Is there anything more apparent in a Canadian than their love for hockey and our hockey teams? It isn’t so much winning or losing, it’s our feeling that we can always win no matter the odds. It’s played out over and over in every level of play. 1972 Canada Cup. 1987 Canada Cup. 2010 Olympic Gold medal game, where even as the favorites, it really could have gone either way, except to a Canadian. Numerous lower level tournaments such as U17, U18, and under U20. We’ve always had the ability to push harder, to fight harder, to take more punishment than the opposition. This isn’t an exaggeration nor is it meant to be a cocky expose from a Canadian’s point of view.
It’s also not even just about the players. The fans, of which close to 20 million per game in Canada and likely far more around the world, will us to win. Will every hit, every blocked shot, every hard working shift, and especially every goal. There isn’t 20 players on team Canada. There is a whole country underneath every jersey. Screaming to play harder, to give just that little bit more, and their heart beats harder because of it. When we lose, it’s a collective tear, and a collective heartbreak.
We came into this years WJC as an underdog to the US team which featured many returning players. We struggled throughout the tourney, seemingly playing against ourselves at times while few players found their games, and even lost to Sweden. Here we are facing Russia for the Gold and at this point, winning, but it isn’t even about this game. The game against the US showed how much heart can carry a team. Domination where it matters. Domination when skill plays the game in the shadows and character and heart define the experience. It’s not how we win. It’s why.
Look at this years World Junior Championship. It isn’t just about Canada’s team either, although certainly a main part of it. It’s hockey through and through. Even in the US vs Sweden game, we outnumbered everyone from any other country and still cheered our biggest rivals at this point in time. This has been the second most successful WJC in history in no small part because of the influx of Canadians going across the border into Buffalo. We are hockey. We are so enthralled in every single team Canada event, they can’t even sell tickets publicly in Canada. They need to sell them a year ahead of time in a lottery. Other countries fans can talk down the importance of any single event, and even do so with great disdain for Canada. We know why they do it. For the same reason they don’t do it to countries like Norway and France. We are hockey. No other country’s flag is so associated with a singular theme as Canada is with our national sport.