Monday, March 1, 2010

The day after

I'm never going to forget February 28, 2010.

Apparently a few Americans watched the men's hockey gold medal game along with me and the other 18 thousand or so live spectators at Canada Hockey Place.

Of course, on a per-capita basis this event shattered all domestic records: on average, nearly half the Candian population watched the entire game (just under 17 million people), and 80% of the population watched part of the game. Eighty percent!

Some of my American friends have congratulated me on the result -- for which I am quite appreciative (I should take the time here to compliment the American team; they have nothing to be ashamed of and they should hold their heads high after having such a phenomenal tournament in Canada's home rink, and what's more their team plays a very Canadian style with all of the attributes we prize so highly in our own players). A couple have followed up by saying "Hey, go ahead and celebrate, this is your Super Bowl". I suppose that's a reasonable statement from their point of view, but it doesn't really come close to approximating just how important this game was to me and the rest of Canada. This New York Times piece does a fair job of describing hockey's place in Canada's psyche; I'm one of those who strapped on a pair of skates when I was 3 years old and began playing hockey before I turned five.

The Cold War is over; this game might not have the geo-political dimensions of the '72 Summit Series but I can say I was fifty feet away from the action when Sidney Crosby scored the most important goal of my lifetime. Crosby has had an amazing eight months: he's won the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal all before his 23rd birthday.

After the game - I really didn't want to leave the building, but officials cleared it away promptly as they wanted to get people over to the closing ceremonies on time - I walked with my dad through downtown to reach his office's underground parking lot. Neither of us could stop smiling. We waved at the people screaming from balconies above us. We high-fived complete strangers singing O Canada. The scene was pure bedlam - I hope to upload a few pictures we took of the crowds - and in fact at one point I feared for public safety as we got separated in the crush at Granville and Robson as the crowd grew a bit unruly.

To wrap up I'll use a crude analogy: let's say you were a Chicago Cubs fan and your team finally won the World Series, and they did so at Wrigley Field against the hated New York Yankees. Then imagine that your national identity was contained within the state of Illinois and you and your fellow citizens only cared about baseball and nothing else.

Hockey is Canada's religion.

I'm never going to forget February 28, 2010.


MHG said...

Great post, it captures the feel of Feb 28th very well! I was in the bedlam outside of The Lennox pub and my camera died, so I was taking photos with my phone--it was so crowded I couldn't put my phone back into my pocket!

BWoP said...

Pics or it didn't happen :-)

Sounds like a fantastic time!

Memphis MOJO said...

I'm American through and through, but I have to say I couldn't decide who to root for!

BamBam said...

This post helps keep me :)'in.
So jealous of you too. Not that you were there, but that you were there with your Dad.

Canadiana makes a happy Bam-Bam.

VinNay said...

I may be American, but my city is a Hockey town. I honestly think this game meant as much to us in Buffalo as it did to the Canadians.

The loss was as hard to take as the '99 No Goal (ok, maybe not that hard, considering there was no cheating), but at least as hard as our 4 superbowl losses. I'm sure it had something to do with 3 local boys on team USA and Ryan Miller in net, but damn, it broke my heart.

Congrats on a great win, and a fantastic Olympics overall. You have a beautiful city and did Canada proud.

Now that the initial pain is over, I'd like to say I'm totally proud of what my boys accomplished. Nobody gave us any credit to get get a medal at all, and those boys played with a lot of heart.

BTW - Buffalo led all American markets in TV shares for the game -

Top 25 Metered Markets for USA-Canada Olympic Gold Medal Hockey Game:
1. Buffalo, 32.6/51

Shrike said...

@ BWoP: I hope to get some pics up soon!

@ MOJO: surely it's not that hard to cheer for your home country?!

@BamBam: I understand the jealousy; I can honestly say this was an incredible father-son day for the ages.

@VinNay: I absolutely respect what the American team accomplished and I'm glad you do too after getting over the initial disappointment. And Buffalo is a bona fide hockey town to be sure. That's the problem with over-generalizing; there are exceptions to every rule. I agree that there are American communities that follow hockey very fervently.