Friday, January 06, 2012

Oh, those Stupid Canadians

O hai.
I'm Canadian.

Now, normally people would think of a passive, overly-nice lumberjack with a pet polar bear in this situation.
(slight exaggeration)

But not hockey fans.

It's no secret that Canada loves hockey. From the 1972 Summit Series to the 2010 Olympics, some of our nation's most defining moments have occurred on the ice. Some call it an admirable love for the game. Others call it pathetic.

Canada is an awkward country. As a Torontonian, I have more in common with a New Yorker than I do with a Vancouverite or Haligonian. Our puny population, ginormous land mass, proximity to the United States, and economic dependence have all acted as obstacles in governing this country and creating something that we can truly call our own. Some of that is our own fault, but a lot of it isn't.

Even before we were a country, we've been told why we should be more British or more French or more American. While ties to the UK and France have weakened, the American influence is constant and will likely remain until a meteor hits or volcano erupts and shifts some tectonic plates again. Our most talented people usually don't even work in the country. Globalisation has resulted in greater international forces entering every country around the world. These aren't necessarily bad things. But for a country that's had precious little time to grow independently, it means almost nothing to hold onto and call our own.

Enter hockey.

While Canada hasn't always been a dominant force in the sport, hockey's always been a part of us. The dissipation of the WHA and the expansion and relocation of the NHL have resulted in a smaller concentration of professional teams based in Canada (yaaay Winnipeg), leading to a greater importance being given to international play. It's really the only time we as a citizenry can relate to each other without arguing. Even the fairweather fans and non-fans join in. It's really wonderful.

That's part of the reason we have such high expectations for international tournaments, especially the World Juniors. I don't know why we've chosen to place the weight of the country on the shoulders of a bunch of teenagers, but we have. That's why we come off as arrogant and entitled jerks to other fans. Maybe we are. But this is all we have. Yeah, other achievements are nice. But to this country, they don't compare to hockey.

Canada in general is pretty mediocre. Sure, there's the odd HDI ranking and people telling us how nice and pretty we are, but aside from our exports (and even those are underrated), we don't carry much international significance. Except in hockey. That's why, even when the States goes to the relegation round and Canada secures a bye to the semis, a Canada-USA game gets attention. That's why we're so bitter about the embarrassing collapse-that-never-happened last year to Russia. That's why we went to the gold medal game and chanted "Let's go Sweden!"

I hope this will help you, the Canadian and the non-Canadian, understand why it hurts so much to not win gold.

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