Chris Pronger hits Ryan Kesler during USA's 5-3 win over Canada in the preliminary round of the Olympic tournament. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
I’m a Canadian hockey fan and I’m going to explain to you why we want the U.S. team to suffer a horrifying, painful defeat at the hands of Canada in the gold medal game.
Actually, we don’t even care if you make the gold medal game. We just want you to lose – and badly.
The reason for this is far less deep than people imply, yet there always seems to be some level of animosity whenever border-buddies present their side of the argument to the other.
Let’s just lay the hockey cards out plainly: The U.S. wants Canada to lose. Canada wants the U.S. to lose. We all feel it, but the reasons people dredge up for explaining why are horribly misguided.
They cite someone booing someone’s anthem (a dreadful, circular excuse for an argument), they cite population sizes, they cite respect, they cite any tiny shred of unreasonable logic they can get their hands on to defend the way they feel (one guy commented about how our “nothing” nation should show more respect because of the military protection the U.S. affords us. Whoaaa there, budzilla, it’s a hockey game). All we all seem to know is, when we play each other, we “feel” like we’d like the opposing country’s hockey team to have to get dressed outside, roll their ankles on the ice on the way in, get a puck in the chops in warmup and lose by 11.
Unfortunately, reasonable people have to cloak those feelings under the guise of respect, because we’re not savages and it’s just a game. Hey, I’ll cheer for your country as long as you’re not playing ours is cute, but also a lie. I want Finland to play like the wood chipper in the movie Fargo against the Americans Friday afternoon, take them in whole and spit them out the other side in pieces. Good hustle, U.S. – *butt slap* – now go play for bronze.
Y’know why? Because rivalries are based on location. It’s just that crappy and simple and small. We have to deal with each other first, long before those other far-away nations. It has nothing to do with Americans are “this” and Canadians are “that.” People just find their “we” and cheer against “them.” It’s only natural and it’s part of the fun of sports. I don’t wish Americans failure in politics, because we don’t compete at that. In fact, we’re kind of teammates there.
It’s too simple, really. As a teen, your rival high school was always the closest (think Springfield versus Shelbyville). In hockey, the closer the team, the more intense the rivalry (Ooo, Kelowna vs. West Kelowna, these guys hate each other). It’s amazing how petty we are – I remember going to a stand-up comedy show in Kelowna where the guy made jokes (that killed) along the lines of “how about drivers in Penticton? What, are their turn signals broken?” Of course, Penticton is 40 minutes away, on the same lake and zero percent different than Kelowna. But nope, “they” weren’t “us” so haha, you bunch of losers.
I spent four years braving Alaskan winters in Anchorage to play college hockey and we hated no other team like we hated Fairbanks. We should’ve been the closest with them, shouldn’t we have? Going through the same things, we could relate to each other. Yes, I agree, cold weather sucks. If a city were looking to date another city, we should’ve been holding hands with Fairbanks, not wishing permanent deformation on their children.
Hockey is part of our identity in Canada and it means next to nothing to the U.S.
For us, it’s taking the most intense rivalry – the one we have with our closest high school – and making it about the thing that matters to us most. Rivalry + passion = BOOOO AMERICA! “America” being the name of your team, by the way. We aren’t booing your nation.
The key point I’m making: It’s not nation vs. nation like Canada-Russia 1972, or USA-Russia 1980. This is the backyard game of lawn darts with your brother that makes you want to lodge one in his chest out of frustration.
If you’re better than us at the very thing we try at most, then we really lose. We have no chance at redeeming ourselves at the Summer Olympics in basketball. Or any other major sport for that matter. We cling to Justin Morneau, Steve Nash and Mike Weir because they’re all we’ve got against your huge country. Those guys and sweet, sweet hockey.
So we muster up all the pride and hatred and vengefully spiteful evil and hope the U.S. bus crashes into a wayward black hole on the way to the game (injury-free, of course).
When it comes down to it, that imaginary border separates some minor legislative differences. I’ve lived all over the U.S. and in Canada during my life and as much as we love to talk about our differences in gross generalizations, I can assure you, the only thing any of us North Americans do differently involve some minor accents. Okay, Boston is major, but the rest of us are pretty much the same.
So we need this up north. I hate that the U.S. is becoming a legitimate hockey nation. This was our thing. Now you come along with your stupid stars, stripes and bandwagon fans and want to beat us? On our home turf?
Not a chance. Take off, eh.
Justin Bourne last played for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and is currently a columnist for USA Today. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four Cups with the Islanders. He will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin's blogs at jtbourne.com. Follow Justin on Twitter.