I lucked into some free tickets last season to see a professional National Hockey League playoff game. As I am sure you know, hockey is to Canada as an ingrown nail is to the big toe. That is, hockey is deeply rooted and ingrained in the Canadian psyche. We are born with hockey pucks coursing through our veins, often checking useful blood elements like red blood cells out of their way as they make their way to our brains. Hockey is in our soul, in our demeanour, and on our underpants in the form of colourful team logos. So without putting too fine a point on it, I was needless to say, excited about going to a big game to see our esteemed Ottawa Senators trounce the hated Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, when I took my seat at the hockey arena, I thought I must be in the wrong place. Hockey arenas are also favoured venues for rock concerts and I thought maybe I was there on the wrong night because when the game was supposed to start there was a laser light show set to thumping rock music at sound barrier-breaking decibel levels.
After ten minutes or so, I was relieved to see the hockey teams skate out onto the ice, albeit to the tune of “Raise a Little Hell.” They skated around in circles for a little bit, then settled down for the singing of our national anthem, “O Canada.”
It goes something like this [cue music]:
“O Canada, our home and native land. True patriot love, da da da dum de dah. Da da daaa de dum, etc.”
You might think it silly and embarrassing that I don’t know all the words to our national anthem, but they keep changing the words. I used to know the words when I was much younger before they started messing around with them. First they changed one of the lines to French, which is our official second language up here in Canada. Then they changed more and more lines to French, so that I no longer know which lines to sing in French, and which ones in English. We have a Senator up here (a real senator, not a hockey player) that wants to change the reference to “in all thy sons command” to “in all they politically correct, gender neutral, inclusive, non-exclusive human organisms command, or polite request, or simple query.” Or something. So now I just de-dum along.
Anyway, back to the big game. The entertainment would be interrupted every few minutes by 20 or 30 seconds of ice hockey. Between hockey play, we would be entertained by loud music from the sixties, inane organ music, fireworks, the buffoonery of mascots with extremely large heads, break dancers, trivia games, vendors, and people using special guns to fire souvenir t-shirts, hot dogs, quarters, and pucks into the crowd. This last entertainment item is extremely dangerous, as we all should know from The Simpsons episode where Maude Flanders met her fatal demise when she was struck by a barrage of souvenir hot dogs.
During the game, I was able to dodge the hot dogs, but was unable to completely evade the quarters, one of which I received directly to the forehead. Many people out there think that there is a moose on our Canadian quarters. They are wrong, this is a picture of the Queen of England, our Head of State. Ha ha! This is just some typical self-deprecating humor that we use in Canada to make fun of the Brits. Seriously, the moose is really a caribou.
But this reminds me of a good joke. A Scotsman and a Canadian were canoeing in Algonquin Park. A great bull moose emerges from the forest nearby. Astounded by the size and majesty of the beast, the Scotsman asks, “What in the name of all that is good is THAT?” To which the Canadian replies, “That’s a moose.” The Scotsman says, “Ach, if that’s yeerrrrr moose…I’d hate to see yeerrrr cat!”
Back to the game. The entertainment would be broken up when the roadies, err, the referees, would call the players back onto the ice to resume the game. The players did their best to keep the flow of the game while periodically stopping to promote various makers of sports equipment and Zamboni machines. I was completely entranced with the whole spectacle of a modern hockey game.
When the game was over, I left the arena to search for my car in the parking lot. I don’t recall who actually won the game. Perhaps because I now had the imprint of a caribou permanently embedded in my forehead.