Sunday, August 23, 2009

Canadian Love and Hate

I remember one evening a few years ago when I was driving from upstate New York to Michigan. I drove through Canada, like I always did, but this time it was special because it was during the NHL playoffs. I pulled into a truck stop to fill my gas tank, went inside to pay and could hardly believe my ears. There were people talking about hockey in that building! I felt so out of place, yet totally at home. Conversations about hockey are a rare occurrence in the states so I made up my mind to join the discussion. I walked over to the table where a Leafs fan was telling another fan about an amazing goal he saw earlier that night and proudly asked:

'Hey, do you happen to know the score of the game that my team played in?' (yeah, that's exactly what I said. I don't know if I thought he was a mind reader or if I just wanted to be asked who my team was, but that's what I said.) Of course, he wasn't a mind reader so he replied, 'Who's yer team?' It was a simple enough question, but I hesitated. Hmmm, should I say 'The Red Wings' or maybe just 'The Wings'? I decided to say 'Detroit' because it was a truck stop in the middle of the night and saying 'Detroit' might make them think that I'm from there and therefore very tough, just in case he was planning on kidnapping me and filming 'Deliverance 2'. 'Yeah, they won.' and he went back to his conversation with his fellow Canadian.

I've always loved traveling through Canada. Despite the hassle at the border, the exchange rate, liters instead of gallons, Kilometers per Hour and the fact that my cell phone switches to roaming, I can look past all of that because there's a chance I can talk hockey with perfect strangers. Also, McDonalds gives away hockey cards in their Happy Meals.

And yet...

When the Olympics start, it won't matter who's playing against Canada, I'll be pulling for their opponent. I'm not sure why that is, but it might have to do with the typical Canadian fans arrogance. I know all about that arrogance, after all, I'm a Red Wings fan, but it is wonderful to see the hopes and dreams of cocky fans destroyed, especially in their own backyards, playing their own game.

Also, I'm really getting a kick out of the Stanley Cup losing streak they have going on. 1993 was the last time a Canadian team won the cup. They've come close quite a few times (including 2004 when I really think the Flames won in 6), but they continue to disappoint. Now, while I'm enjoying the losing streak and hope it goes on for generations, I confess that I was pulling for Edmonton when they played Carolina and I had my fingers crossed that the Flames could beat Tampa Bay in that game 7, but that's just because I can't stand seeing the cup go to a team who's fans really don't care about hockey. It's just something to do until football season starts up again.

So where do I stand on 'Make it 7'? I say make it 29 if you want! Just as long as Detroit stays in Detroit. Since I don't live in Michigan right now, I'm forced to get NHL Center Ice in order to watch all the games. (Of course, when I do get back to Michigan, I'll still order Center Ice because I love watching all hockey games, even the ones my team isn't playing in.) When Detroit isn't playing, I try to find a Canadian team playing at home, especially if it's against another Canadian team. Calgary vs Edmonton or Toronto vs Ottawa are a couple of the best match ups you can find in sports because it doesn't matter who's building the game is played in, the crowd is divided and hostile. I think the closest you can get to this kind of atmosphere in the states would be Philly vs Pittsburgh, but only Philly fans are hostile and Pittsburgh fans resort to sobbing in the bathrooms saying, 'Leave Sidney alone!' In short, the best non-Red Wings hockey out there is played in Canada.

Make it 7. Give Canada an outdoor game every year. Fire Bettman. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah... Go Red Wings! or Go Wings!... Go Detroit!!

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