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(Hockey) Pride Comes Before a Fall

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Oh, man. Oh, man.

I had planned to write a triumphant post about Canada's hockey supremacy. Instead, I'm left with little will to continue on, never mind the energy to unpack the disappointment that was this previous week's game.

I watched the great letdown with two hundred crazed Canadian fans and a few brave and vocal Americans at a bar in Murray Hill that was recommended by the Canadian Association of New York. (Mom, even though this is the second post in as many weeks that begins in a bar, I swear I'm not spending all my time in New York drinking.)

We walked over, flaunting our Canadian garb and welcoming the attention we received on the street. Since moving to New York, I've avoided drawing attention to myself as a Canadian on more than one occasion -- usually when I'm trying not to look too provincial, or would prefer to avoid the almost inevitable conversation about Canadian winters, health care or accents. But last night everyone let their inner maple leaf shine through, proudly revealing ourselves as outsiders from the north. The Olympics were in Canada, and we were about to watch what Canadians do best: play hockey.

In spite of our group's excitement, I still wasn't prepared for the mayhem and camaraderie inside the bar an hour before the game. 2010-02-22-IMG_5192.jpg Everyone in the place was sporting red and white jerseys and t-shirts, those famous red mittens, and Canada scarves and tuques (wool hats to the Americans reading). Soon we were among them, drinking buckets of Labatts and Molson. The place was so packed that you couldn't make your way to the bar without eliciting a chorus of apologies -- the true sign of a Canadian crowd. The briefest hockey clip on the huge televisions above our heads was greeted with a huge cheer, as was one of those great "Super Natural BC" commercials from the province's tourism association.

Text messages and photos streamed in from friends and family in Vancouver waiting to get into Canada Hockey Place (known as G.M Place, home of the Canucks, until a few weeks ago). Strangers showed each other the pictures, told each other how much people in Vancouver had paid for their seats (four digits in some cases), and compared hometowns and high schools. Most of all, we all talked about how we were going to win. It was a Canadian enclave of confidence, of patriotic certainty.

By 7:40, everyone was fevered. We all joined together in an atonal rendition of "Oh, Canada," and then this -- the game we'd been waiting forever for -- began.

And American defenseman Brian Rafalski scored immediately. Audible gasp, then silence. Well, except for the delirious minority who began chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

When Canada tied things up, morale improved. But slowly, the buoyancy, the certainty, the pride from before the game seeped away and panic and desperation set in. The bar got quieter and quieter until the game was over. Even though Canada outshot the U.S. 45-23, we had lost, 5-3.

Sure, the loss in this preliminary-round game doesn't put us out of the running. But U.S. team will now enjoy what Canada saw as its rightful bye and breather heading into the quarterfinal round.

More importantly, it was a pretty big blow to the pride. After the game, the hordes of unhappy Canucks melted away and the street and bar were soon empty. The attention-grabbing swaggers and cheers from the walk over were forgotten and jackets were now zipped up over previously displayed jerseys. We were invisible Canadians in New York once more.

Previously in this series:
Olympics Obsessed? You're Not Alone

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