STAND ON GUARD, OH CANADA

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by West Coast Craig

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THE 49TH PARALLEL – I wanted to stay away from the Olympics… wouldn’t it be great not to mention them at all on the day after they’re over? I wanted to write about something else today, like baseball. A new tell-all book by Mark McGuire’s brother Jay, a betrayal of Cain & Abel proportions. Apparently they’ve been estranged since Jay’s boy tried to tickle Uncle Mac and accidentally spilled hot coffee on him, so in what some might call some kind of rage, probably stemming from a fear of his skin turning even pinker, Big Mark swatted the boy’s backside… and now his bodybuilding brother—whom nobody really cares if he took steroids or not—is coming clean about his own demons, and cashing in on his bro’s name at the same time. Now there’s got to be some comedy in that, right?

But no, a classic hockey game for the Gold Medal has changed that. So, despite the wall-to-wall coverage the last three weekends and two wrap-ups already on this very site by Grote2DMax and Rexy O’Rourke, I’m compelled to comply again. What the heck, it’s my last chance for another four years.

Okay Canada, you’ve won this round. Yes, the USA is atop the medals board but we Americans don’t care about silver and bronze, and you’ve set a record with 14 golds. Yes, one of them was in Curling – where your team was led by Ned Ryerson – but it still counts and you’ll be happy to know it burns with the pain of a thousand spilled coffees.

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It burns particularly because we down south here had started to believe we had something going; a young team, expertly hand-picked for character and chemistry and hockey genes (read: Canadian bloodlines, like Parise & Stastny). They weren’t expected to medal but then they rolled over all the powers, beating Canada a week ago and then the Finns like it was 1980 again. Sure, the ladies lost but they lost to a team that celebrated by smoking cigars and chugging Molson and joyriding on a Zamboni. There’s no shame in that.

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The game lived up to the hype, even at 2-0 there couldn’t have been a cold Canadian butt that wasn’t squirming in its seat. Back and forth, big hits, near misses, an incredible finish with a pulled goalie that resulted in a goal in the last twenty seconds – How often does that happen? – and then Sid the Man, The Next One, gets off the shot that will be shown in every future Olympic highlight package. A true golden goal that has earned him a free Molson in every Canadian pub for life. This was the kind of game where you Canadians’ celebration was equal parts relief as it was joy, and you all know you have to enjoy it now because it’ll be all the tougher to repeat in four years now that Team USA is on the rise.

Four years from now when the games are in Russia, hopefully the NHL brain trust – who are thinking of not letting the pros play – will look at how great this tournament was and realize that taking a 2-week break every four years is all you need to promote your game in the best possible way. Soccer has its World Cup, it’s nice to win the Olympics but nobody really cares. In Hockey, the Olympics are it, and after yesterday, they’re it more than ever. Crosby’s goal was the kind of gut punch that stays with a fan base much longer than any victory. The kind that, even more than geographical proximity bragging rights, fuels an honest-to-goodness rivalry. I personally hope we cling to this pain the way Red Sox fans used to, with bitterness and anger and a determination to one day get back. And I hope they still have the NHL-sized rinks when we do.

Until then, enjoy the glow, Canada. Those great northern lights are a lot brighter for you tonight.

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About the Author ()

West Coast Craig reports from Hollywood with an endearingly laid back style. A happily married father of two little boys, WCC has an avocado tree in his yard, plays the hot corner in a "Valley" hardball league and always manages to take cool sports-related mini road-trips, often with his immediate clan. He hails from Oneonta, NY but has been "So very L.A." for twenty years, so his sports teams are the Yankees AND the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the L.A. Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques. WCC loves bacon-wrapped hotdogs and can touch his heel and his ear... with his hand.

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