Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Will you be there?

Canada. 5.4 seconds. Gold.

The holidays mean different things to different people. For thousands of Canadian hockey fans from coast to coast, they are a time to sit in front of the TV and watch a bunch of teenagers playing their hearts out for our national reputation, in between cheesy TSN commercials making us proud to live in a country with “more square feet of awesomeness per person than any other nation on earth.”

In the two years since Jordan EBERLE's epic goal with 5.4 seconds left in the 3rd during the semi-final game vs. Russia, Canada has seen quite a few ups and downs at the World Juniors. In Saskatchewan in 2010, EBERLE led the tournament in goals and was 2nd in points as Canada dominated and entered the gold medal game undefeated. And then, the Americans happened.

We found ourselves down 5-4 in the 3rd, until EBERLE tied it with about 1:30 left in regulation (can you see why we love this guy?) to take it to overtime. Unfortunately that wasn't enough, as John Carlson scored 4:25 into the extra period to seal the game. Instead of winning our record-breaking 6th consecutive gold medal, Canadians watched our rivals celebrate on our ice. To sum it up, it sucked.

As fans, we were heartbroken. We vowed to wear red-and-white as often as we could, to perform as many pre-game superstitions as we had, to make sure the gold came back home in Buffalo. We placed our faith on a new group of guys, and they didn't disappoint.

In a preliminary game against Norway, Brayden Schenn tied Canada's record for the most goals in a single game with Mario Lemieux and Simon Gagne, setting BabySchenn up for some lofty expectations. He ended the tournament as its leading scorer, and tied Canada's record for the most-ever points in a tournament.

Canada ended the preliminary round 3-1, including a huge 6-3 win over Russia, good for second in group B. We beat Switzerland in the quarterfinals, and then avenged last year's loss to the Americans in the semis, meaning another gold-medal game against another traditional rival. This time, it was Russia.

Canada started strong and was holding a 3-0 lead at the end of the 2nd. Then things started to get awry. Canadians started celebrating, TSN started showing us the championship t-shirts and hats (way to be subtle, losers), and then the Russians scored. Once, twice, three times. Suddenly it was tied. The Russians kept scoring.

(It's worth mentioning that our hero, Jordan EBERLE, was watching the game until it was 3-0, at which point he went in to get his appendix out. Take from that what you will.)

Last year's loss hurt a lot. The historic collapse, the stunned faces, the Russian celebrations. We shouldn't have been so hurt; after all, silver isn't bad. But we were. Silver isn't gold.

Another defeated group of kids. And now, they're passing the torch on to a new class, one whose expectations are even greater. Sure, it's only a game. But it's a pretty important game.

EBERLE. Schenn. Ellis. Price. Tavares. 

No matter how these players' NHL careers turn out, they will always be remembered for capturing the country's collective heart for a few short weeks, and creating memories that last a lifetime. Except Price, cause he's a Hab.

Have we created a 'monster'? Maybe. The extensive coverage of the cuts are a little cruel, perhaps. The way we absolutely lose our minds when they lose (or win, for that matter) could be seen as pathetic. Can we justify the fact that it's essentially a national tragedy when the boys come home with anything less than a gold medal? No, we can't. But we also shouldn't need to. We've created a monster, but it's our monster, and we'll love it forever.

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