Your noble author contains multitudes, faithful readers, and so it came to pass that the 23rd day of February in the Year of Lord 2014, he rose at his customary hour on Sunday, fed the felines, made coffee, and turned on the computer. Heedless of the peril that he might start drinking Coors Light, calling other males “man” “bro” and “buddy” and giving them suspiciously long hugs punctuated by thumping yet strangely tender pats on the back, he watched the Olympic Gold Medal hockey game. It was the first hockey game he had ever watched from one end to the other. In commemoration of this momentous and never-to-be repeated event, he took notes on his reactions to the extraordinary spectacle of watching millionaires skate around for an hour. Well, half of them are millionaires. He isn’t so sure about the Swedes. Below is the unedited transcript:
7 AM. Coffee in hand (done right, in a French press); cats are momentarily content. Computer is on. I am one of 4 million people live-streaming this on CBC.ca Don Cherry, who ranked 8th on the list of Greatest Canadians a decade ago, is screaming at me. To quell the noise and incoherence I contemplate banging some pots and pans together while shrieking like Yoko Ono but the moment passes.
7:07 AM. They are playing. There is much analysis going on between the CBC Broadcasters. The Canadians need to play a tight defense. And a tight offense. I am a hockey neophyte and have trouble keeping up with their strategizing.
7:07:28. Swedish player goes off the ice after less than thirty seconds. This must be some kind of hockey rule or something.
7:15 AM or thereabouts. Canadians score. I miss this as I was reboiling the kettle for more coffee (I have a problem, I admit.) CBC broadcasts crowds of Canadians in various places across the country, cheering like mad. The shots look staged, or at least highly performative. They do not replay the goal.
7:18. People are skating.
7:21 AM. Occurs to me that nobody is racist about Swedes.
7:22 AM. I minimize the viewer to the corner and check e-mail. Send a couple of replies to the usual morning dross. (“Dear Professor, I have been very sick and my dog died and my grandmother has been diagnosed with certain death and my girlfriend left me for Bill Clinton. Can I please get an extension on the essay that was due last month?”)
7:23 AM. I look at bicycles. Surly Long Haul Trucker or the venerable Trek 520? Do I want a Rohloff hub for my touring bike? Good for 100,000 KM they say.
7:26 AM. Paying more attention to the game for a bit. Men are skating around. Looking at the uniforms, I keep thinking “stop if you can” and “stop”.
7:27 AM. Intermission. This is called the “end of first period.” Ah.
7:28 AM. More Don Cherry. Shouting. Intolerable. Didn’t he support Rob Ford? Say something about pinkos on bicycles, too? Strange: as I understand it cycling is a core component of off-season training for main hockey players.
7:35 AM. Don Cherry says to Canadian kids that if they work hard they too can end up NHL players, just like their heroes. I check. There are 5.6 million Canadians under the age of 14. There are 488 Canadians in the NHL. Assuming the same percentages: you’ve got one shot in 125,000. So stop readin’ books you sissies and get out there and skate.
I lose track of time.
Second “period” begins. Men skate around. At one point, a bunch of them gather by the boards and there’s this cluster trying to get the puck. They hack at it like a bunch of guys trying to chop up a gopher emerging from a hole. Best metaphor I had for this.
Minimized viewer again. It plays in the corner while I surf the web. Twitter. Hilary Clinton’s tweet feed identifies her as “Wife, mother, U.S. Senator” in that order. They had a focus group for that, you know. They did - guaranteed. They had focus groups and ran small polls to determine the best order in which to put that. Senator, mom, wife? Wife, Senator, mom? Gotta please the family values types…
Hockey. People are skating. Icing call. I picture my mother calling me to the kitchen to lick the spatula when she’s finished a cake. Icing call.
Skating. I Facebook. A friend notes that Ikea doesn’t sell hockey sticks. Ten minutes too late I reply that hockey sticks are hard to assemble with an Allen key.
Penalty against a Canadian. Occurs to me that there are slight advantages to getting a penalty: you get to rest for a couple of minutes, and you have an awesome seat for the game.
Skating. Am joined by Amanda. Tea and more coffee.
Canadians score another. I feel mildly elated but am reminded of the immortal words of Han Solo: “Don’t get cocky, kid.” Always good advice.
Carey Price probably got made fun of in school for his name. Those people are sorry now, because they’re watching him play. And drinking Coors Light before 8 AM.
