Canada’s game still just a game

The CBC set it up perfectly. First, the fans at Wayne Gretzky’s bar in Toronto lit up with excitement. Then, fans in the tent at Canada Olympic Park burst out in glee. Video of Canadian soldiers in Kandahar-still dressed in their green camo-soon followed.

Canadians obviously enjoyed watching themselves cheer in unison across the country. Gretzky even took a phone call on his cell from the Prime Minster soon after the game ended. “All of Canada is cheering,” Jean Chr├ętien told him. After the game, we waved our flags brazenly and with nary a care in the world. We won. The game was so good because we were proud and you’re damn right we beat the Americans at something-anything, really.

Too bad it’s just hockey.

There is no doubt it was a fantastic game. Tantalizing scoring chances stacked up again and again. There is no doubt Canada deserved the win as the victory was clear and complete. The Canadians mastered the two-line pass. Goaltender Martin Brodeur put puck after puck up ice with his superior stick handling, opening up more opportunities. The frustration on Mario Lemieux’s face after missing a wide open net off the post on what was a two-man advantage-all of these things demonstrated the potential of the victory. There we so many close calls that our palms sweat as we watched.

Too bad it’s just hockey.

It’s true the pride felt for “our” game is one we rarely express in unity. But the fact of the matter is this: hockey is not how the rest of the world works. It’s only a game. It isn’t international politics, it isn’t military might and it isn’t having the best research facilities and schools in the world. Canada is an international lightweight and we are painfully aware of that. In fact, we usually accept our mediocrity wholeheartedly, except when it comes to our nation’s most beloved sport.

There is no doubt our mediocrity is enshrined. It’s obvious in our education system and our universal health care.
We don’t have the best technology or the best education, but we make each more available for all. These represent choices that set Canada apart from our neighbours. These levelling mechanisms are stitched on the Canadian psyche tighter than a Roots logo on an Olympian’s jacket. It makes it hard to believe we could be the best at anything.

So why is it only hockey can ignite the national imagination? Sure, hockey is exciting in its fluidity and action-but again, it’s only hockey. It isn’t a night mission or a precision-guided bombing. This may be sacriligeous, but face it: hockey will not change a damn thing in the world and hockey players do not travel to war torn environments for peacekeeping or any other useful purpose.

Yet despite all this, we’re swelling with so much pride we are going to burst. We kicked the Yanks ass and Canadians know it. Apparently, some rabid fans on Ottawa even set down an American flag for cars to drive over right in front of Parliament Hill. This is Canadian pride at it’s worst.

It’s okay be proud, Canada. But see hockey for what it is. Only a game, nothing more.

Leave a comment