Every 4th February, I’m a flag-waving, chest-thumping patriot from the second the puck is dripped until the moment we skate off the ice with gold.
It’s a complex thing, this love affair I have with hockey. Canadian hockey, to be specific.
I didn’t watch the Sweden vs Czech game last night, nor did I watch the Finland vs Austria game. As I write this, the Mairkans are playing the Slovaks. Currently, the first period is coming to a close. When they dropped the puck, I was in the kitchen, doing dishes. When the Mairkans scored I could not be bothered to stop scrubbing last night’s plates and bowls to rush in here to see the replay of what sounded like a nice goal. I will listen to the game as I write this, stopping only to catch replays of hilites. The game has the potential to be filled with hilites, especially given the fact that Jonathon Quick and Jaroslav Halak are in the nets. But I’m not so obsessed with hockey that I have to watch every great game that comes along.
I envy the Maikans and the Slovaks their goalies. If I were a general manager of an NHL team, I would rather have either Quick or Halak in the nets than I would our goalies, Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, or Mike Smith. But when it comes to best on best international hockey, I will happily and confidently go with any of our guys, because they are Canadians, and therefore they understand. Price, Luongo and Smith understand that hockey is Canada’s game. They were all born with skates on, as was I. I know that I would do anything on the ice to win gold, and so do they, so they will.
There’s a reason Canadians say hockey is our game – because it is, duh! Check the record. I actually feel sorry for Maikans, because they can’t know what Canadians feel when we watch our guys play the best of the rest of the world. If there’s such a thing as Mairka’s game, it’s football. Gridiron football, of course. But we’re the only other country in the world that plays the game, and we suck at it, so the Mairkans can’t beat anyone to claim that they are the champions of the world. Frankly, no one else gives a fuck about their game.
Despite the fact that there is now a world championship of baseball, the Mairkans don’t care enough about it to send their best players. Their players don’t give a fuck, so why should the rest of Mairka? They are as arrogant about baseball as we were about hockey until the Soviets kicked our asses at the Montreal Forum on September 2, 1972. The Mairkans are in denial about the fact that they really do have serious competition when it comes to baseball, just as we were about hockey before the Summit Series. They’re scared shitless to send their best to play in the World Baseball Classic. One day, they might grow a pair big enough to play for realsies, and them they might know what it is that Canadians feel when we watch Olympic hockey.
The Mairkans play good hockey, but Mairkans will not be glued to their TVs, crying into that cheap piss-water they call beer, if they make it through to the final, only to have us kick their asses again this year. Sure, they had the Miracle on Ice, but even though that happened on their ice, most of them were not watching. They celebrated that miracle after it happened, not when it happened. Even today, 34 years later, most Mairkans think they beat the Soviets in the gold medal game at Lake Placid, when, in fact, they beat the hated commies in the semi-finals, before winning the gold by beating the Finns in the final.
And, yeah, the Miakans rule the basketball world, but that’s just not a game that us short, fat white guys can relate to, so Mairkans, by and large, don’t care about their dream teams slaughtering the rest of the world in the Summer Olympics. All to say that, no, the Mairkans can’t know what we know, they can’t feel what we feel. And for this, I feel sorry for them.
I cringe when I hear Canadian hockey players saying that the Stanley Cup is more important to them than the Olympics, or any other best on best international hockey. Winning the Stanley Cup is about them. Winning the Olympics is about us. There are 30 teams in the NHL, seven based in Canada. Even when a Canadian based team reaches the finals, there is no total solidarity in Canada. Bruins fans, who were born and raised in Canada, did not cheer for the Canucks when those teams met in the 2011 finals. I don’t even bother watching the Stanley Cup finals if there’s no Canadian team playing. As I say, I love Canadian hockey.
There are legions of Canadians who genuinely hate hockey. They hate all sports, but they really hate hockey. But I’ve seen these haters get caught up in hockey fever. I lived in Vancouver, when the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup finals in 94, and I lived in Calgary, when the Flames went to the finals in 04. I saw hockey haters turned into bandwagon jumpers. They simply could not resist the energy that was being generated. The rest of Canada did not feel what Vacouverites and Calgarians felt in 94 and 04. They could not have. They were not there. But when Canada plays, we are all there, even those of us who are nowhere near there.
When Canada plays, for realsies, for keepsies, an energy is generated that is damn near impossible to resist. It certainly cannot be ignored. Bay Street bankers feel it the same as skid trow panhandlers. Skanky punk rockers feel it as much as crusty old disco divas. East Van Marxists are no more immune to it than are Yukon bushmen. New immigrants are swept up in the madness as much as the Indians who we stole the country from are. Boundaries break down. For a few, fleeting, oh so precious moments, we can, and do, put aside our differences. All that divides us is forgotten, forgiven. What sorcery! What alchemy! What joy! Even in defeat, there is joy, because it is shared.
For a few shining, brilliant moments we can actually feel the human potential to love everyone (except for maybe the Mairkans, if we are playing them).
It’s transcendental. It beggars belief. It shatters my mind. It leaves me awestruck and speechless. I could, and gladly would, high-five and hug Stephen Harper, if we were watching our guys win the gold medal together.
Yes, it is a shame that it takes something as silly as a hockey to do this, and it’s more of a shame that it disappears the next day, if not sooner. But when it’s happening, it is as sublime as it is incredible and it should never be passed over. To grumble into your beer as everyone else is somehow, miraculously strung together, grooving on the same frequency, jamming on the same power chord, tapping into the universal harmony of humanity is to deny yourself one of the greatest things you will ever experience.
Oh, my, I do have so much more to say on this subject, but you, poor aliterates have swallowed too many written words already, and you hockey haters have so much to consider. I shall not burden you further with this nonsense. Not at this moment, at least, but I shall return with my satchel full of silly notions.
For now, a simple wish – drop the puck and let’s kick some fucking ass, Canada!
First we beat Norwegia… then we crush the world!
Go Canada, go!
Go Canada, go!
GO CANADA GO!