Category Archives: Canadiana

Hockey Memories

Friday of last week I could not get anything accomplished.  I was on pins and needles, a horrible sick feeling in my stomach.  Why?  Because Canada was playing the United States in the Olympic hockey semi-final.  My newsfeed was filled with fans talking trash, I couldn’t join in.  Didn’t they know how serious this was?!  This was no time for jokes.  This was Hockey!  Olympic hockey!  I called my Mum and we commiserated.  Neither of us could bear the suspense.  It wasn’t even enjoyable we were so worried for our boys.  When the win came, Canada scoring the solitary goal of the game, I was so happy I spent the second half of the day strutting around like I personally had won that game.  And it occurred to me.  This is nuts.

Why on earth do I get so worked up over a game?  A game I don’t even play?  A game I barely even get to watch anymore?  Do I just like hockey because I’m supposed to?  Some pathetic embrace of stereotype just so I can say I am Canadian?  I tried to figure out, what’s the big deal?  In the end there’s so logical explanation really, but I certainly gathered some good clues.

I remember one of the very first books I loved: The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier.  I can still quote it.  “We laced our skates like Maurice Richard, we taped our sticks like Maurice Richard…”  I was sent to a french immersion school for preschool through grade two, but I do think this book was also one of my first cultural reminders that I belonged to a bilingual nation.  When Eatons, a storied Canadian department store, went under, I was sad because it was the end of the age of Dear Mr. Eaton of The Hockey Sweater.

When the Vancouver Canucks made their 1994 run to the Stanley Cup final my brother and I were glued to the tv for every game.  The Hockey Night In Canada theme ran through our dreams.  I can still name most of the players from that team, and I fell for my first living celebrity, Trevor Linden our marvellous captain.  We made signs and posted them all over the house and outside.  Our devastation at the loss in Game 7 was absolute.  I remember my Mum bringing us out ice creams to eat on the driveway as we sat in sorrow, our little hearts broken.  The ice cream helped, but only a little.  I wonder if part of why Vancouverites go so hockey crazy is that we aren’t a cold town.  We didn’t grow up skating on frozen ponds.  Having a hockey team ties us to the rest of the country in a way our weather does not.

Not that little kids didn’t play hockey!  Oh no.  In elementary school you could rank a boy’s popularity by his place on the town hockey team.  My first crush was on the captain of the A squad.  Of course, later in life I would laugh at the cute fumbling peewee hockey skaters but when I was their age they seemed athletic, handsome, heroic.  As we grew older a smaller and smaller number of boys kept up with hockey, but it was always a point in their favour if they did.  And everyone played street hockey.  We would plan out our neighbourhood walks so we could pass the games.  I used to play with my cousin and he would always be Wayne Gretzky.  I would always be “Wayne Gretzky’s sister”.  Maybe today I’d have been Hayley Wickenheiser but this was decades ago now.

Then came the modern era of Olympic hockey, as NHL players were allowed to compete.  The humiliation of 1998 was followed by the fabulous 2002 team in Salt Lake City.  The day of the gold medal match I was taking a bus ride down from the Sunshine Coast to Vancouver.  The bus was buzzing with energy and on the ferries we would check in on the score.  As we entered the city it was clear we had one.  Flags were flying, horns were honking.  I have never hung a poster of anybody but Audrey Hepburn on my wall.  Audrey Hepburn and the 2002 Men’s Olympic Gold Medalists.

The thing is, in the end I don’t know if I started loving hockey because I felt it was the right thing to do as a Canadian.  I DO know that I love it because I am Canadian.  Because it inevitably winds itself through your childhood memories, through your aspirations and ideals, through your cultural references.  Like it or not hockey is part of our history, both personal and national.  Some people are irritated by that, and fight it.  But I think symbols are good.  I think connections are good.  Common stories, myths, heroes.  And I know that standing in my livingroom in Louisiana, while a crowd in a Russian arena belts out O Canada while the maple leaf is raised is good.  So thanks to the men’s and women’s teams for another great memory.

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American elections as seen by one Canadian

There are a couple things that really, really remind me that I’m Canadian and not American.  One is hockey.  One is how my heart leaps for joy when I hear someone say about or sorry just like me, or at least like I used to.  Another good reason to watch hockey.   One is how the news in general is reported here vs on Canadian news programs.  I miss Peter Mansbridge.  Heck I miss just about any Canadian anchor or reporter… Ian Hanomansing you handsome devil.  But the number one thing that makes me feel Canadian is how mind boggled I am by the structure of American politics.  Now I’m not saying anything about which country is better or worse, but here are a few contrasts that give me a head ache.  This will come off as a rant for sure but honestly if somebody can explain some of it I’d love to understand.

If the Canadian government proposes a budget and it is voted down, parliament is dissolved and you’ve got to hold an election.  There’s some nuance here but that’s the basic layout.  When was the last time the US had an actual budget?  It was a while ago.  That’s weird.

When Canadians hold an election, it goes something like this.  An election is declared.  That’s about a month or two before the election is held.  Usually you see it coming because there must be a federal election every four years but sometimes (see above) it’s more often and sometimes a government will jump the gun a little on the election date if they think waiting til the absolute limit would give them a worse shot at winning.  But the time from declaration to holding it is about that.  Then everybody goes out and campaigns wildly for a month and then we vote and then we’re done.  Now I realise our system is also easier to run that way because don’t have a presidential, senate and representative election.  We don’t pick prime ministerial candidates, the parties pick their heads in their own time and then that head of party is the de facto prime ministerial candidate for them when an election rolls around.  Not saying that could or should happen here but YEESH do you even remember when this Republican primary started?  Are we not all horribly sick of them, even, frankly, of our own candidate by the time it’s all over with?  And where’s the time to actually govern when you’re constantly campaigning?  Oh and another thing, how can you be running all over the place campaigning when you have an actual job in government?  Who’s running Texas while Rick Perry is running for president?  Who did Obama’s senate work THE ENTIRE TIME HE WAS ELECTED since he was running pretty much that whole time?  And to do all this costs millions upon millions of dollars.  Does anybody notice the numbers they toss around about how much was spent on ads per state per candidate?  Meanwhile the nation is bleeding red ink…  There has GOT to be a way to curtail this thing.  I think it’s a huge part of voter disinterest and low turnouts.  Everyone’s over it.  (Can I just say as a nation we were totally amused in a totally juvenile way when we declared our election AFTER you had yours, ran the whole campaign and still ended up with a result before you did.  Yeah it’s not classy, but it is human. 🙂 )

And then when finally FINALLY it’s time to start voting do you all head out to the polls on one day and get it done?  No, no, every state votes, in totally different ways, at totally different times.  Oh and some states you win all the delegates and some you parcel them out.  Sooo that seems not exactly fair.  And this isn’t seen as a bad thing at all.  In fact, when states start moving their dates around there’s a big kerfuffle that Iowa needs to go first and the New Hampshire and Florida how dare you get uppity and throw off the rythm, you get some bad seats at the convention.  Huh?  Bad seats at the…ok that’s not important… point is, when I think of voting I think of everybody picking their guy and voting and there’s a reporting black out on returns until everybody has marked their x and THEN we read the results.  How can it be a good thing to know the results from other places and have that sway votes based on factors not at all to do with candidates’ merits but only to do with perceived electability, popularity, protest votes etc etc?  What’s the rationale here?  Is it just tradition that doesn’t work anymore or is there an actual legitimate reason that I simply cannot see?

Yup, there you have it, some of the reasons I’m definitely, for good or ill, Canadian still.

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