So, it's all over, that great spectacle of human striving, that culmination of a nation's hopes and dreams, all on the international stage of sport. A showcase of our country, our culture, yes, but moreso a near sacred rite about competition itself.
I'm speaking about, of course, the Men's Olympic Gold Hockey Finals. Oh, we can blather about ice skating this, speed skating that, moguls, boarder-cross, aerials, but it's all just preamble to talk about the hockey. At least in Canada.
And thank god Canada won eh? Not that I'm any massive hockey nut (even though I did follow the hockey and did watch the gold medal round). But my country is. I've tried and failed to think of comparative obsessions, but I'm not sure they quite match. Japan, for instance, really loves ski-jumping. Malaysia loves badminton. New Zealand is tied to rugby. Most countries are frighteningly involved with soccer. And, speaking with American friends, I can't quite find how to frame a Canadians relationship to hockey. It's perhaps like Texas and football. Or Boston and baseball? I'm starting to lose my way, because I'm trying to talk about sport, and unless are talking about Super Spike V-Ball for the NES, I have very little to say with any coherence.
This is a country that cheered most loudly during the Winter Olympic closing ceremonies when the old theme song for "Hockey Night In Canada" played very briefly, in a montage. A country that has played street hockey since forever, ice hockey if they were lucky, and has obsessed about the sport for generations. A country where all sports pale in comparison, fade to the back.
A country that is assailed with messages from the media (or reflected back, I'm not sure which), that hockey is our national game, is our game, is what makes us Canadian, is the reason we trapped fur, made maple syrup, put our policemen in red and insist they be mounted, stormed Juno beach, invented universal healthcare, and speak two languages.
So, yes, I do say thank god we won gold. Because we do care about the sport a helluva lot. Not that Americans don't deserve to win. But you got so many sports as it is; and hockey, while violent and all that, likely doesn't hold a candle to football or baseball or basketball in whatever region you're from. No American newscaster would ever use a phrase like, "As the nation reels from disappointment.." when talking about a hockey tournament, not with a straight face.
But we would.
Oh, we would. There'd be rending of hair and a measureable dip in GDP. A further dip in the birth rate, car sales, church attendance, community involvement, choir recitals, Elk lodge AGM attendance, you name it, it'd feel a dip.
But we won. There was spontaneous honking on at every intersection, waving of flags, a surge in that little felt emotion, Canadian patriotism. Waves of people flooding downtown with maple leaves on sweaters and hats and shirts and painted in sundry places. Canadians being even more friendly than usual.
God we love our hockey.