Canada, never in my life before have I so badly wanted to your lukewarm Molson Canadian beer spilled all over me while in the midst of the hugs and chaos of a rowdy national celebration. I had a different experience with the golden goal here in Dar es Salaam, but it had the same effect…going to bed that night feeling so proud. Let me tell you how it went down in Dar…

There's no place like home, there's no place like home

Gord Downie of the unapologetically Canadian band Tragically Hip perfectly captured the “where where you when Paul Henderson scored the goal…” moment that defined a generation of hockey fans and Canadians who were old enough to witness the 1972 Summit Series. The song Fireworks by the Tragically Hip from which the lyrics of this blog post title are taken is a bit more of a love song than a hockey song but it’s the way those time period references capture Henderson’s series winning goal that I always loved.  Now we have our new golden goal moment thanks to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but I think the hockey verses above still ring true for what went down Sunday afternoon. Pamoja Canada.

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania we three Canadians roommates gathered and even invited some American friends to come along just because a little competitive rivalry makes any game a bit more fun to watch. With the 11 hour time difference to Vancouver it made it difficult to see any of the 2010 Games live so we weren’t guaranteed we could find it but I’d seen some Olympic highlights on the satellite feeds in Dar es Salaam’s Irish Pub so that was our best bet. At 11:15pm local time (no need to arrive at the pub 4 hours early like the stories I hear from Canada) we rushed into the Irish Pub and searched in vain through the channels for the game. Alas, DST satellite here in Africa didn’t get the NBC feed (desperate times call for desperate measures… you can always watch the game on mute I suppose). We stuck around awhile watching when some highlights came on in hopes they would show updates from the game but no luck. Phone calls home and text messages provided the updates…1-0 Canada!, 2-0 Canada, USA scores..2-1 Canada….at 1am the highlights show is done and we decide to head home to try to follow score updates online.

An expletive laden SMS comes through informing us of the USA’s tying goal in the final minute. It’s going to overtime in the Olympic gold medal game and here we are hitting the refresh button on a website. There are the people and things that I miss very much over here, but I’m not generally someone who gets homesick easily. That said, I really, really wished I was back home to be a part of this. Our internet connection via a USB stick is slow and can’t handle a lot of the crazy graphics, advertisements, game trackers, and videos on the official site so we use some other website but the updates still come through slow and the screen doesn’t tell us what is happening…only 2-2 in overtime every refresh.

Then there’s a ping of a new SMS message and we know something has happened. The screen refreshes and we see 3-2 Canada but I don’t really react until Jer reads out the text seconds later…CROSBY IS GOLDEN. CANADA WINS.

...I think this means we just won gold

The beer spilled in the up and down jumping at the moment of joy was missing as was the sounds of car horns erupting in the streets around us. There were no random strangers to hug in joy and no crazy costumes or flags to run out into the street waving. Just some fist pumps and sighs of relief before heading off to bed. All in all, it was still cool to be a part of it, although not the way I would have wanted, but in our own forced and unique way.

I read this article the next day on TSN saying that the game was the most watched television event in Canadian history. No real surprise there, but it was estimated that 80% of the country watched some part of the gold medal game! That is a pretty mind boggling percentage, I mean we can’t manage to get a 60% turnout our federal elections; to pull 80% of a nations population together for one event speaks volumes about how Canadians rallied together around these Olympic games and around this hockey team. I would be interested to find out if there has been any other sporting event in the world that has ever garnered such a high national participation rate…(I know it was a game that people watched on tv, so perhaps participation is a strong word, but I have no doubt that everyone who was there watching felt a part of that game and so the passive watched or viewed is perhaps an equally inadequate way to describe it).

“If there’s a goal that everyone remembers, it was back in ol’ 72

We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger

and all I remember is sitting beside you”

When Sidney Crosby yelled for the puck and took that give and go pass from Iginla out of the corner, he had a whole nation that was calling for the puck with him. When he felt it hit his stick, we all squeezed the stick and when he released the shot, he had 26.5 million Canadians pulling that trigger. I read afterwards that Crosby said he just shot the puck before he had a chance to even look up. It doesn’t surprise me that it went in. He had the whole country watching and willing that puck into the net.

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