I spent part of the afternoon yesterday with a journalist from Toronto who was anxious to watch the Olympic gold medal hockey match between Canada and the United States later that day. Several times during the pregame hours, he mentioned that he was uncertain whom to root for. He had lived in Toronto many years, he explained, but he was raised in the United States.
After hearing his quandary voiced again, I answered: “Pull for Canada; they need it more than the United States does. It’s like us in New Orleans: We really needed to win the Super Bowl more than Indianapolis did.”
He conceded that I was right, so I assumed once the puck was dropped, he was cheering for the Northerners. Perhaps deep down inside I was, too.
My attitude is not to be construed as being unpatriotic; it is just that the Saints miracle has given me a better understanding of life. Hockey is native to Canada, yet its highest level of play, the National Hockey League, is based in the United States, where the money is and where stateside teams have often dominated, though quite often with the help of Canadian players.
There have been some bruises; Quebec, one of Canada’s oldest and loveliest cites and a place where hockey is a passion, lost its NHL franchise to Phoenix, where someone must have confused white desert sand for ice. The team has struggled in Arizona, but that a franchise now called the Coyotes can coexist in a league where the Edmonton team is named the Eskimos suggests that something has gone astray.
Logic would say that hockey rightfully belongs where the ice is, and Canada has more of it than the continental United States. Canadian kids grow playing the game on school ice rinks and frozen ponds. American kids spend their time on diamonds, gridirons and basketball courts. This morning the people from Vancouver to Montreal are no doubt overjoyed and bursting with pride that their hockey team won the gold. The United States team can at least boast that it beat the Canadian squad once during the Olympics and that the gold medal game was pushed into overtime. They played tough. But had the boys in red, white and blue won, there would be no similar feeling of pride from Los Angeles to New York. There would be no kids in New Orleans, Miami or Santa Fe relating their experiences on the ice with the pursuit of the gold. Instead the victory would have been just another notch in the United States’ medal tally, a footnote to bide the time until college basketball’s Final Four tournament and before the start of baseball season.
So let there be joy in Saskatchewan, Moosonee, Alberta and Yellow Knife. And here’s a special message to the provinces from New Orleans, a city founded by the Lemoyne brothers, two French Canadians: “Who dat saying they’re going to beat dem Canadians?!”
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