What could be more Canadian than watching hockey on a rainy, chilly, almost winter-like night in Toronto?
Last Saturday evening, I watched the Maple Leafs – Canucks game in the apartment of a former college residence housemate. Two womenfolk were also present, also former dwellers of said residence house. Don’t be fooled. One half of the womenfolk, a visiting-from-Vancouver guest of honour is a big time Canucks fan. I pause to wonder if she scheduled her cross-country vacation so that her arrival in Toronto would coincide exactly with a Leafs-’nucks game.
In true Canadian fashion, we sat on chairs and in front of tables made in Sweden, eating Mexican food on plates made in China, drinking Belgian beer, watching Hockey Night in Canada on a television set fabricated in Japan. Later, the Vancouver friend and I continued an ongoing discussion on line combinations for the Olympic team.
What a difference it is to be a non-Leafs fan in this city! The Canucks fan amongst us was brimming with joy at the prospects of the new season despite an early slump, not to mention the Winter Games that will descend on her city less than four months from now. For me, as a Pittsburgher on the inside, watching or listening to games is exciting, knowing that the whole season will be about meeting the challenge of defending the Cup. Talking about Penguins hockey is a matter of pride as opposed to the nauseous revulsion that exists in most parts of this city when the topic of hockey is raised. Occasionally, I will wear a mid-nineties black Penguins sweater, usually on road game days while walking into work, only to have slack-jawed locals stare bewilderingly. I can read their minds:
“Why is his sweater not blue?”
“Where is the maple leaf crest?”
“What is this ‘Stanley Cup’ you speak of? Our grandfathers told us about it, but we thought it was merely apocryphal.”
Sadly, I have observed the posture and behaviour of my fellow citizens since the beginning of the month and have noticed macro-evolutionary changes – except in reverse. We have all seen the so-called “evolution of man” diagram, which shows an animal on all fours slowly over millions of years starting to walk on feet, only with stooped posture, before another million years pass and presto! Homo erectus - the “upright man”!
Well, it appears that in one month, I have watched poor Leafs fans who were talking and walking proud in September, de-evolving, beaten down to a sub-erect state. Stooped posture, slumped shoulders and shuffling feet are the manners of October. I was tempted to photoshop a blue Leafs sweater onto a diagram of a monkey, but realized that would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Or shooting pucks past a Leaf goalie.
To achieve my mandatory Penguins content, I will note that on Saturday night, the Pens and Leafs shared the same fate: they lost, much to the glee of my Vancouver friend, (who was positively apoplectic during a frantic third period).
Ahh, hockey nights… Soon, the ground will be covered in snow and ice, and the temperature will drop to minus one billion degrees Celsius. Brown bears will go into hibernation and polar bears will emerge from summbernation and go on their traditional Canadian winter mini-rampages. They will loot corner stores, maul lumberjacks, steal cheddar cheese and raspberries, gnash their teeth and flail claws at frozen fish sticks, glare at Captain High Liner, then inexplicably put on a New York Islanders sweater. Adventurous polar bears will guzzle Labatt 50, hot cocoa and eat tourtieres to keep warm.
But I won’t care about this annual winter ruckus, because as a true Canadian, I will be inside my igloo on every winter Saturday night, watching hockey.
About the Author: Adrian Fung (@PenguinsMarch) contributes game reports, opinions, analysis and features, mostly about the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has covered the World Hockey Summit, Kraft Hockeyville, World Junior Championship exhibition games, CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, MasterCard Memorial Cup and NHL Rookie Tournament for Hockey Independent. twitter.com/PenguinsMarch