Sunday, October 29, 2006

Oh Canada

I’ve decided that I’m not going to focus too much on last night’s game.

It’s not because they lost. Trust me, I’ve been watching this team for all 24 years of my life and I’m used to them losing, so it’s not that. It was just not an exciting game to watch, and there’s not much I could say that couldn’t be better summarized by Vogel or the Post. Johnson was good, again. The Caps were outshot (although not as badly), again. Overall the team didn’t play badly but they didn’t play well either. They were able to shut down the Oilers offense for the majority of the game, but they were never able to generate anything really threatening in front of Roloson. The fans weren’t into it, the teams weren’t into it, and I wasn’t into it. It was a solid road game but a loss and a boring one at that. Let’s move on.

The Caps’ foray into Western Canada has reminded me of how central hockey is to Canadian culture. Just look at
the reception Ovechkin has gotten in places that usually couldn’t care less about a little team in Washington, DC. Sure, not all Canadians love hockey but for those who do, it is part of their life, a part of their identity. All you have to do is watch TV in Canada to see just how much - the commercials alone feature more hockey than most US television stations do in a week:

(Check out YouTube for more Molson commercials - they're really funny!)

Our boys had the chance to be on Hockey Night in Canada last night, a weekly Canadian program on the CBC that spotlights one game in the East and one in the West, usually featuring a Canadian team. Sure, ratings have slipped in the past few years and some of the segments may be getting outdated (except Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry – always funny). But the program still averages about a million viewers every week, roughly 3.3% of the entire Canadian population. To put that into perspective, the Cardinals’ win over the Tigers on Friday night drew about the same percentage here in the States - and that was the World Series.

I was lucky enough to be in Montreal for 4 years and was able to tune in for many HNIC broadcasts over the years. My favorite Saturday night matchups, though, were of course the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs. It is a rivalry that is, in my mind, unmatched in any other sport. Sure, the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is a pretty good one. Redskins-Cowboys isn’t bad either, and I guess you could throw the Celtics-Lakers in there, too. But when the Habs and the Leafs meet up, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. I got to watch the latest round in the longstanding rivalry last night before the Caps game, and it was entertaining from start to finish despite the fact that Montreal lost. If you tuned in not knowing better, you would have thought it was a playoff game – the crowd was that loud and the play was that intense.

It’s what I loved about being in Canada – finally, a nation of people as insane as I am.

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