O Canada: Maple Syrup vs. Apple Pie for Hockey Gold

George flies the flag
George Flies the Flag

It’s forty minutes to game time – Gold Medal Game Time – here in Canada.  I don’t have much time to type, as there is still much to do before my Mom and Dad join Spouse and I here in Juniorvania to watch the epic struggle for hockey gold that is about to unfold on Canadian soil.

I had to stop in to mention that Spouse and I were out getting some breakfast and some groceries earlier today.  It is an amazing thing to see out there;  we’re half a country away from Vancouver, but there is a palpable feeling of excitement on the streets.  First of all, every other person (at least) is wearing some sort of Canada paraphernalia.  Second, early on a Sunday morning, the streets and stores are busy:  people are trying to get their errands done before 3 o’clock local time, which is when the puck drops.  Cars are flying Canadian flags, and everybody everywhere – in the Horton’s this morning, in line at the grocery store – is talking about the general public excitement over these Olympic games in general, and the hockey game this afternoon in particular.

I was only six in 1972 when the time drew near for Game 8 against the Russians at Ludzhniki Ice Palace in Moscow.  Still, I remember the excitement in our classroom on that day in September when the big black and white TV, mounted on movable aluminum rack, was wheeled into the room and all the kids sat down on the floor cross-legged to watch the game. I remember that same excitement not so long ago in 2002 when Canada’s best hockey players faced off against the Yanks in Salt Lake;  finally we had a chance with our best players to reclaim the hockey gold we view as rightfully ours, for the first time in 50 years.  I sat in the Black Swan Tavern on the Danforth in Toronto that day, and when the final few seconds ticked off the clock and the gold was back home where it belonged, I stood arm in arm with the friends I had watched the game with – some old, some very new – and we belted out “O Canada” at the top of our lungs as the celebration unfolded on the ice.

I have that same excitement and more today.  It’s different, because the game is here, in Canada, where great games belong.  We’ve wanted to have such a game here for a very long time, so long that we manufactured international events like Canada Cups and World Cups.  Wins – and yes, it must be said, losses in those events (I’m looking at you, 1996) – were important and historic, but they pale in comparison to the import of this Olympic finale.

Let it be said, win or lose, that Canadian athletes have done us proud throughout these games.  The determination of Joannie Rochette, the exuberance of a guys like Jon Montgomery or our female bobsledders, the skill shown by both our curling rinks – on and on it goes.  It’s very Canadian to say that we are just happy to have gotten here, happy to have tried our hardest and enjoyed the competition.  All of that is very much true.

But I want to win gold today.  I want to win hockey gold.  It’s not typically Canadian to allow oneself to say that aloud, to openly wish for this kind of success on the world stage, but we’re all doing it and it’s okay.

Spouse and I drove along the highway winding through snow-covered fields earlier today, with the sun shining down and glistening on the winter wonderland that surrounded us.  We were drinking our Tim Horton’s, blaring the Tragically Hip’s “Little Bones” and flying a newly-purchased Canadian flag from the window of our truck.  We were both excited about what we had seen around us, the expression of patriotism from our fellow citizens, and we were – and are- both excited about the prospect of an exciting conclusion to these Olympics.  It is a good day to be a Canadian.  Let’s enjoy it.

Team Canada Loses to Ryan Miller and the Yanks

I’ve been holding my breath ever since about the first period of Game Two vs. Switzerland.   Team Canada looked disorganized and got outworked by a highly motivated Swiss team;  the hosts were lucky to win in a shootout.

Tonight, Team Canada worked harder but lost to a team with a better goaltender and – it must be said – a little bit of puck luck. Minor criticisms can be made – Pronger and Niedermayer both looked weak, Marleau and Thornton made all Canadians understand the frustration of Sharks fans as they completely disappeared inside an important game – but this game came down to some bad play by Martin Brodeur.  Bob McKenzie of TSN said it best on the CTV telecast: switch the goalies and tell me the result wouldn’t have been different.  Marty got us that gold in 2002, but he sure didn’t look like the same goaltender tonight.   Expect Roberto Luongo to play for Canada from here to the conclusion of this tournament.

Lots of people are busy working out the permutations of who Canada will play in the medal round, but hear this:  a win against Germany is by no means guaranteed.  If the Germans play Canada like the Swiss did, and if Canada fails to adjust in the same fashion, there is a good chance that Canada’s tournament ends right away.  I wouldn’t bet on it, but our team needs not to look past that game.  You can bet the Germans aren’t.

In the meantime, here’s an idea for the next Visa Olympics related commercial. Morgan Freeman does the voiceover, of course.  “Hear that sound?  It’s the sound of an entire nation saying ‘FUCK RYAN MILLER’ – all at the same time!”