back to the lockouts…

Before I sat down to write this post, I had the sense that the NHL Labour Relations were going to be worse than those of the other 4 major sports in the USA and Canada. So, I was a bit surprised to find that the other sports have also had some poor labour relations (in recent history):

  • NBA: Locked out in 2011, 1999/1998, 1996 (only for 3 hours), and 1995 (well before the season and no games cancelled)
  • NFL: Locked out in 2011. Strike in 1982 and 1974.
  • MLB: Locked out in 1990 (no games cancelled), 1976 (no games cancelled), 1973 (no games cancelled). Strike in 1995/1994, 1985 (no games cancelled), 1981, 1980, and 1972.

In looking at the number of lockouts and strikes, it certainly seems like, while the MLB has had a number of labour relations issues, most of them had no ramifications on the games. The NFL has only had a few labour relations issues, though I wonder if there may be some more on the horizon. The NBA has had a couple in the last decade (and a bit), but that’s about it. So, we might conclude from this that the NHL has had more labour relations issue than the other major sports.

Regardless of when this lockout ends, I sincerely hope that the NHL can find a way to keep (at least) the next decade strike- and lockout-free!