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Canada's Most Important National Pastime? It's not Hockey

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Hockey Nation is in such bad shape even the Globe and Mail is beginning to sound like Don Cherry.

"It's truly pathetic," a recent editorial raged. "We're losers at what we love. And it hurts."

Just two of the seven Canadian teams were in the playoffs, two Canadian teams were in the bottom five, the legendary Montreal Canadians were third last, no Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup since 1993, and the Toronto Maple Leafs, the richest team in the NHL, are the only team not to have made the playoffs once since the lockout of 2004-05. Ouch.

Canada is a hockey nation and always will be a hockey nation. But we are a big country with a lot more going on. While hockey is in the penalty box or hopefully Coach's Corner, perhaps it's time to embrace our winners already at the podium.

We began the year with Canadian artists claiming four of the top five albums on the Billboard charts. The first Oscar of the season was presented to our own Christopher Plummer. The simple truth is that the best known and most celebrated Canadians around the world are our artists: musicians, actors, writers, dancers, directors, choreographers, composers, broadcasters (including Don Cherry) and filmmakers. As a country we punch way above our weight in the arts.

At home ordinary Canadians spend more than twice as much each year attending a live performance in the arts than all sporting events put together. For every mom or dad driving a kid to hockey, there is a mom or dad driving a kid to a rehearsal, a class or a performance.

The arts touch everyone. The Prime Minister, whose own book on hockey is rumoured to be published this year, famously jammed with Bryan Adams while he was in Ottawa to accept his Governor General's Performing Arts Award. Adams was surprised to find the Prime Minister has a room at 24 Sussex permanently set up with band equipment.

This weekend the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards celebrates its 20th anniversary as the nation's highest honour for our most notable artists. Leading up to the anniversary the Foundation that administers the awards set itself an audacious goal (note to hockey nation: goals are good). By Canada's 150th birthday in 2017 we want the whole country, indeed the whole world, to know Canada as an arts nation.

We want every kid who thinks she can do stand-up or hip hop or jam with Bryan Adams to say, "Hey, I'm Canadian and we're good at this." We want them to own it, to be proud of it, to be inspired by it.

We are simply inserting the language into the Canadian conversation where it resonates because it's true. It's true in the heart of every kid with talent and ambition; it's true in every family, school and community in the country. If you listen to music, read a book or watch a film, you are an essential part of arts nation. We are inviting you to use it, to own it. It's who we are.

And maybe just maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs will set themselves the audacious goal of bringing the Stanley Cup home in 2017. After all, the last time they had it in their hands was 1967, Canada's centennial. Now that would be something to sing about. Can you imagine the movie?