Monday, March 1, 2010

The Maple Leaf Forever

Mood: fantastic!
Hating: work and how long school seems to drag on for.
Loving: brap brap Canada!
Lip-syncing:  Queen -- We Are the Champions and


24 hours afterward, the feeling continues to flow through the streets. I'm still reveling in it. It's hard to believe. Unfathomable.

Then again, not really.

Canada is a vast country. The world's second largest land mass. With mountains, prairies, metropolitan centres, fisheries and copious amounts of the Arctic, sometimes it's hard to feel like connected to it all. It's hard for me to feel connected to the people living two houses down from me on my street, let alone people over 1 000 kilometres away. Very few things draw together every citizen living here.

And almost nothing draws us together like hockey.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics were quite the experience. Starting under questionable circumstances, this year's event was a roller coaster like no other. On a side note, may Nodar Kumaritashvili and his family find peace.

But back to the reflection upon our hosting experience of the 22nd Winter Olympics. Alexandre Bilodeau's beautiful run broke our gold medal drought, and from that point on, the medals kept pouring in.

But like I said, almost nothing draws us together like hockey.

This is not to undermine our other athletes. I found my jaw dropping as Kaillie Humphries, Heather Moyse, Helen Upperton and Shelly-Ann Brown won the gold and silver medals for bobsledding, throwing back a pint with Jon Montgomery on his hilarious strut through Whistler, and sniffling back my tears as Joannie Rochette took to the ice. But last night, in the classic U.S. vs Canada showdown, one can truly feel the country's pride and joy. As that one commercial said, "Let's show them who's game they're playing."

It was a high intensity game that would have done any hockey fan proud. Yes, it would have been nice if we'd demolished them like the women's hockey team score of 18-1, or even our men's sweeping of Germany 8-2. However, no fan can turn down the excitement and anxiety of such a close, nail-biting game. Drawn into overtime, I think it is safe to say almost every single North American person was on their toes.

When Sidney Crosby knocked in that final shot during overtime, I don't think I've ever heard such a collective cheer. Inside the bars, on the streets, in the cars; Canadians everywhere were celebrating. Myself included; don't worry, my friend is paying for the dry cleaning bill after dumping a whole pitcher of Guinness on me.

Stains and alcohol aside, the hours after the game were full of intensity and pride. Waving a Canadian flag out the car window as we drove, there was not one car that did not honk, one person who didn't wave, one Canadian who didn't feel included.

Amazing, isn't it?

Hockey is a rather simple sport. In fact, I find almost all athletic activities are easy to follow. But for us up north, hockey is so much more than just a game.

Hockey gives us that common ground. It provides an opportunity for us to boisterous and arrogant -- for a change, depending on your perspective -- with completely random strangers. The camaraderie that springs forth from hockey games cannot be explained. In fact, I'm having a pretty hard time trying to describe it, let alone express it in such a way for someone else to understand.

But I think that's the true beauty. This...thing that comes from hockey can't be explained to a non-Canadian. It does not have true logic, or real reason. It's just there. It's part of who we are, ingrained within the very fabric of this magnificent country. It's as much Canadian as multiculturalism, poutine, and back bacon.

Perhaps we are too polite, reserved, humble. Not necessarily bad qualities; actually, if more people shared them, I think the world would be a much better place (pardon the cheesy children's show line). But winning the Olympic gold medal for both men's and women's ice hockey?

It makes Canada a much better place.

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