Ah, Canada. . . It sucks to be a Canadian right now. Losing 2-0 to Russia this afternoon means that our team won't even be part of the medal round at the Olympics. And in this country, where anything less than a gold medal in that event is an aberrant failure, this means a lot. I guess you have to be Canadian to truly understand what this defeat means. To understand what hockey means.
Canada is a strange place. In a country where there is no veritable national identity (we're probably the only country in the world without a "true" national identity), a majority of people identify themselves by what they are not -- Americans. The East despises the West, and vice versa. Collectively, we all hate the province of Ontario, or more exactly the city of Toronto. The provinces blame the federal government for every ill in this country, while the federal throws the ball back to the provinces, claiming that they can't even govern themselves in their own jurisdictions. The anglophones hate the francophones, and the francophones dislike the anglophones. And oddly enough, within the confines of these circumstances, people actually wonder why nothing ever gets done. Talk about voluntary blindness. . .;-)
As for me, well as a French-speaking Québécois, half of the country probably hates my guts for the sole fact that my mother tongue is different than theirs. And because I read in English, write in English, and watch tv in English, other Québécois see me as a traitor. And being a right-wing kind of guy, I'm also considered a fascist. So in a nutshell, no one likes me!;-)
Anyway, in light of all this, there is one common denominator that unites this disparate nation. Simply put, it's the sport of hockey. When it comes to hockey, there is no barrier. Of course, we have our own rivalries. What would an NHL season be without a good scrap between Edmonton and Calgary, or Toronto and Montreal, or the more recent Toronto and Ottawa rivalry? In Canada, the sun rises and sets with our hockey teams. Born and raised in the suburbs of Montreal, my earliest memories are of two things: the Montreal Canadiens and Star Wars.
Hockey is like a religion in most Canadian cities. But in Montreal, it's even worst. Only the New York Yankees have won more championships than the Montreal Canadiens -- in the whole world. Time was, the Stanley Cup parade used to be an almost annual event in the streets of this city.
And Canadians from coast to coast are proud to say that hockey is OUR game. You watch Off the Record and other such sports shows, and the message is always the same: WE OWN THIS GAME! I've always believed that it's more than a little arrogant, especially since these shows are always quick to show spotlights of Canada's greatest victory -- namely when we defeated the then USSR in 1972. Wow! That was 34 years ago! But the way they keep bringing it up, it's as if it happened last night.
The truth of the matter is that Canada is no longer the lone powerhouse on the planet. The fact that we have only a single medal to show for our troubles in the last 3 Olympic Games should be ample proof of that. Sweden, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and the USA are just a number of countries who have now challenged us and joined us at the top of the moutain. And as far as the sport is concerned, it's a great thing.
Today it sucks to be Canadian, that's for sure. But while other countries were assembling teams that would pack speed and firepower, we decided that we needed players like Doan, Draper and Bertuzzi. No, those guys are not bad players, but they certainly did not deserve to be on the national team. Where were guys like Crosby, Staal and Tanguay? We were told that we needed leadership more than we needed the speed of youth. Funny that in a team packed with All-Stars we needed so much leadership. Heck, most of the players of Team Canada are captains or assistants on their respective teams. Problem is, the coaching staff never could get them to play as a team. And where were our snipers? We packed enough firepower to annihilate any team, yet we were shut out three times in four games.
The long and short of it is this: We no longer own this game. So all you "old school" people who watch replays of the 1972 Summit Series every night need to wake up and smell the coffee. We can no longer steamroll through our opposition with ordinary teams. There was a time when hockey was "our" game. But this year, we were beaten at our own game. And it cuts a bit deep because since the player nominations were announced, there was a lot of talk concerning the presence of some "undeserving" players. And now we've been eliminated from the tournament.
Tonight, there are millions of people in Canada who are still wondering what could possibly have happened. The answer, in the end, is quite simple. Other countries sent the very best team they could put on the ice. We didn't. . . Case closed!
Okay, rant's over! Don't even get me started on the Habs or I'll bitch all night! Back to fantasy. . .:-)