Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Canada needed hockey gold more than US

Imagine after "The Drive", the Browns had pulled it out and won in overtime. Or what if after "Joe Table" blew the game in the ninth inning on that fateful day a dozen Octobers ago, Manny Ramirez would’ve gone deep in the tenth.

Well multiply that by 25 million and you get Canada’s reaction to the Olympic Gold Medal game.

I read a report that 80 percent of the population of Canada watched at least a part of the game on Sunday. And when Zach Parise scored with 24 seconds left, you could feel the air being taken away from an entire nation.

If Team USA had won in overtime, I would have let out a cheer and celebrated with a Pabst or two. But 20 minutes later, I would have moved on.

Instead when Team USA lost in overtime, I commiserated with a Pabst or two and then 20 minutes later, I moved on.

But for that nation up North, Sidney Crosby’s goal was the difference between a funeral plus the most awkward closing Ceremonies ever and the greatest party in the history of Canada.

Our friendly neighbors got punched in the stomach at the end of regulation. As a Clevelander, I know what that feels like. A sense of impending doom that you know is only going to get worse. But in one instant an entire nation was freed from that mental prison when Sid the Kid scored.

Here in Cleveland, we got a taste of that last year in game two against the Magic when LeBron made that last second shot. But, of course an unhappier ending has taken away the joy from that moment.

For Canada, winning the gold medal on home ice is something they had to have. They weren’t getting another chance. It was Sunday night — or never. This season for the Cavs may feel that way for our city and it may actually end up being our last chance to win, but in theory we will get other chances in other sports.

For Canada, there is only hockey and this was the only chance. It is hard to argue that they didn’t deserve it.

Hockey Night in Canada has been special for a long time. But the NHL in pursuit of more money and greener pastures has really hurt the sport. Smaller Canadian cities lost their teams to warm weather American cities and expansion diluted the talent. Canada’s game moved their corporate offices to New York City and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has so mismanaged the sport that most of the games are played on a channel people can’t watch. A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993. It has been a long 17 years for Canadians to watch America mess with their national past time.

A loss to the Americans would have been devastating.

Canadians love the game so much. I can’t help but smile that their unbridled joy.

I respect the nation of Canada a great deal. Not living there, it is easy to romance the place as everything we are not: polite, able to laugh at itself, low-key and peaceful.

In 2006, some Americans booed the Canadian Anthem during a playoff game. Do you remember how the Canadians reacted? Go to You Tube and type in Edmonton Stanley Cup O Canada.

It still gives me chills. Those people meant it when they sang their song.

It is easy to be cynical as a sports fan. It is easy to get caught up in the negative side of sports. So it is lot of fun to watch a game mean so much to so many people and provide a happy ending.

It reminds you why you started following and playing sports in the first place.