Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hockey House

Days Remaining to Next Beer: 344
This is how the world ends. Not with a whimper, or the swoosh bang of an impacting comet or meteor, or the heave ho or giant trolls wearing Spanish galleons on their heads for hats. The world ends with an upsurge of excited fans stamping and dancing on beer drenched Astroturf as the women’s hockey team representing their nation wins the gold medal during the 2010 Olympics in the very same nation that team is representing. 

While the feisty femmes of the Women’s Olympic Hockey Team popped open cans of beer and lit cigars on the ice to celebrate their win as only Canadians can, or would, the crowd inside the Molson Canadian Hockey House lost their minds and became a seething, single cell ameba of celebration. And thanks to my pal Alex, I got full access to the unfolding merriment with the laminate to prove it. 

To recap, the evening started in the afternoon, quiet and low key, we entered as crew were busily setting up, early build fans were laying claim to key vantage tables, and the souvenir shop still had ample jerseys to choose from, though unfortunately no jerseys with women’s names on them, specifically the goalie from the women’s team that for some reason I’d decided I must have for the next time we attended a Canucks game.

At the bar closest to the entry way, where of course Molson Canadian was in ready supply and poured by experts in new and amazing ways I’d not ever seen before, Alex and I discussed options for swag, since we’d neither of us to date gotten anything to show we were rooting for Canada, despite all the products readily available at the Bay and anywhere else with Olympic Committee permission and adorning nearly everyone else resident to Vancouver. Do we drop dime for jerseys? But I really wanted one with the goalie’s name? They have so and so, who? Is that a dude? Yeah… Not wearing a dude’s name unless we’re an item. But he is cute. I can see that, but no thanks, women’s team is way better looking, or the curling team, have you seen those ladies? You’re such a pig. Well, you’re sober. (In unison) Bartender!

Alex’s colleague from his work saved the day. She ran one of the crews setting up and maintaining the site, and she had a box full of Canada rah-rah knitted hats made to resemble the long johns hockey players wear. Soon our heads were sweaty, hair tucked out of sight inside toddler scale knitted pantaloons inverted onto our heads, red and clearly rooting for Canada.

There sat near the front doors a pair of buffet style tapas arrangements, so Alex and I insulated our innards for the anticipated cans of Canadians to come and watched as more folks and fans arrived to see, be seen, and get obscene with their vocal support for their home town / nation team. Alex ran into lots of familiar faces, so I wondered off to see the sights, and soon discovered goalie masks that stood almost as tall as me. I debated trying to leg it with one then noticed how they were bolted into the floor, clearly to dissuade intentions such as I was brewing. I shrugged and snapped pictures instead, and made a mental note to check EBay after the Olympics, who knows, right?

The Hockey House had a grand piano for some reason, very cool looking though sadly never saw anyone playing it. I had hoped for a Stompin' Tom Connors cameo, sadly not that night. I hummed what I could remember of it for good measure and three Canadians near me picked up immediately and soon we were all singing the chorus together. I had only finished half my 1st can of Canadian, so this emergent occurrence lead me to think the evening would be something to write home about. I wouldn’t be disappointed, what a wonderful ruckus! 

As the sun dove for the horizon behind a veil of typical Vancouver cold and wet grey haze, the crowd swelled and the puck dropped. Soon the female ambassadors of Canadian hockey were pulling cheer after cheer from the gathered throng, and by the time the first break came, you’d think you’d discovered the Canadian version of Marti Gras, or of that weird rave scene in Matrix Three, sans ambient nipples and with way more toques and scarves.

Outside bladders full of Canadian extract drew long lines at the spacious, space age port-a-potty honey wagons. The sorts of lines where stories are exchanged, friend made, songs sung, and many a merry jog danced to keep from breaking the proverbial seal. During one of the breaks we ran into the MC for the bands that played during the game intermissions, the guy that sang the hockey song, or lead the crowd to sing it, since Stompn’ Tom never showed up. 

At the end of the evening Alex and I were well swept up into the maelstrom of merriment manifesting in the moment as Canada took the Gold and the fans went wild. I even yelled the prolonged version of “Goal!” the last time the team scored, although typically that expression is reserved for European footie, yet no one seemed to mind. The band played, people danced, congratulatory hugs and high fives and low fives and hip thumps and chest bumps occurred with disconcerting regularity. The place was jumping, the bass was indeed pumping, and all around us the joyous mood got people dynamically clumping.

So while Lindz and I had explored some of the houses and street exhibits, and watched a lot of the televised coverage, until this night I hadn’t really felt like I’d particularly attended an actual Olympic event in particular. The Molson Canadian Hockey House left me feeling like a small part of something bigger than me, a goofy moment in time when even the brand sponsor seemed strangely patriotic. 

And yes, while I did grow up in the states, a decade of living here, of marrying, paying taxes, breeding, working, socializing, and home-owning here, I most certainly feel Canadian enough to wear toddler sized knit trousers on my head and proudly cheer for the home team. Because home is where the heart is, and my heart is here, in Canada.

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