Hockey Night in Dalian. Sidney Scores! (Update)

This piece has been updated to include a footnote I forgot, some photos, and miscellaneous textual massaging. Don’t miss a single revision!

Hey, last night I saw my first hockey game in, what, four years? Five? It was another gold-medal match involving the Canadian men. (I used to be a Canadian man¹: player of hockey, dropper of final –g’s, flinger of ehs.² I didn’t ever see the 2010 final with the Americans in Vancouver, Chinese TV being what it is, though of course I’ve watched numerous replays of the famous Sidney Crosby overtime game-winner. (It’s hard to avoid that sanctified bit of video in Canada, even in our summers back home.)

¹ For the sake of perfect academic propriety and of respect for scratchy vinyl comedy, I tip my keys to the great Bill Cosby, and an early ‘70s routine questioning the motives of young men towards his daughters: I know what men are like! I used to be a man before I got married! Ba-da-boom.

² I noticed recently that in five years in China, though my grasp of Hanyu remains pretty shaky and small, my Canuck eh? has changed to a more Chinese ah in my questions and explanations. My North American right? has become a more international yeah, as in “We’ll each pay for our own meal, yeah?”

My gal is no Sports Gal, but it was her who knew the timing and suggested we try CCTV 5, the Chinese ESPN (or TSN in Canada), in case the final game with Sweden was on. I mocked her naivete – are you kidding? There’ll be nothing but short-track speedskating on repeat, or maybe a montage of great moments in Chinese curling – but that didn’t stop me from turning it on or from finding out she was right. (Again!) And although my Canadian credentials are getting weaker by the year – to my never having curled, drunk beer or made love in a canoe, plus my traitorous adolescent move from hockey to basketball, must now be added my eh deficits and my inability to name NHL award winners or even be sure who lifted Lord Stanley’s massive Cup the past few years — I was mighty pleased to see the Maple Leaf in flight.

And I can’t deny there was a small ‘yes!’ when I saw it was 1-0 for the desperately attacking, furiously talented Reds on a Jonathan Toews goal. And yes, I sat up with a rush of hope when Captain Sidney stole the puck with nothing but ice and a Lundquist between him and, surprisingly, his first goal of the compact Olympic tourney. (The games can be thrilling/devastating, depending on which end of the scoreboard your flagpole is planted in, but the format doesn’t really favour the nature of hockey. Luck, goalposts and unconscious goalkeeping can swing any single game; heck, Canada only beat Latvia by a goal, despite massive superiority. Hockey is meant to be played in a series of games.) Crosby scores! Of course, I didn’t hear that, but only the frantic and even-more-inscrutable-than-normal Chinese chirping. The Chris Kunitz goal was a pretty bit of

Crosby’s number 87. Joy in the morning (back home in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and across the land).

decoration, because the Canadians just kept up their rabid-dog pursuit of the puck, not to mention their hell-hound determination and pretty darned dazzling skill in attacking the resolute Mr. Lundquist. It’s amazing they didn’t score six, and their own superb goalie, Carey Price, had mainly routine housekeeping to do.

The players were, of course, thrilled. Gold medals don’t come easily, even when you’re the nuttiest hockey nation on earth. Still, by tomorrow they’ll be back wearing their variously coloured NHL laundry, many teaming up again with Swedes, Russians, Finns and Americans in pursuit of what really matters: Stanley. I couldn’t help but notice how relatively restrained the players were compared to the mad, exhausted abandon, the incredulous pitching of sticks and gloves and helmets, the never-ending bellowing hugs that follow a fourth gruelling win in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nothing in sport is more difficult to win than that splendid stein. On the other hand, nothing lifts more Canadians than a red ‘n’ white gold in this game that

First Canadian streets looked like ghost towns on Sunday morning; after the buzzer went, they looked like this the rest of the day.

even nouvel immigrants can quickly learn to love, even if they’ve never skated in their lives. It must’ve been quite a party, back home, from Sunday church-time on.

We went to bed, woke up too few hours later, and went to teach English to Chinese university students who hadn’t watched, or even been inclined to.

Comments (2)

  1. Sherri Yazdani

    Oh I think I will frame this post! flinger of ehs? flagpoles planted in scoreboards? I have become a huge hockey fan since raising an endearing lad that came out of the womb it seems, puck in hand. And I totally buy into the “hockey is Canada” message that it seems everyone from the prime minister to Tim Horton’s tries to get us to believe 🙂 This year, I have to say that the women’s team can be credited with bringing the excitement. I figured they wouldn’t replicate the on-ice celebration that we saw in Vancouver, but a part of me hoped they would! Thanks for the poignant snapshot of this particular moment in time and your unique experience of it.

  2. michael freeman

    Welcome to the dark side! You, a transplanted Canadian, losing whatever it is that identifies as Canadianism and holds you to this fair land. You, in a country that, no matter how many Canadian-isms you lose and local cultural-isms you gain, you will never be accepted as ‘one of them’. And me, or the us of Aboriginal peoples, can never lose enough Aboriginal-ness and gain enough Canadian-ness to fully integrate, and be accepted in, mainstream Canadiana. Not that I, nor the we, ever want to! Just an interesting, if only to me, thought that crossed my mind as you spoke of the loss of Canadian cultural identity.
    Hockey, on the other hand, bleeds from the veins of most Canadians, and die-hards would argue, all Canadians. This year’s installment of Olympic hockey was a bitter disappointment for me. Now, I am elated that both men’s and women’s teams did win gold, and the women in fine come-from-behind fashion. But the sheer timing did not allow me to garner much enthusiasm for the round robin games. And if it wasn’t for a well-timed snow day, I wouldn’t even have seen the USA vs Canada semi-final sleeper. I was to be in Paris (Ontario) on the morning of the final game and would have missed it had a friend not given me a better offer at the last minute: coffee and banana bread for the start of the puck drop at 7 am. There are very few things that can get me up at 5:30 in time to clean up and make the 45 minute drive, but hockey is one. This year’s play was lack-luster at best and pathetic at its worst, and did not match the excitement that the anticipation fostered.

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