I like Canada.
There is no denying that there are places around the globe that are beautiful. From the peaks of the Swiss Alps to the sandy beaches of Brazil to the great religious monuments of Northern Cambodia, both divine created and man-made, we live in a beautiful world. Yet some of my favorite places on the planet fall within the borders of Canada. Inspiring in its existence and spatially enormous, it is a frontier that is vastly untouched. Kelowna has those unique beaches. Banff has its majesty. Jasper has its ruggedness. For the traveling I’ve done, in Western Canada in particular, there are few places I would rather sojourn. And from what I have seen and heard, the central and eastern provinces are equally as spectacular even if they are comparatively different. In short, Canada is a fabulous country to visit. Please do so.
I like Canadians.
But what truly makes Canada great, I believe, is that its people are special. As a citizen of the United States we have our problems. This is the understatement of the year. And Canada has equally as many issues. This too is an understatement. Yet the difference between the two is that the latter handles issues very differently. The community of Canada is important to the community of Canada. And thus, by in large, they appear to be people that genuinely want what is best for someone else. A lost concept among Americans in 2016. This is an extreme nutshelling of Canada vs. the United States, but I think the point is valid.
Canadians are great sports fans.
The birthplace of hockey has become one of the few places where it remains an organic byproduct of community. Where the population is growing so is the sport of hockey. Interwoven into the fabric of society is a plan to maintain stability through team, and in what better place is that fully fledged out than in the sport of hockey. A game requiring hard work, tenacity, and community connects itself to the heartbeat of folks. I kind of champion that fact. In fact, I long for it in my own community.
Before this becomes an essay on North American economics, let me pause and take a gander at the state of the NHL postseason potential.
Last night the Ottawa Senators became the final Canadian team to be officially left out of the postseason in 2016. And they did so by winning. Beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1, but being nudged out by the suddenly-stellar-in-overtime Philadelphia Flyers (dang you Holtby!). This marks the first time in 46 years that no Canadian team will be playing for the Stanley Cup. But it gets worse. As it stands today Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Calgary entertain the bottom four spots in the Western Conference. The Montreal Canadiens fell off a steep cliff in the final three months of play, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are descending the staircase towards the basement of the Eastern Conference. Let’s pile on a bit more. A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993, well over 20 years.
Yet Canadians still attend games in droves, support their teams, buy their goods, and rightfully complain about their destitute states. But when it comes to the postseason, you always want Canada.
My great northern companions are the brightest most rabid fans of hockey. They get what it means to be devoted to a group of sweaty men, and windsor-knotted game managers. As evidenced by the number of tickets purchased, season seats retained, and merchandise owned, Canadian hockey fans aren’t moving on from their beloved sticks and pucks any time soon.
The NHL has an eye-ball problem these days. There is a great disconnect that most U.S. markets have with the game. Chicago, New York, LA – some of the heavy hitters historically – all have options to fall back on when things get rough. As evidenced by the rotten years in Chicago where the arena was half full, and fans were unable to recognize players in public. Yet in 2016 there is Edmonton, with their multiple first overall picks, and their rotten terribleness, and dudes are sitting glass side, with a cold one in hand, cheering Nail Yakupov to score when he really would rather be playing elsewhere. You can’t fabricate that type of fandom. It is just who they are.
The baseball world without a solid New York Yankess team seems less valuable. When the Boston Celtics aren’t great, you lose some nostalgia from the collective NBA onlookers. When the Dallas Cowboys can’t string together a quality offensive line the league seems out of balance. You can argue that these teams have been replaced by others (Toronto, Golden State, Texans), but the average Joe is more finely tuned to recognize the classics. How many can hum “Moondance,” but couldn’t recognize “Tupelo Honey” if their lives depended on it?
We need Canada in the Stanely Cup postseason because it places an increased value of importance on true fandom. I’m gonna miss that kid lighting the rink on fire in Montreal. Dadgumit, I want that oil derrick to be lowered in the first round in Edmonton. And I most certainly want a sea of Leafs blue to force me to calibrate my HD television. As the world watches one of the most highly respected postseasons in any sport, they need to feel exhilaration. I’m not sure an entirely U.S. field does this every-single-game out of seven fabulous nights.
I sound like a Canadian truther, and sure, I’ll wear that pill box cap. But like a lot of professional sports leagues in North America, there is a catering to of the financial bottom line rather than the stake holders of its employees and fans. The NHL has a recent history that devalues the proper treatment of its players, and certainly the negligence of its fan base. When the absolute best on the ice is on display for the world (the Cup playoffs) you most definitely want to showcase its best version of fans. That seemingly always is due north.
I am going to really enjoy the march to Lord Stanley’s championship this Spring. As a Dallas Stars fan I have cleared my schedule for the potential calendar dates they will play (and considering a trip to see them live). Yet my soul will miss “O, Canada” being played on any given night, and deep down you probably will too.