Oh Canada! Wooh!

In Culture, Personal on March 1, 2010 at 12:46 AM

There was no way I was going to watch this game at home. My friend Steve met me outside of Hooters about an hour before the game. They were full. We raced to every other bar we could and it was the same story. We finally hit the King St. West Gabby’s (full too) when they informed us that the King St. East Gabby’s had lots of space still. Steve was in disbelief that the bars could be so full, so early, and I said to him, “Dude, this is the biggest hockey game in the last…” and I paused when he finished my sentence for me, “in forever.”
I can remember childhood sleepovers at my cousin’s house where my Aunt made us go to the library to do some reading. It was a forced break in the non-stop street hockey playing action. However, we had found a loophole. We spent the entire time in the video section of the library, where we scoured through the collection to find a documentary on the 1972 Summit Series. We became obsessed with it.

The heavily favoured Canadians were up against what was an underestimated and mysterious opponent, the Soviet Union. The Russians took the Canadians by surprise with their unbelievable speed and lightning quick passing. Their goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, is now heralded as one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. Valeri Kharlamov was doing stuff like this which made Canadians nervous. I watched the Kharlamov highlights over and over again, almost breaking my Aunt’s VCR.

The series went to the eighth and final game in a dead heat (3W, 3L, 1T). I’m skipping over the part where Phil Esposito made an apology to all of Canada on National Television, promising the country that they would try harder. The Canadians had to win this game. And then, Paul Henderson scored the game winner, a moment simply known as “the goal,” a highlight that would be replayed over and over again for decades to come.

Nothing will equate to the 1972 Summit Series. It was the first international professional hockey competition of its kind. The fact that our opponents were secretive and played an entirely different style in contrast with the NHL made for interesting hockey. And let’s not forget, it was during the Cold War, which made it even more symbolic (beat Communism!).

But Sunday’s gold medal match against the United States will be an adored Canadian memory. The story had everything, including a picture perfect ending. We came in as favourites, the US surprised us in the tournament with a dominant goaltending performance by Miller. We had to brace ourselves for one last match against an undefeated US team. The Americans broke our hearts with only seconds remaining in the third period. And then, Crosby scored the goal.

Steve was dizzy from screaming so loud after the goal. I had never handed out so many high fives in my life. On our walk to Dundas Square, anytime Steve yelled “Woooh!” someone would echo back. People were playing street hockey downtown. Everywhere we went, we all sang our National Anthem in unison (unlike Auld Lang Syne and other similar songs often sung by drunk people in unison, I realized on this night that Oh Canada is the only one I can sing with passion and not feel weird about it).

I’m not normally much for spirit, but I couldn’t help but be engulfed. Because Canada is composed of so many different cultures, it’s hard to find a single uniting cause. Sunday night, I lost myself in it.

It was a perfect night. The hockey game climax rolled right into the closing ceremonies. By now we were at another bar, and they were showing highlights from the entire Olympics, including the goal by Crosby. The guy next to me said, “They should just play that goal over and over, eh?” I couldn’t agree more.


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