World Junior Hockey, Sport imitates life?

As the World Junior Hockey Championship continues in Vancouver, I can’t help but use it for my own twisted political means… err, I mean as a interesting way to revisit a continuing issue.

That issue is, America’s International “image”, particularly with it’s closest neighbour, and traditional ally, Canada.

We all know that as the Iraq War was launched in 2003, popularity of US foreign policy within the populations of it’s traditional allies abroad plummeted.

So what about now? Well, take this one bit of anecdotal evidence….

The United States and Sweden teams played an exhibition game on December 22nd at Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria, B.C.

The United States beat Sweden 3-2 but according to my father-in-law who took some excellent action shots... the 2800+ people who packed in the small arena were much more excited when Sweden scored, than when the United States won the game.

He was surprised…why root for the Swedes? If anything, the US had the “local edge” with a Vancouver Canuck draftpick as their goaltender.

No, thankfully it didn’t get to the point of booing the US Anthem, (which both our countries are guilty of) but I think it is a valid observation that hockey fans would rather cheer for a relatively unknown squad of Swedes, than a group of guys that are likely much more familiar and much closer to home.

Anti-Americanism is a bad word… especially during Election time here in Canada. I don’t think this approaches anything that obscene… but I do think it signals something deeper and more dangerous. Since President George W. Bush came to power, but mainly since the Iraq War… and with added trade irritants like Softwood Lumber, I think our friendship with America has taken a terrible beating, and if we’re not careful, it will do irreparable damage to our relationship. As a Canadian, I see this as mainly as an American problem… but I also see us having a role to play in repairing the damage that has been done. We must not allow ourselves to be caught in a downward spiral for we have an incredibly important economic, political and social ally in our neighbour to the south.

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill… or an ice rink out if a zamboni (huh?).

But it wouldn’t hurt us Canadians to remember that what happens in the White House means little when there are two teams facing off on the ice. As you sit, watching the Tournament on TSN, use it perhaps to remind yourself that there are many wonderful things in the United States of America, and this hockey team is one great demonstration of that… so put out a cheer for those excellent American juniors… they deserve it, they earned it… though when it’s Canada at the opposite end, I think it’d be fair to offer polite silence instead. 😉

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