Here's why Canadians are giving Team USA an earful
Posted: Wednesday January 4, 2006 4:38PM; Updated: Wednesday January 4, 2006 4:47PM
Canada's fans love nothing more than to see their boys beat the U.S.
Submit a comment or question for Allan.
The World Junior tournament, being held in Vancouver, has been a huge hit at the turnstiles. Massive and spirited crowds have been in attendance at every game, cheering for some great hockey.
Except at the Team USA matches. For these, the Canadian faithful seem to arrive in great numbers with single-minded purpose: to mercilessly boo the Americans.
To paraphrase Glenn Frey, the hate is on.
Yes, it's an embarrassing display -- these are kids, after all -- but let's get something straight. Despite what you might be hearing from some quarters, this is not another manifestation of ugly anti-Americanism.
It's not about Iraq or George Bush or softwood lumber tariffs (Google that one if the significance escapes you) or anything else. There may be a hint of that, but it's a big country and there's almost as much diversity of opinion among Canadians on those topics (at least the first two) as there is among Americans.
So it's not politics that motivate the boobirds.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me state here that I am Canadian, albeit one plying his trade deep in the heart of Texas. After years of covering the NHL, I can tackle its issues as an even-keeled observer, but the emotions still soar when Team Canada is involved. My first instinct is still to use terms like "we" and "our" when talking about the club.
So I regard this situation as a fan. And as a fan, I can tell you this: Canadians hate to lose to anyone in hockey, but it's particularly galling to lose to the Americans.
Canadians respect the hockey in Russia, in the Czech Republic, even Sweden and Finland. We can live with the occasional loss there. Those countries have earned their stripes.
But the Americans? They're our Washington Generals, the guys whose lunch we've been taking at will for as long as we can remember. We like it that way.
Sure, there's been the rare instance when America has beaten Canada in the past, but we've always had a good excuse. The 1996 World Cup? A smoking hot goalie in Mike Richter, plus Canada was without its premier forward (Mario Lemieux), defenseman (Ray Bourque) and goalie (Patrick Roy).
The 2004 World Juniors? Marc-Andre Fleury basically gift-wrapped the gold medal with one of the most shocking meltdowns ever seen.
But Canadian fans know their enemies better than their enemies know themselves, and we can sense a turning of the tide. We may not like it, but the Americans now are at a point where they deserve recognition as Canada's top rival.
And as hard as it is to believe, we understand the time might not be far off when the Americans will need an excuse when they lose to us.
Just look at the players. And it's not just quantity -- although now, for the first time in history, there are more Americans registered in minor hockey than Canadians. It's quality, the vanguard of which is on display in Vancouver.
The average Canadian fan knows all too well about Phil Kessel, the likely first overall pick in this summer's NHL Draft. We understand the damage that Peter Mueller or Chris Bourque or Robbie Schremp or Jack Johnson might inflict at any moment.
We know that the next victim might be us.
And so we boo.
It might not be as warm as a pat on the back, but take it for what it is.