It was a GREAT day to be a Canadian!
It is not an exaggeration to say that the entire country lived, died, then lived again. At least *I* did!
I honestly cannot explain what hockey means to Canadians, because I don’t fully understand it myself. It is simply too hard to put it in words. I felt like I was witnessing history. Maybe that’s hyperbolic as hell, but the Summit Series of 1972 is still considered a huge, historic moment 38 years later in Canada. Where were you during the Miracle on Ice? I bet you remember. This was no miracle, but it was a similar moment for Canada.
I can tell you that Canadians were definitely NOT cocky going into the U.S. game. They were scared spitless of the Americans and of particular Ryan Miller. I can tell you that after Zach Parise scored with 24 seconds left, 33 million Canadians fully expected to lose that match. Canadians are very, very much like Red Sox fans that way.

It was such an exciting and well-played game … and well, OK, I’ll say it — EPIC. Miller was amazing. Don’t feel too sorry for Ryan Miller. Formerly a star goalie for the Buffalo Sabres, the dude is now an off-the-charts megastar second-most famous hockey player in the world. The U.S. players were amazing, and really, while they were all NHL guys, only seven or eight U.S. guys are what I would call genuine stars — Parise and Miller being the biggest two. That team was made up of a lot of NHL second- and third-line guys.
Luongo was … something, intermittently amazing and then sloppy. It was like he was playing with a cast on his hand. I’ve never seen a goalie drop so many pucks … and yet play so well. I asked people in our suite if he normally had so much trouble handling the puck (I’d seen him play maybe a dozen times total), and I got a resounding, “NO!” Luongo’s best play was a staggeringly spectacular save on a tipped shot at the very end of the Slovakia game in the semifinals to even get Canada into the gold medal game to begin with.
Canadians are also deeply protective. We watched the women’s game at a nice pizza place that was very packed. When the head of the IOC complained about the Canadian women drinking beer and champagne on the ice after they won the gold medal, the entire nation rose up in outrage. Those our OUR women! Leave them be! What a dumbass! The guy literally had to change hotels. I kid you not.

I also believe that if the Canadian women had been men, no one would have complained about their behaviour on the ice after they won. (Remember, the women came out on the ice and drank and goofed off after the arena had emptied. There was literally no one in in the arena but a sole AP photographer.) That was actually quite funny.
I have an admission to make. I didn’t see Crosby’s goal! I wasn’t paying attention. I was getting ready to go get another beer, getting prepared for 20 full minutes of overtime when it happened. It was so bang-bang. An innocent little play by Iginla, getting the puck free from a corner scrum, then Sid knocked it in with barely any daylight between Miller and the post.
We watched the game from a CIBC corporate suite. They own a bank of about 10 of these suites and we lucked into it through a cousin. There was a suite just for little kids with too much junk food and pop.
I hope people noticed a few things. That the second loudest cheer in the arena during the medal ceremony was for Ryan Miller. That another loud cheer was for Ryan Kessler, an American who plays for the Vancouver Canucks. There was a cute photo in the Vancouver paper of a guy dressed in a Canadian flag walking up to a guy dressed in an American flag and giving him a hug after the game. This game genuinely wasn’t like the Miracle on Ice or the Summit Series. As much as Canadians hate U.S. politics, they had nothing but respect for Team USA. There were no politics at that game. Canadians, they do have class.
That 200,000 people jammed the little peninsula of downtown Vancouver afterward and there were no problems. No firebombs. No mountie cars being overturned. And believe me, there had been copious — COPIOUS — amounts of beer and weed consumed that day. In fact, there were people smoking weed right in front of the mounties, because the mounties had much bigger things to worry about (Weed is sort of, kind of legal in Vancouver — sort of, but you definitely don’t smoke it in front of mounties unless there’s 200,000 people around you.).

Some estimates say 27 million Canadians were watching that game Sunday. 20,000 were in the arena, and 200,000 downtown. I read another story saying 500 million people watched it worldwide, but honestly, I find that hard to believe.
We had to walk 12 blocks through that mass of drunken, stoned Canadians to get back to our hotel. My cousins from Richmond and Mission were genuinely screwed. All the streets in and out of downtown were closed for a few hours, so they walked with us. Normally, that was about a 30-minute walk, but it took us nearly 90 minutes, because we had to go down some side streets to avoid Robson Square, where there were some big Jumbotrons set up.

I carried kiddo on my shoulders until we got to within 2 blocks, and those 60 pounds were starting to feel like 60 pounds of wet cement after 9 blocks. Finally, after high-fiving a few hundred people the entire way, people in our group were tired and we stopped at a busy little bistro and ate and hoped the crowd would thin out. Instead of carrying kiddo on my shoulders, I resorted to a cradle carry because it was getting too hard on my neck. A mountie saw this and thought she was sick or injured and asked if we needed help.

I told her she was just exhausted and we only had two more blocks to go to our hotel. Well, the mounties very politely and very matter-of-factly drove a mountie snowplow through the crowd for us for two blocks right up to the hotel door. We shook their hands and thanked them and told them they were doing an amazing job under the circumstances. They had known downtown was going to go crazy, but NO ONE had expected this.

We watched the truly, genuinely BIZARRE closing ceremonies back at the hotel. Really, I can’t explain that. Some people said it was Canadians making fun of Canadians, but I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it. The Bill Shatner monologue was my favourite part. That was DEFINITELY tongue-in-cheek.

