Deja Vu all Over Again

Mact060606

Pho­to by Bruce Ben­nett from Canada.com

We real­ized short­ly after we arrived in Cana­da that one of the keys to under­stand­ing Cana­di­an cul­ture is to fol­low and appre­ci­ate the sport — no, it’s greater than mere­ly a sport, the Cul­ture of Hock­ey. Hock­ey was invent­ed in Cana­da, and ‘Hock­ey Night in Cana­da’ is prob­a­bly the high­est rat­ed TV show in the coun­try. I’ll bet it has been since it first aired. Typ­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion at work in the morn­ing is about last night’s game (although for a lot of the younger pro­gram­mers, these days they’ve been talk­ing about UFC — Ulti­mate Fight­ing Cham­pi­onship).

What was the best way to become a par­tic­i­pant in this essence of Cana­da? I’m too old to learn to play the game and it is extreme­ly demand­ing ath­let­i­cal­ly. So, being well-informed fans will have to suf­fice. The best place to start becom­ing a real fan is to par­tic­i­pate in the biggest games of the year: the Stan­ley Cup Play­offs — that’s the final cham­pi­onship where the win­ners of the year face off. Since Hock­ey is so big in Cana­da, it takes up near­ly half of the year to get to that point. While the tem­per­a­ture out­side is balmy, and we’re see­ing mar­velous­ly long days end­ing sun­set between 9 and 9:30, they are still fight­ing it out on the rink. March may be the month of mad­ness for Col­lege Bas­ket­ball, and late January/early Feb­ru­ary may be the time for the Super Bowl, but June is the biggest month for Hock­ey’s final 7 games. This year it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly good to get ini­ti­at­ed into root­ing for Hock­ey in Cana­da, because the final 2 teams are the South Car­oli­na Hur­ri­canes ver­sus the Edmon­ton Oil­ers. We get to root for Hock­ey and Cana­da! (It’s no stretch for us any­way. Hail­ing solid­ly from the North­east, we were nev­er big fans of the Car­oli­nas. I know there are plen­ty of fine peo­ple in South Car­oli­na, and some beau­ti­ful stretch­es of coast­line, but I must con­fess that I always asso­ci­at­ed the state with mon­strous indus­tri­al hog farms, Jesse Helms — and I know, he was from North Car­oli­na — OK, Strom Thur­mond, and Big Tobac­co.)

The first game of the Stan­ley Cup was last night. We did it right, drink­ing beer and watch­ing from begin­ning to end. I have to admit, the game felt some­what famil­iar, at least emo­tion­al­ly. Let’s see, it start­ed out well, with an ear­ly lead, that reached 3 to 0. But the oth­er team fought their way back, and tied the score. In the final min­utes, the Hur­ri­canes not only won the game, but a key play­er for Edmon­ton, goalie Dwayne Rolo­son was injured and will prob­a­bly be side­lined for the remain­der of the play­offs. In short, it had all the ele­ments of a Boston Red Sox game: Ear­ly con­fi­dence, a mid-game crum­ble, a dev­as­tat­ing injury, and final ignominy. Gee, we feel per­fect­ly at home, at least in terms of the arc of our sports team. Hock­ey, base­ball, it’s not how you play the game, it’s how you lose, and we had near­ly 15 years of learn­ing how to lose in Boston. I only hope that we don’t go 15 years here with­out any team in Cana­da win­ning the Stan­ley Cup.

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