Welcome to 2015!
A week in and I’m already a little behind, trying to put the finishing touches on The 2015 100 while a major project at the 9-5 threatens to encroach on my personal time and is making the juggling act harder than ever. Sarah sees me at it nightly, piles of notes strewn about the desk as I struggle to mould it all into coherent thought, slowly shaping into the kind of posts I love writing. It’s taxing work, but ultimately worth it to look back later, proud of what I put down on paper.
— Casey E. Palmer (@CaseP) January 7, 2015
However, though my life’s currently mired in 7-hour meetings and documentation that just won’t quit, my first week of 2015’s been pretty decent, opened with some excellent brunches and promising new relationships and opportunities for the year ahead.
But in these first 7 days, one of the most amazing things to happen was finding a new appreciation for a sport I never much followed before — hockey.
Blades of Glory — Enjoying Some Hockey at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship!!!
After wrapping up a Christmas season joyously devoid of the frozen disaster we had the year before, I found myself in an icy situation of an entirely different nature — hitting up the first hockey games I’d ever been to at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships!
I hit two games — a Russia vs. Switzerland preliminary game courtesy of Chevrolet, and Canada’s quarterfinal against Denmark via my new friends at TELUS! While part of the same tourney, the two experiences couldn’t be any more different from each other!
In Mother Russia, they really know how to PUTIN the work!
The funny thing is — I wasn’t even supposed to go to this game.
As a result of a Klout perk that saw me driving a 2015 Chevy Traverse* for a few days (mainly ferrying our former tenants to and from their new abode**), Chevrolet really hooked things up with a mountain of swag and 4 VIP tickets to the Russia vs Switzerland prelim game!
* Done up with a full-body decal supporting Hockey Canada
** Because really, who lets friends carry their worldly possessions by wagon on a chilly winter night?
Not growing up in a hockey family myself, I figured my hockey fanatic friends would enjoy the game more than I would and gave them to Marie so she could enjoy the game with friends of her own!
But when one of those friends couldn’t make it, you know who had a free evening?
I spent much of Russia’s 7-0 slaughter of Team Switzerland in the tourney’s Crown Royal VIP Lounge, in the Air Canada Centre’s Platinum Club on Event level. I gorged on poutine, charcuterie and lobster rolls with a cold Molson Canadian in hand as I watched the points rack up, seated comfortably in its posh interior.
VIP only goes so far, though, and we returned to our admittedly awesome seats for the third period, where the sea of Canadians draped in red politely cheered whenever Russia scored – yet again.
But was this hockey? Was this the sport my fellow Canadians ranted and raved about, many bragging they’d learned to skate before they’d learned to walk?
What was the big deal???
I’d soon discover I was horribly unprepared for what’d come next.
“A Hockey Night in Canada” – or – What do you get when you cross an unstoppable team with a home turf advantage?
Let no blogger fool you – they can tell you all about their strategies, cunning skills and killer content that was so key to their success today… but sometimes, you’ve gotta chalk it up to dumb luck.
As part of Chevy’s generous Klout perk, one of us would walk away with tickets to the Bronze and Gold games as well! Though it wasn’t me, I was happy to see a familiar name go all the way – fellow blogger and Ontarian Sober Julie who’d run in similar circles for a bit.
So I let her know it:
— Casey E. Palmer (@CaseP) December 9, 2014
I thought that was the end of it, but I was pleasantly surprised when TELUS’ Gabe Mederos reached out a moment later to see whether I was down for another game!
— Gabe Mederos (@gmederos) December 9, 2014
— Gabe Mederos (@gmederos) December 9, 2014
“No” never even crossed my mind.
But since I’d never experienced just how much Canadians love their hockey***, I didn’t know what to expect being in the crowd of a Team Canada game on home turf.
*** Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.
Greeted at the TELUS Tower by Page Casmiro, Communications Manager for TELUS Social and Media Relations, he made sure we were well-equipped for the game ahead with toasty #AllHeartCanada toques and a Team Canada away jersey to complement the red home jersey I was already rocking!
Taking us through the TELUS Hockey Canada Fan Zone, he explained how the interactive heart lights up green when fans used the #AllHeartCanada hashtag — a real-world representation of the impact fans can have when they pool the power of their voices!
After a little snafu at the front gate (hot tip: don’t expect to get through security easily with an SLR camera and a sizeable flash), we made our way to section 120 with food and drink in hand, and I could instantly tell I was in for a completely different game than before! The crowd alone had a different vibe, a Sea of Red there to support a Team Canada full of energy and promise — one they were determined to see through to a golden finish!
Of course, we all know how the story ends, with a challenging gold medal game against Russia, holding on to a 5-4 lead in a scoreless third period for the win — but I almost feel that the Canadian pride was so thick in the air that if Team Canada had somehow lost to Denmark and called it quits at the quarterfinal round, somewhere deep inside, we’d all still see them as heroes and wish them well for the years ahead.
I spent the game excitedly posting on Instagram every time we celebrated a Team Canada goal, and revelling in the atmosphere with new friends Joel and Jeff, as well as the row behind us who never quite figured out what us young punks had done for TELUS to treat us to a night out.
Three periods and eight unanswered goals later, I made my way home among the throng of elated fans, realizing that for the very first time in my entire Canadian life, I think I got why we love this game so much!
What the IIHF World Junior Championships Taught Me About Being Canadian.
Never growing up with hockey in your life may sound horribly un-Canadian, but as a young Black kid growing up in Mississauga — a racial minority that was far smaller in those days than the 6.3% you find there today — it wasn’t even much of an option for me. It wasn’t even that we were more of a Summer Olympics family than Winter, with a Dad who was into cricket and baseball and a Mom who used to run track; any ’90s Canadian baby of immigrant parents can tell you — our parents expected our noses in our books so we could end up as a lawyer, doctor or actuary; not a running back or goalie.
Sure, I’ve hit games in Toronto before — I used to go to Jays games with my Dad (or more recently, with my wife), eating hot dogs and popcorn while doing the wave and the seventh-inning stretch. I got the opportunity to cheer the Raptors on before #WeTheNorth was a thing, and the Argos amidst a crowd hopeful in the season after they’d won the 100th Grey Cup.
I’ve watched enough sports on TV, getting yelled at by my brother-in-law for accidentally spoiling the score of a Netherlands World Cup match, or seeing my Mom lose her mind with happiness as Usain Bolt dominated in the 100m dash at the Summer Olympics.
But this? Seeing all sorts of Canadians united under common cause, wishing in their heart of hearts for their boys to go all the way?
It finally dawned on me that hockey is what brings all Canadians together.
So a big thank you goes out to both Chevrolet and TELUS for letting me see what it means to love this sport! While I can’t see myself strapping up and hitting the rink for a game of pick-up anytime soon, the next time I look at a game on TV, I’ll think back on this experience, getting just a bit more understanding of the feeling inside than I did before.
Until the next, my friends.