My one cousin, the CIBC bigwig, got home at about 11 p.m. The other cousin in Mission didn’t get home until 1 a.m.
A rundown of front pages from all around Canada:
The Vancouver Province
Edmonton Journal
Le Soleil (Montreal)
Calgary Herald
Toronto Star
Hamilton Spectator
Le Journal de Montreal
And my favourite, even though it is a smaller paper, the Waterloo Record:

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WLA
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You know we have to let America Jr. win once in a while. 😉

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kesmarn
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Pepe, thanks for the article that–as others have said–makes us feel as though we were at the game. I had to work the night of the gold medal game, but had seen the earlier one between Canada and the U.S.

I hadn’t really watched hockey in years. But I understand the game because we have had an IHL team in our town for a long time and I used to go fairly often when I was in high school or home on breaks from college. The game I saw this past week, though, was riveting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two teams play so hard. It was virtually non-stop fast-paced action for the whole game!

I can’t explain why I was hoping so much that the Canadian team would win that one. (It went to the U.S. 5-3.) I think there’s a part of me that has long admired Canada because: a.) It seems less likely to be massively suckered into ridiculous and futile wars. b.) It was a safe haven for draft resisters during the Viet Nam war, and c.) It has a working health care system. In short, Canada is civilized. Canada deserved to win. (Not that I’m blaming “our boys” for all the political ills of this country. And they did play their hearts out. Nevertheless…)

It’s wonderful, too, that you shared this with your daughter. She’ll never forget it.

So— many congratulations on a fair-and-square win. And for having the good sense to be….Canadian!

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AdLib
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Personally, I don’t understand what the big deal is. I played hooky when I was in school and I didn’t even know it was an Olympic sport.

I coulda been a contender!

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KQµårk 死神
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This is the only time I will say this about the game but congrats on the win.

I know what it meant for Canada but it meant allot for US hockey fans as well and meant a hell of allot more for the US players on the ice. Because if it didn’t the US would not have won the first game and took the second game to overtime since Canada had so much more talent.

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missfrenchyUSA
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missfrenchyUSA

As a Canuck from Montreal (if you know your hockey history, you know that Montreal is the epicenter of hockey, even after Bettman aka the ratface fucker tries hard to get rid of all Canadian teams in the NHL), I have to say, this was the ultimate sport for me in the Olympics. And I was a ball of nerves throughout the days leading up to this game. After seeing Luongo play erratically during the Canada-Slovak game, I was, to say the least, scared shitless that we would lose against the US. Sorry my American friends, but there is no fucking way I was going to let that happened. Throughout the game, I was screaming and swearing up and down. I was mostly screaming at Sidney Crosby that if there was a game that he needed to contribute and score (after being scoreless for two consecutive games) this was it. Well, hold and behold, who fucking scores the winning goal?! Yes, Crosby!!! Whoooohoooooo. I have to admit, the US team was magnificient. They reminded me of the New Jersey Devils during their Stanley Cup win. Seriously, this game was beyond epic. I will remember it for a long time.

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Mightywoof
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It sounds like you and kiddo had a great time Pepe!! A friend of mine (a reporter in BC) told me ‘when you beat an opponent like that, you know you were in a battle and you have complete and utter respect for him…’ and I’m pretty sure most Canadians felt like that about the US team.

When I watched the closing ceremonies I had a sinking feeling that only Canadians would get the joke! It was a satire (????) on what we think the rest of the world thinks about when they think ‘Canada’ – canoe-paddling, red-uniformed, beaver-tailed, snow-frozen yokels.

A great article Pepe – I felt like I was there with you (but I’m glad I wasn’t – I have an almost pathological dislike of noise and crowds).

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escribacat
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I confess I don’t go in for team sports but this is fine writing Pepe, and you gotta love those mounties!

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Khirad
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For fun, after the first game, I read the comments in the Globe and Mail. My lord! Mostly respectful and, that the US played a good game – but there was some seriously anti-American “yank” comments, only eclipsed by Brodeur hate.

This one, and you’re making me feel even worse, I missed due to scheduling. I shoulda just called in sick, I never wanted to watch a hockey game so much in my life! *sigh*

My favourite [!] part about the Canadian girls was trying to drive and tip over the Zamboni after drinking (no “voluntary” pour-outs here). Apart from them being able to kick my ass, they sounded like so much fun!!!

Also, thanks for being specific about Richmond, Vancouver, etc. This native Vancouverite who has been to Vancouver a few times [I’m getting too cute and deliberately confusing so many people right now 😈 😆 ] knew what you were talking about.

British Columbia was always my favorite neighbour … well, no, sorry. Tied with Oregon. Needless to say, I was so not surprised by the weather troubles, which probably worked out well for hockey fans.

By the way, mounties are intimidating in real life. They’re not like the cute souvenirs you buy in downtown Victoria or Gastown. This I know.

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Hopeington
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Well I was definitely thinking of you when I watched a game Pepe.
It was nice because one of my sons have a mini movie screen as his tv and I could actually see where the puck was. It made all the difference in the world.
Glad you had such a nice time.

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bito
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Really good article, Pepe, You had me at the game and carting the “kiddo.” Great game, great reporting. Thanks, guy! (I missed the goal also. I thought the puck was frozen on the boards. 🙂 )

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dgraz
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It was a great game thanks for the article. I can’t say I have seen any better in a long time. I think it could have gone either way.

You know javaz is a closet Canadian.

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javaz
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Excellent, Pepe, just excellent and thank you so much for writing about your experience.

It was definitely a very exciting and well played game, and yes, the cheers for Miller were audible on the TV.

This might seem weird to say, but hockey almost seems like a gentleman’s game – except for all the fights on the ice that normally happen during games – because the players line up afterward and acknowledge each other for a game well played.

Have you ever seen the movie Mystery, Alaska with Russell Crowe?
That’s one of our favorite movies and we watch it frequently and will probably watch it again this week.

What a beautiful memory for you and your little girl.

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