Monday, March 01, 2010

Prime Location

“Chopping up wieners in my kitchen.”

Months or years down the road, when someone asks me “where were you,” that is going to be part of my answer.

With Canada and the USA tied at 2 in overtime, at the gold medal hockey game in Vancouver, February 28th 2010, I left my seat to attend to the menial – while the truly epic was going on.
I struggle to explain even to myself, why.

The wieners are the easiest part to explain. Isaac loves them, and it was nearing supper time for him. God knows, I couldn’t eat. And it was probably not a good idea, in retrospect, to be holding a knife, trying to cut specific things not referred to as “fingers,” while such an historic occasion was going on. The knife was rattling on the cutting board as I tried to concentrate on the task at hand. But the TV was on, and I could hear the excitement of the crowd, of Chris Cuthbert trying to stay with the moment, the slap of pucks on sticks, the crashing of bodies caroming off the boards.

But I couldn’t bear to watch.

After the tying goal, scored by USA’s Zach Parisé, with only 24 seconds left in the third period, I had flown off my seat, ranting and raving; 2 posts earlier in the third! Sidney Crosby missed on a break-away! Whose check was Parisé anyway? And inevitably: are they going to beat us? Again? These were probably the same thoughts that were going through the minds and hearts of countless other Canadians. So many of us must have felt as though our doom was almost at hand. The Gold Medal – the 14th for Canada in Vancouver, and the most ever by any nation at any Olympic Winter Games – had been seconds away, and now it could be put out of reach altogether and forever: overtime would ensue and, beyond it, lurking in dark, un-nameable fear, the spectre of a shoot-out.

In steelheader’s terms, it was like having a 25lb steelhead not only hooked, but almost landed, mere feet from shore; only to have it turn quickly away, snap the shredded tippet and disappear. It's enough to make a wildly beating heart spiral down into the stomach, sinking like a stone to which you, me, all of us had foolishly tied our collective Spirit. I wasn’t at any of the thousands of public gatherings, in any bar or arena or public venue, so I didn’t have to face the dreadful silence that must have fallen on all those places. But I did not have any countrymen to lean on either, so that I could have the courage to continue watching. I was alone at home, except for a little child who did not understand what was going on but who was getting hungrier by the minute. I had to get him something to eat. And I couldn’t brave the pain of possibly seeing the game evaporate, of watching the dagger go in, live.

Then, who knows how close I came to cutting a finger; I heard Cuthbert say something about a goal. Was it over? For a moment, I think there was silence everywhere, a huge intake of breath across the country. Because a second later, the roar of the crowd left me no doubt, and I jumped out of the kitchen, my knife rolling about on the counter like Sidney’s stick after he dropped it on the ice, hopping around like a fool, picking up Isaac, my little boy, and hugging him and saying “look Isaac, we won! We won!” I opened up the patio door and sounded my victorious yawp across the rooftops of the neighborhood, to add it to all the other voices that were also cheering, here in Canada and around the world.

A day or two before the game, Stephen Brunt submitted a piece to CTV, which captured something important about Canada and the Vancouver Winter Games. It was inspiring. And I think that this hockey game was, in many ways, an embodiment of what Brunt was telling us. When Sidney scored the “golden goal,” it was more than winning a hockey game. It was about more than just hockey, or even the Olympics: it was about the joy of being Canadian. We all felt it.

So, where were you? Does it really matter? No. Not really. Because, for once, no matter where you were in the geographic world, our hearts were all right there in Vancouver, flying on the shot that went in, lifting in that single moment all our Spirits.

Where were you? The only real answer is: "Canada."

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