O Canada, You Hockey Puck

Just to the north of us sits a grand and vast nation that just hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics with grace and aplomb. As I watched the Olympics unfold, I was reminded of what it means to have a neighbor you respect, even adore. And I was reminded of the beauty of patriotism that comes in the form of humble devotion.First, before another word, let me get something off my chest: I am a devoted hockey fan, and I was crushed when Canada defeated Team USA on Sunday, 3-2 in overtime. I remember standing in a Skidmore College dorm, watching the 1980 Miracle on Ice with my buddies, when Team USA defeated the Soviets and then went on to win the Gold. That was an incredible moment, and this year’s team was comparable.And yet, truth be told, I was also filled with joy for Canadians on Sunday. Just watching the game, you could feel the swelling pride of the nation as Team Canada asserted itself. The red and white uniform of Canada was adorned by almost all fans – perhaps all Canadians – as scores of maple leaf flags swung back and forth. Many people say that hockey is like religion in Canada. So, it is.

But in hosting these Olympic Games, and in winning the hockey Gold, we witnessed something else about Canada, something that has always been there, but which maybe in the States we don’t always see, or perhaps we take for granted. There is a humility about Canadians that is special and inviting. Even in winning they are understated and gracious. Sidney Crosby, perhaps the best hockey player alive today, was asked after the game if, after scoring the overtime goal, his individual play was special. His response: that play could have been made by any of my teammates.

Maybe I have a romantic view of Canada; except the people in Canada who I’ve worked with seem to reflect these same sensibilities. My kids often say that I wish I could be Canadian – well, I’m a proud American, but I’m also a proud neighbor of Canada.

In fact, I remember as a kid growing up in upstate New York, not too far from the Canadian border; it was during a time when it was easy to go back and forth between countries. Fast forward to more recent times, when I remember visiting Canada for work, and I was required to have my passport. Yes, this was post 9/11, but it seemed so out of character given the relationship between the two nations. It still feels like a violation of friendship.

I know it’s hokey (not hockey) to say that I felt great when seeing those ads during the Olympics touting the US/Canada relationship, depicting the sweeping vistas of our respective lands, reminding us of our unprecedented trading relationship, and celebrating our long and peaceful border. I don’t mean to be saccharine about all this; but, I was literally proud of the relationship between our two countries.

I have a trip planned to Ontario in May, and I am looking forward to it. Of course, I’ll have to get into a little give-and-take with my Canadian friends about the Olympic hockey game; but then I know we’ll get down to work, and the friendship between our two nations will carry on. Sometimes the (other) good guys win – and when that happens, the world seems good and right for a moment.