Over the last 17 days, Canada has been overrun with patriotism. For those who know, this is odd for us, as we are generally pretty reserved until the 1st of July. With the 21st Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver and Whistler this year, we had a great opportunity to showcase our awesomeness to the rest of the world.
And what a showcase.
Not only did Canada finish the Olympics with 26 medals (more than in any other Winter Games), we won 14 gold medals. That's more Winter Olympic Gold medals than any other country. Ever. We even beat out the central planning machine of the former USSR. THAT'S something to be proud of.
We all know by now about the double hockey gold, and the men's curling gold, and how Alexandre Bilodeau's brother Frederic is both his inspiration and his best friend.
We know how Joannie Rochette overcame an unimaginable tragedy in the death of her mother to win an Olympic bronze medal AND set a personal best in the short program.
We know that Clara Hughes is the only multiple medallist from both Summer and Winter Games.
We know that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are not only Olympic champions in ice dancing, but are cute as buttons and kind of won all of our hearts.
We know that Jon Montgomery is a true Canadian (who else chugs beer from a pitcher in the middle of the street on national TV?) and that Oprah (!) was such a fan of him that she had one of her correspndents in Whistler interview him for her show. And he's an auctioneer from Winnipeg. All of those stories are pretty incredible.
But those stories aren't the legacy that the Games will leave for me.
What really struck me was the patriotic displays across the country, usually reserved for Canada Day. For the first time in a long time, I felt that my (usually) overt patriotism wasn't out of place.
The Vancouver Olympics gave us a legitimate forum to be proud of our country, and to show the world that we are as we say we are. The Games enabled us to create for ourselves the idea that with a dream, we actually can achieve greatness, and that even though we didn't win the most medals overall, having the most gold ever is pretty incredible.
For me, this was especially evident in the hockey. I was watching Team Canada take the ice in their first game, and I said to my dad that the worst goal for an Oilers fan would be if Heatley and Pronger were involved. It happened, but it didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. This got me thinking that in terms of international hockey, the maple leaf on the front trumps the name on the back any day.
I suppose this has always been true for me, but it wasn't until this Olympics that I realized what this could cause a problem with anyone else. This discussion started on Twitter, with a woman who lives in Michigan (and with whom I share a love of the Red Wings), and it ended with her blocking me from following her. I really don't care about that part, but here's the context: I made a comment that nation trumps friendship, especially in hockey to which she took exception. She was adamant that Americans would cheer for Canada if Canada was playing another team (which I don't think I believe, but I don't know for sure); I told her that the Canadians at Canada Hockey Place weren't necessarily cheering against the US, but were cheering FOR Switzerland (and to me that is a HUGE difference). There was more, but none of it is really relevant.
Here's what is: I've never really been a USA hater. I don't necessarily agree with foreign policy decisions, or the general (and often widespread) ignorance of our country by Americans, but I would conclude that for most of our shared history, we've been pretty good neighbours for each other.
I don't think that I've ever actively cheered against the Americans in a hockey game, even when we play them. I don't say bad things about the opponents (unless it's Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary...) that my team faces. Instead, I cheer FOR my team, and I generally say nothing about the team they are playing.
Was I happy that the US beat Finland? Not really, but not because it was the US. It was simply because I actually kind of like the Finnish team. I liked the Swedes for the most part, too. On the flipside, I don't like the Russians (for a lot of reasons, the least of which is Alex Ovechkin).
And I don't like the US team. But it's not because of the name on the front. This time it's because of the names on the back. I can honestly say that there are four guys from the US Olympic team that I don't mind: Ryan Miller, Tim Thomas and Dustin Brown and Brian Rafalski. The rest of them? I could take them or leave them.
My dislike of the US team has NOTHING to do with what I feel towards the US, and everything to do with who was on that team. I also have pretty strong feelings against the US coaching staff and management team (Brian Burke and Ron Wilson especially), and I'm sure that played a part. I don't think that means I'm a bad person. It means that to me, I don't like the US enough to let the name on the front be more important than the name on the back.
When the NHL starts up again, I'll go back to a muted dislike of Crosby, a general hatred of Pronger, and a loathing of Luongo. But for these last two weeks, I could put those aside because the name on the front mattered more than the name on the back. And as far as Team Canada is concerned, it always will.