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7:40 of Overtime on February 28th, 2010…

March 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Where were you? Where were you at 7:40 of overtime on February 28th, 2010? Were you in a bar, jumping into the arms of someone you met only hours before? Were you gathered together with friends? Were you by yourself at home, preferring to experience the potential pain of defeat alone? Or perhaps you missed it all together, cruelly held to another commitment, only believing that success had been achieved by the horns and shouts from the street.

I was with family, crowded around a television in a way that struck me as entirely Canadian. Hockey has become woven into the fabric of Canadian lives, because for generations families gathered together around small, grainy televisions, the rabbit ears positioned just so… to watch “our boys” play hockey. Sure, there were no rabbit ears, the picture wasn’t grainy, and the screen wasn’t exactly small, but the visceral experience was the same.

We gathered, we ate, we bantered, we cheered, we mourned, we laughed, we (ok, perhaps just me) felt ill, and when Jerome Iginla’s pass found Sydney Crosby’s stick… we jumped. Like a jack in the box wound ever so tight, we sprang upwards, arms extended, fists pumping. I leapt onto the back of my old friend Big Sexy. I landed on his big shoulders and exalted, the queasy sensation in no rush to pass. There was time for hugs, but first there were battle worn sighs to be had, anthems to sing, and, for some, tears to shed.

The shouts of passing flag bearers, and the horns of elated car travelers, reminded us that this was not a solitary experience. There are events that freeze moments in time, uniting entire generations in a collective of “I remember where I was when”… Unfortunately, these events are usually steeped in tragedy: Pearl Harbor, President Kennedy’s Assassination, the Challenger Disaster, 9/11. Each phenomenon resonates with the public, uniting us all in a collective experience of disaster.

But, there are times when sport can fulfill that same effect of freezing a moment in time. Bringing an entire nation together, unifying us all through the superlative power of athletic achievement, is rare. However it happens for nations that win soccer’s World Cup; it happens when a minnow upsets a Lion; and it happens when world politics bring an extra element of emotion to the event. For Canada, it happened in 1972 when Paul Henderson’s goal defeated the Soviet Union. It happened in 1987 when Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux played a game of cat and mouse with the Soviet defense, and it happened in 2010 when Sid the Kid became the hero we’d all been waiting for.

This is a goal that I will see replayed again a thousand times in my life. It is a moment that I will remember thirty years from now. Jumping on Big Sexy, watching as my mother in law sprang from her chair, as the Bride and her sister leapt, hugged and squealed. Honestly, there is no number too great for me to tire of seeing that goal.

Someone asked how my life would be different if Canada lost? A question I believe that says more about the questioner, than the answerer. However, had they lost, the nuts and bolts of my life would have remained the same. I would have gone to work today; I would have eaten breakfast all the same, put on pants one leg at a time. I would still be married, but the Bride would have had to deal with a day, or twelve, of moody despairing as I mumbled incoherently about how they lost. The game would have haunted me for years. Not every day of course, but when it was brought up by circumstance. Or when my mind wandered.

Instead, today I will walk with an extra bounce in my step. Smiles will come easy to my face, and the smiles returned will have that knowing hint of shared experience. The heady, euphoric mood wont last forever, but when the game comes up by circumstance, or when my mind wanders… I will smile, I will remember family, remember leaping into the air, and remember falling into a chair thrilled, delighted, and overjoyed that a Kid named Sid found the back of the net at 7:40 of overtime on February 28th, 2010.

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When Grown Men ( ) the Bed…

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

If you missed it, Canada played the U.S. in a little game of hockey on Sunday… and they lost.  In the ensuing twenty-four hours we discovered that this is either a harbinger of inevitable doom, or that it was a necessary loss that will focus the Canadian team as they rally to gold.

Neither stance particularly matters to me, as they are both mere building blocks in the inevitable game of “I told you so…” that will follow the results.  What the loss definitely did do, was make the Canadian’s path to gold a game longer, and considerably harder.  That extra game against Germany might offer the opportunity for the team to gel, but the loss also means that they could very well face Russia in the quarters.  However you might want to color the Canadian situation, facing Ovechkin, Malkin, and Datsyuk (oh my…) in the quarters is treacherous to the home team.

If Canada were to lose in the quarters (or heaven forbid tonight), then barstool pundits everywhere will question whether Patrice Bergeron should have been selected over Jeff Carter (or Martin St. Louis, or whomever), or whether Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer were too old for the back line, or whether Drew Doughty was too young for the back line.  Of course, the second guessing of Marty Brodeur has already begun and baring injury we wont see him again in this tournament.

So, let me make one thing clear, Carter, or St. Louis, or Mike Green, or whomever you think should have made the team is not the difference between 7th and gold.  This team has all the talent it needs to win this tournament, but at some point it is up to the players to make the plays necessary to win.  Brodeur, for all his past glory, clearly did not make the necessary plays on Sunday.  Of course, neither did anyone else.

Canada out shot the U.S. 45-23, they dominated control of the puck, they made hits, but was there any point where you thought they were in control of that game?  When the U.S. struck early did you think, no biggie?  Before Ryan Kessler’s empty net goal, in the waning moments were you confident that they were going to tie it up?  No, no, no.  Some might argue that their sloppy play was related to a lack of familiarity with one another, but a lack of familiarity didn’t stop Canada from dominating Canada Cups in the eighties.  Those players were great and when the chips hit the table, they raised their games to make sure that Canada stood atop the hockey world.  It is time for this team, for Crosby, Iginla, Thornton, Luongo, and the others to raise their games.

Tonight is the first night in the rest of the tournament.  Win gold and the loss to the U.S. will merely be a galvanizing moment that turned the team around.  Lose, and it will be the moment when the tournament turned south.  The players have been given the opportunity by Hockey Canada to do what every Canadian kid dreams of, they have the support of an entire country, and more specifically a rabid arena, it’s time for them to put the excuses to bed, grab this tournament by the scruff, and make plays.  It’s time for them to show that they are indeed great players, and it’s time for them to win.

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