Hockey is more than just a game. In northern countries like Finland, Sweden, Russia, and Canada, hockey is religion, national pride, and big business rolled into one. Like other professional sports played on a global scale, ice hockey is a space where discourses of language and identity intersect with economic profit and mobility. What this means practically is the buying and selling of hockey players from around the world, the internationalization of national leagues, and an increasing multilingualism in local spaces that were often constructed historically as monolingual and monocultural.
The circulation of international, linguistically diverse, elite players seeking economic profit also transcends the traditional ways in which locality, loyalty, and authentic language identity are understood, attracted and managed in the hockey industry. This raises questions of how this difference is managed, marketed, and consumed in local spaces historically constructed as monolingual and monocultural, but now seeking to profit from both the circulation of non-local players and the loyalty to local belongings.
The Power play project examines how language, identity, and mobility have been discursively framed in the history of trans-atlantic circulation of players in the hockey industry, and how people within the industry currently view them as obstacles or catalysts for success on and off the ice. Through an ongoing ethnographic and critical discourse analysis that began as a pilot study in Finland in 2013, we explore under what conditions language and identity become assets or barriers in the hockey industry, and how this is experienced by players, fans and team management.