Is it checking or chequing? Which way do we spell it in Canada?
16:08 in second period. Champlain founded Quebec that year.
Why is there no fighting? Is this hockey not as good because it doesn’t have fighting? If I were a hockey player, I would use reasoned argument to solve problems on the ice. “Sorry about that ill-timed cheque, kind sir. It was my fault entirely. Can we discuss how to avoid such incidents in the future? Again, my most sincere apologies.”
Second period ends. Swedes are down by two. More analysis. Hockey analyst guy is very incisive. Actual quotation: “Swedes need to play a tough offensive game now. When you’re down by two, you can’t lay back and be defensive.” I find this very helpful. I would have thought that when you’re losing by two goals the key would have been defensive play. Forgive me, I am new to the game.
Skating. Skating. Skating. Play-by-play announcers could be making up names for all I know.
Puck goes over the glass. Do they show a fan catching it, holding it up in the air? No. Odd.
I check Sweden’s population. Just under 10 million. Could we take them in a war? Hard to say. They had conscription until recently. I consider how much I would have hated military life. Orders. Conformity. Shouting. Large groups of aggressive men. Green. I would have used reason argument with my senior drill instruction. “Sarge, I don’t respond well to the shouting. Maybe we could discuss this over coffee?”
Skating. I notice on Wikipedia that most Swedish military kit is home grown. How can they afford the R & D for such small procurement numbers? I need to look this up.
I like Saab automobiles. I had a Saab ball cap when I was a teenager. I wore it everywhere. It was part of my identity. Weird: I don’t drive.
When I was ten or eleven my parents sent me to a sports day camp for two weeks. The people who ran it were awful: mean, slovenly, foul-mouthed. And I was not good at sports, which pretty much was the equivalent of a tattoo on my forehead that said “please beat me up”, which the other boys did with enthusiasm, and the beatings were usually accompanied by all manner of homophobic epithets. Sports build character. It did in my case. I learned that coping with being bullied is an important life skill. Certainly it has been one of the keys to success in my chosen profession.
Oh my god.
I check the news from Syria, which nobody seems to care about anymore. Many dead. Upheaval. Also, Canada’s Senate scandal seems to have blown over. But Harper got a case of beer from Obama. Sam Adams. Not a bad choice.
I begin to make breakfast. Tex-Mex breakfast burritos.
Skating. Whistles. Canada gets a third goal. I feel bad for the Swedes now. They are nice and have a fine social welfare system. And Ikea. And write good crime novels. I thought Kenneth Branagh was good in the BBC version of Wallander. I check IMDB to see if it’s coming back for more. It is. Awesomeness. But so is Heroes. Why?
Skating. Whistles. Swedes look sad. I feel bad for them. Is their king watching? I look up the king of Sweden, guess his name is either “Carl” or “Gustaf”. Holy crap: he’s Carl Gustaf. There’s a picture of him. He’s an Honorary Admiral in the British Royal Navy. Weird. He also is a Knight with Collar of the Order of the Elephant in Denmark. This I have to check on Wikipedia. It’s the highest order in Denmark. Nothing to do with actual elephants, which are not native to Denmark.
I watch hockey. Amanda is reading about Ukraine. This will end badly.
Skating. Three minutes remain.
Breakfast is about ready. Eggs got a bit browned on the bottom. We fold them into wraps with onions, mushrooms, peppers, avocado, and goat cheese. I wonder again if I could or should be vegetarian. Probably yes to both.
Skating. Countdown. Ten, nine, etc.
Canada wins. I feel a tiny twinge of national pride. And also that this is vengeance for all the poorly drilled holes and missing pieces from Ikea furniture over the years.
Mentally, I cross “watch a hockey game” off my bucket list. It comes just below “write a bucket list” and just above “get a colonoscopy”.
Much cheering across Canada on CBC. Looks staged again. In Russia, the players shake hands. Some replays. I see Sidney Crosby remove his helmet. I was hoping for female and flowing red hair, like Eowyn in Lord of the Rings when she reveals herself. “I am NO man!” That would have been awesome.
Am pretty sure I see a Canadian player mouth, “Fuck, yeah.” Camera moves away from him rather quickly.
According to CBC, 15 million watched the game. I check: 13 million voted in the last federal election. Apples and oranges? I dunno. I’m just sayin’