Sunday, February 28, 2010

Divided Loyalties

The Olympic hockey tournament has created an interesting issue for me, and for others, I am sure, who find themselves a similar situation as myself.

Born and raised in Canada, hockey was practically a religion. Everyone followed it, especially myself and my father. There was nothing else on the TV on game nights when the Toronto Maple Leafs suited up. And even though the team has not won a Stanley Cup in over 40 years, they still sell out the entire arena, every single game. That is how deep the hockey devotion runs in the Canadian psyche. It is Canada's sport. It has been for generations.

When I moved to California, my love for hockey never abated. I took to following the San Jose Sharks to feed my addiction. And this year, 2010, was an Olympic year. Meaning, the National Hockey League is put on hold for two weeks, so that its players who were so fortunate to have been selected for their countries' teams would be allowed to represent them on the international stage.

Therein lies my epic struggle: Which team should I root for ?

The Canadian team, the team representing the country of my birth and upbringing ? The country that identifies itself almost solely through the game of hockey ? The team that had FOUR of my San Jose Sharks players represented, including my two favorites (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau) ?

Or the U.S. team, the team representing the country where I reside; the country that has given me great opportunities and a wonderful family; the same team that Joe Pavelski from my San Jose Sharks represents as well ?

Herein lies the dichotomy. How do I choose which team to support ?

I was thinking about this during the Gold Medal game, where Canada and the U.S. were facing off for the ultimate trophy, and the only conclusion I could come up with is this:

If it were any other sport, such as baseball, basketball or football, that was truly an American game -- a game that Americans identify with as part of their culture -- I would undoubtedy root for the U.S. Even if they were playing Canada. I live here after all, I always will, and am grateful to all that this country has given me.

However, we are talking about hockey here. Canada's sport. Canada's game. The very game for which the country's passion runs deep within my veins, even almost 10 years after I left the country.

As a result, I had to admit to myself that I would be cheering for Canada in this tournament.

Danny glared at me when I made this declaration, especially since he, as a proud American, was rooting for the U.S.

A house divided.

And yesterday, that division continued, during the gold medal game.

Canada was leading 2-1, and were poised to take the goal, until Zach Parise stunned the entire Canadian nation by tying the game with 25 seconds left in regulation. But in overtime, Canada prevailed, with a sudden-death goal by Sidney Crosby to take home the gold.

Even more proof of Canadians' devotion to the game is this: When the U.S. won every game in their tournament up until the gold medal game, only a few of my American friends made comments on Facebook. Yet, when Canada took home the gold, my Facebook page was filled several times over by a huge batch of my Canadian friends cheering and celebrating. I stayed silent on Facebook. No need to rub it in anyone's face -- except Danny's of course, when I jumped around the house screaming and yelling in jubilation after the game-winning goal.

Canada deserved this one. Not just because it was their home ice. Not just because it is their game. But simply because, when it counted the most, they played better hockey. And that is what champions are made of.

This game will go down in history as one of the most intense and thrilling matches in decades of Olympic hockey. Count on it.

Some time after the preliminary game, Danny had a confession. He admitted to me that he cheered internally when Canadian Dany Heatley of our Sharks scored a goal against the U.S. team. Even for him, born and raised American, his loyalties were divided as well.

Now that the tournament is over, the NHL season has resumed, and our house is no longer divided. From this day forward, we all proudly wear the black and teal of the Sharks.

Until 2014, that is.


Blogger don said...

Hi Andrea,

I just read your "Divided Loyalties" posting and found it intriguing. I am also very proud of you for staying loyal to Canada during the gold medal game versus the US. I understand the inner conflict you felt as America is now your home. However as you stated, hockey is a religion in Canada and nothing brings Canadians together more than International Hockey. No matter our political views, cultural differences or religious beliefs, we are all united in our love and passion for the game of hockey.
Anna and I were in Cuba the day of the gold medal game. Obviously, there were no Americans at our resort to cheer on th US olympic team. There were however many Canadians enjoying the hot Cuban sun and enjoying themselves at the beach and around the pool. The entire resort was alive with activity throughout the day-that is until about 3 pm (EST). When that gold medal game began, you could have heard a pin drop.
We all celebrated when Sydney Crosby scored the winner in overtime. Then we all went back to our vacations and lives, but for those few hours we were one. I can't begin to imagine the collective depression our nation would have felt if we had lost that game. So with all due respect to your new country and Danny, thank you for being loyal to our game. Good luck to the Sharks in the playoffs as they are once again a favorite to win it all this season.

Your Cousin,


March 27, 2010 at 10:04:00 AM PDT  

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