Abstract: A welcome diversion? The Business of Hockey in the Second World War

J. Andrew Ross


This paper examines the place of commercial hockey in Second World War Canada and the United States, with special reference to the National Hockey League. The war highlights many of the themes that characterized the history of the hockey industry. First, the war exacerbated the tension between hockey's a) social/cultural and b) commercial/industrial roles, which had previously been seen in the amateur-professional conflict. Second, the war brought government into the picture; while before there was little government regulation other than the tacit allowance of restrictive labor contracts (reserve clauses, etc.), the increasing state control over industry and manpower in general could not help but intrude into the arena. Third, as a consequence of the increasing government interest, issues of transnational scope became important as the league and its clubs negotiated their status with governments and each other. Thus, World War II highlights these main themes and is, I argue, a watershed event that resulted in the first explicit definition of the hockey industry's cultural-commercial status.