As a faithful, Alberta-born Calgary Flames fan miles away from heart and home in Big D, Texas, I was very excited to catch CBC's broadcast of the Heritage Classic in my living room.
While it was a balmy 70+ degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas (with a refreshing breeze), I admittedly envied the -13 degree Celsius weather at McMahon, even though one trip back home would surely change my mind.
When I saw the pre-game videos that demonstrated so well how much the game of hockey is part of Canadian culture and life, I felt a little tingle in my heart (Yeah, my doctor knows—he already diagnosed me with a severe case of sentimentalism).
After I saw the beautiful aerial shots that the camera crew had of the Calgary skyline, I really felt like I was back home for a second.
Seeing 40,000+ fans cheering for two of Canada's most legendary sports teams, I was very proud to be a Canadian.
I want to point something out to all you American readers: For a people that generally lack obnoxious, in-your-face patriotism (I'm looking at you, Texans), Canadians are still proud to be Canadian, and the more they're away the more that feeling grows.
Here I was, thinking to myself that this is such a great event for Canada as a whole. Two Canadian playoff-caliber teams, two diehard markets that can hold their own, a mostly-Canadian alumni between the two that has left an impressive legacy, and the whole snow and ice factor.
That's a lot of Canada right there. The game is back at home where it belongs.
Then I heard it.
"Will you please stand and remove your hats for the playing of 'The Star Spangled Banner'."
A country duo based in Tennessee singing the American national anthem at a sporting event specifically in Canada specifically featuring Canadian teams?
You really outdid yourself with this one, NHL.
Oh, and 10 points goes to the person who can tell me what Tennessee offers to the sport.
I'm not entirely certain who to blame for this one, but I, for one, was absolutely disgusted. I'm sure that others felt this way, you could tell even from the TV screen that the fans at the game felt a little dejected.
Don't get me wrong, folks, I'm not at all anti-American. I hated your guts in the Olympics but that was pretty much it, and I already got grilled for it by plenty of one-day hockey fans in Texas, believe me.
What disgusted me about this was the fact that the anthem did not belong in any way at the game, yet for some reason, brass must have thought it invaluably necessary to have it sung even though it defies normal procedures.
How many Americans were able to watch this game? What channel broadcasted it? Versus? NBC was running "Hockey Day in America" (way to be original) which did NOT feature the Heritage Classic. So that explanation is obviously bogus.
In games featuring two American teams, they sing the American anthem. In games between a Canadian and American team, they sing both anthems. In games between Canadian teams, they sing the Canadian anthem.
So why change that for the Heritage Classic, which emphasized a very obvious Canadian theme?
Part of me can't help but assume that this is still part of Bettman's failed plan to promote hockey in places where snow is viewed as a magical, fearsome substance that only exist in legends and Wisconsin.
So why try to blatantly assert American presence in a Canadian game played in Canada between Canadian teams consisting of mostly Canadian players?
Sure, this is just one little thing that really is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. However, you can't deny that there was some kind of motive behind it that is highly characteristic of the way the NHL has been run recently.
Jim Balsillie's gutsy and sensible attempts to bring teams to a potentially lucrative Canadian market were all kicked to the curb by Bettman and his accomplices.
Winnipeg and Quebec City have been pushing to bring teams back that they can now probably afford in the new salary-cap era.
There's great talent in these teams that goes under-appreciated in places where they will never find a real fan base behind the other American sports like football, baseball, and basketball that dominate those markets.
It's a beautiful game that many people here in Dallas, for example (one of the strongest southern hockey markets), don't actually understand.
Sure, there's some interest in the sport, but there is hardly any passion—and there's a big and crucial difference between the two.
It might have just been a song, but it's a microcosm of the recent trend.
The game needs its integrity back, and it will not happen as long as the current administration tries to force its bastardization of this game to the wrong target audience.
Give the game back to the people who love it.
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