Canucks and Beyond

Cheering Team Canada Without Being a Douche About It

01/05/2009 at 4:33pm EST

The last couple games of Canuck hockey (Canada’s Canucks, not those belonging to Vancouver) have been gems, which anyone with a pulse and a functional television can certainly tell you. Team Canada’s World Junior Championship wins over the USA and then Russia were rife with emotion, edge-of-your-seat action and ecstatic highs and lows for both sides. Great hockey for all… and stupifyingly-awesome hockey if you’re a fan of the Canadian team in particular.

And thank goodness for that, because Canada’s emotional, all-heart performances are about the only thing that rescued me from cheering for other teams this year, simply to shut up the drone of hockey-arrogance that eminates from this country at times.

Being a fan of the Canadian squad—and simply being Canadian, for that matter—provides hockey fans north of the 49th parallel with a sense of entitlement that many other countries can only envy. The teams tend to be excellent and the nation’s respect and reverence of those teams is legendary. Canadian fans are devout. The arena, their church.

But it’s that same sense of entitlement that can also be irritating; not by the team but by the fans and pundits.

The notion that “we’re the best, we’re always the best, we’re always going to be the best” is a dominant one in Canada. It can be found on virtually every newscast and read on every other message board and blog. It’s nationalistic in the worst way because it gives rise to snotty jerks loudly sharing snotty opinions everywhere they turn. And while being a bit hockey arrogant is something we Canadians have rightly earned, there’s a difference between a bit of trash-talk and simply being a douche.

We can be proud of our team’s prowess while still showing respect to others, no?

Canadians absolutely have a right to celebrate their team, but hockey fans everywhere else are equally proud of their own squads. For instance, Team USA may not have nearly the following of Team Canada, but that doesn’t mean their fans are any less devout. And that’s certainly true of Russia and Sweden, too. And even Kazakhstan, for that matter.

The gold medal game is simply about the gold medal and may the best team win it, but hockey fans should put on their own best performance if they want to share in that glory. The World Junior Championships is about the best young hockey players in the world. Canada’s team has a good chance of winning that today but are Canada’s fans up the challenge?

In an interview I had with coach Pat Quinn prior to this tournament, one of his comments stood out to me. He said, “Whether players are 5 or 50 they want to feel they are a part of something.”

I think the same is true of fans.

We all want to be part of something with our favorite team, and we are. We live and breathe for their success and show our support in every way we can. But whether the team wins or loses, we should all be held to a higher standard than just hockey gold—we should hold ourselves to the standard of sportsmanship.

If the Canadian boys leave it all on the ice, put on a great game, and represent their country as the honorable men and hockey players they are, they really can’t lose today… even if they can’t win.

I just hope Canada’s fans always remember to hold themselves to the same standards.

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Alright, enough of that. Now: Does anyone out there have any good Swedish jokes? ;)

Go Canada!

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