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Hockey Night In Canada

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Most people around the world are aware that the sport of hockey is something that is integral to our image as Canadians. In the famous "I. Am. Canadian." ad campaign, we are even referred to as the "first nation of hockey."

I have never been what you call an "avid" fan of the sport, myself, despite having been raised in a house where we had two options: we could cheer for the Calgary Flames, or we could live somewhere else. (My dad believes in freedom of choice.) While my brother plugged into this program with full watts on (able to recognize the entire Flames team by name at the age of 5), I was always, "Okay, yeah, whatever. It's a sport on television. Do I know anyone on that team? No? Lanny? He's the guy with the funny mustache who sells cars on T.V., right? Okay, go Flames. Rah, rah, rah."

I was somewhat flabbergasted when, upon entering Grade 10 Phys. Ed. class, I was informed that hockey was not, in fact, our national sport--lacrosse was! Something to do with the fact that it was invented by Native Canadians, long before the imaginary map lines that created our country existed. This situation has now since been rectified, making us one of the only (I'm sure) countries to have national summer and national winter sports.

For those of you who don't understand the full cultural impact hockey has on our province of Alberta, let me give you some background: Alberta has two hockey teams. The Calgary Flames are located in the city of Calgary, in the southern half of our province. Three hours drive north of this, along a straight, densely-populated (for our province) corridor of highway lies our province's capital city, Edmonton, home of the Oilers. Traditionally, everyone north of Edmonton (or the northern two-thirds of our province, land-mass-wise) cheers for the Oilers, those near-to-and-south-of Calgary root for the Flames, while those in the middle are raised in a confusion of conflicting loyalties that can lead to all kinds of problems, such as losing sleep, business partners, harmony amongst extended family, and the occasional marital separation during the playoffs.

My hometown of Sylvan Lake is at almost the exact half-way mark between these two Hockey Cities. (Fifteen minutes west of Red Deer on the map I linked to.) While most of our friends cheered for the Oilers, due to the fact that they had Wayne Gretzky, five Stanley Cups, and the audacity to put "The City of Champions" on their city sign, the little enclave of my brother, parents, and I put on the Red and Gold colours every spring. My dad taught us that loyalty was important, and called many of the so-called Oilers fans "Romans" who only cheered for the Edmonton team while they were winning, alluding to the way the Romans in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar would be swayed back and forth between "Kill him!" or "No, don't kill him!" every time a new speaker opened his mouth. So we would cheer for the Flames.

I remember 1989. Oh, glorious day for any Calgary Flames fan, when instead of coming to the last round of the finals and failing, the great Stanley Cup got to live in the Saddledome for one magnificent year! Every year, as anxious Flames fanatics follow the playoff stats, watching Calgary come this close, they think Maybe this will be the year. Maybe we will get the Cup! This might be 1989: The Resurrection! Oh, how painful it was when their nemesis team, the Oilers, took the cup north again in 1990. Oh, how often since then could they taste victory, like a kid who stuck his tongue onto the swing set in January, only to have it ripped away by another team. The bitter, bitter gall of it all.

When I started seeing Jason, it wasn't long before I found out that he was not a Calgary Flames fan. Instead, he cheered for the Blue and Gold. Fearing repercussions against the only dating relationship my father had ever approved of, I said, "Don't tell Dad!"

And he didn't. It was not until after we said "I do," and the first fateful post-marriage hockey season was upon us that the truth about his hockey loyalties came out. As it so happened, we were actually residing in my father's basement that year while Jason took one more year of college education. There were a few brief moments where I thought my dad was going to follow through on that "cheer-for-the-Flames-or-live-somewhere-else" rule, but thankfully, he reluctantly conceded and allowed us to finish out the college term!

Not that he would ever admit it, but the rivalry in hockey loyalties between my father and my husband has been one of the most fun parts of their relationship--they thrive on it. They call each other to gloat after each victory for their own team or loss for the other's; when my dad gets free tickets from a vendor or client to a Calgary/Edmonton game he will often try to take Jason. While living in Sylvan Lake, Jason would go over to watch the games on Dad's satellite, since we got no television reception at all at our house in the trees.

Since moving to Peace River, I think Jason has been feeling a bit hockey-deprived. We had not been able to get T.V. reception here, either, so he would occasionally go over to his friend Wes' to catch the games, when possible. I don't think it is quite the same, though, since he and Wes cheer for the same team. What fun is there in that? Also, with the additional considerations required for Wes' family time, these events have been a little few and far between.

Last week, Jason decided to change all that. He went to Liquidation World and bought a Radio Shack digital rabbit ears device. He has determined that our house will be hockey-less no more!

Apparently, it was not a moment too soon. When he turned the game on last night, Jude asked, "Dad, what game is this?"

Let the education--and the continuation of generational loyalties in the Battle of Alberta--begin!


Jude and I read a story about a little boy who wanted to take dance classes tonight--between that and his current obsession with the movie "Happy Feet", I thought it was high time he had some point of reference for what REAL dancing looks like. So, we got onto YouTube and had fun finding all kinds of dance videos. I came up with some real treasures, including this video. (Which, apparently, everyone on the internet has seen. Well, except me, that is.) If you have six minutes, and are with me in the "haven't seen it before club," I highly recommend it. Enjoy!

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  1. I grew up in Saskatchewan and for us it was football. It was cheer for the riders or move out so I totally understand where you are coming from. Now I prefer hockey to football and both Eric & I cheer for the same team and I am so excited tonite because we cheer for Ottawa and they are headed for the Eastern Conference Finals so only a few more games till the cup is up.

  2. Laurie - So, from someone who doesn't follow hockey to someone who does--did your team win?


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